Colton Moore ascends out of Punkin Cave on Oct. 23, 2019, in a cloud of dust and bat guano. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

People ask me all the time about my life as a freelance adventure writer, thinking, perhaps, that I’ll describe a glamorous life of swanky hotel rooms, gourmet meals and international travel.

While I’ll readily agree I’ve got the best job in the world, I’m more often wiping blood off my elbows, shoving energy bars in my mouth as I bounce down a desolate ranch road in the middle of Nowhere, Texas, or pitching a tent in the desert than hopping a jet to an exotic island.

For fun some days, I assess how much my latest adventure has cost me in clothing, vehicle and skin damage.

Take this week, for example.

I crawled face-first into a cloud of bats. One crawled up my pants leg. Pam LeBlanc photo

A caving assignment for a state-wide magazine led me to a preserve near Carta Valley (not far from Del Rio), where freelance photographer Erich Schlegel and I spent two days crawling through the underbelly of the earth with one of the state’s finest cavers.

We rappelled 45 feet down into a pit. We dove down dark, scorpion-populated tunnels. I narrowly avoided plunging my hand into the half-decayed body of a raccoon. I admired webs of what looked like delicate vermicelli – only to find out it was fungus growing out of bullet-sized bits of porcupine poop.

Most exciting of all, I scrambled over mounds of bat guano and face first into a cloud of bats. A few dozen smacked me on the arm and head, and one fuzzy, fig-sized individual snuck its way up my pants leg.

See that gaping hole in the front? I did that caving this week. Adventuring is hard on clothing.

Before the five-hour crawl wrapped up, I’d ripped a hole as big as my face in the front of my shirt. (It’ll go great with the palm-sized hole I ripped in the seat of my pants two weeks ago on another assignment.) I was covered with shit from assorted creatures, and polka-dotted with quarter-sized bruises from whacking my body parts on knobs of rock.

Then, while driving back to the cabin from the caves, our parade of two vehicles hit a boulder-strewn rocky ledge. The vehicle in front of us got temporarily hung up. Its tires spun, the vehicle rocked back and forth a few times, then suddenly broke free, firing a barrage of baseball-sized rocks into the air. One smashed the corner of my truck’s windshield and punched a hole in the roof.

Whoa, and thank goodness for shatter-resistant glass. The body shop reports the damage at $4,000.

Was it worth it? Totally.

I’m beyond thrilled that I’ve made a life out of backpacking, snow skiing, camping, caving, scuba diving, hiking, paddling and more.

Just don’t confuse it for a life of luxury.





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