Exploring Moaning Cavern in Calaveras County Spelunking through Earth's holes, such as California's Moaning Cavern, isn't for the claustrophobic. By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
Deep under the wooded hills of Calaveras County -- in the belly of one of the state's largest caves -- I worm my way through a rocky slot that our cavern tour guide calls the "pancake."
It's a rectangular gap, 3 feet wide by about 18 inches tall. Imagine the space under a Volkswagen Beetle. To squeeze through, I lie on my back, raise my arms over my head and push through with my legs. My headlamp shoots a beam into a darkness so heavy I can almost feel it wrap around me. The air smells of mud.
Halfway through the opening -- with cold, wet rocks pressing against my rib cage -- panic begins to set in.