By: Sarah Jane Woodall – A Vegas Based Adventuress Exploring Weird Shit in the Desert and Beyond With COVID-19 surging, it’s looking like another lockdown is likely…but (at least for me personally) this time it won’t be as tough as it was in the spring. Now that it’s colder than a witch’s tit and gets […]
By: Sarah Jane Woodall – A Vegas Based Adventuress Exploring Weird Shit in the Desert and Beyond
With COVID-19 surging, it’s looking like another lockdown is likely…but (at least for me personally) this time it won’t be as tough as it was in the spring. Now that it’s colder than a witch’s tit and gets dark at 4pm, hibernating with my vape and a big mug of Baileys-laced hot cocoa doesn’t sound so bad! Virus or no, when Daylight Savings kicks in I just want to make like a bear, hole up in a cave and sleep til March.
But guess what? You don’t have to be a bear to hibernate in a cave anymore! That’s right – there are plenty of humans who live in caves, too. Even in the Mojave Desert, as I found out for myself earlier this year.
For this story, we have to travel back through the mists of time to the B.C. era – that’s Before Covid, when hotels and Airbnb’s were all booked up for Valentine’s Day weekend. My squeeze at the time got a last-minute booking for his own place, which because of certain unique features was itself listed on Airbnb…and that meant we had to find alternate accommodations.
Now I know it feels like a lifetime ago, but remember: Valentine’s Day 2020 not only fell on a Friday, but it was also a three-day weekend on account of Presidents’ Day, which meant it was an extra special big deal, which in turn meant that pretty much every hotel, motel and guest bedroom in the Southwest was booked solid! What to do?!
Desperate, I checked Airbnb on the slim chance that there was SOMEthing still available – a shanty, a Tuff Shed in someone’s backyard, ANYTHING. And by some random miracle, I spotted a listing for a cave.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Apparently, someone down in Dolan Springs, Arizona (just south of Lake Mead) had a cave house for rent. And it was available on Valentine’s Day weekend!
Not only could I not believe my eyes, I couldn’t believe my luck, as I am JUST the kind of weirdo who thinks staying in a cave sounds like more fun than staying at the Four Seasons. So I went ahead and booked the cave for Saturday night.
The instructions in the confirmation email were intense: drive to Dolan Springs, then follow a dirt road off to the south to a certain address, which turned out to be an unassuming double-wide in a ramshackle rural neighborhood, definitely not a cave! I’d just started to suspect I’d been scammed, when the host texted me. Apparently, the actual cave was up an even rougher 4×4 road. So the hosts recommended their guests park down at this trailer, and they would then come pick us up in their UTV.
Having a Toyota 4Runner, I insisted on driving up myself, so the host came down to escort us to the actual cave. And what a cave it was!
Come to find out, what we had booked was the guest suite in an actual cave home, blasted into the side of a rock outcropping by an industrious lifelong miner who had always wanted to live in a cave, and who had made his dream come true down in sunny Dolan Springs where land is relatively cheap, and the rock is perfect for excavating homes. This man had spent over 20 years blasting and refining his own multi-roomed cave, much of it with his wife and young children living there with him. The kids grew up roaming the beautiful Arizona desert while dad continued blasting, until finally, the cave was finished.
Ironically, the family had all squeezed into a small warren of rooms off the kitchen while the rest of the cave was being blasted into shape, and by the time the entire house was finished, the kids had grown up and moved out. Now mom and dad were left with a cavernous expanse of empty rooms, and no one to fill them. So they turned to Airbnb.
Enter me and my date! I didn’t realize it at the time of my booking, but we were the very first Airbnb guests to stay at the newly-christened Cave Inn – you can check their guestbook if you don’t believe me! Alas, there was a minor snafu upon check-in; because it was their very first booking, the hosts had gotten confused, and accidentally double-booked the guest suite for Saturday night. But rather than turn away a valued guest, they offered up their own private master bedroom for us to sleep in!
Now, you might think that’s kinda weird, but I ask you: what about any of this story so far ISN’T weird?! And besides, the couple running the Cave Inn were so freaking nice, it would have been churlish to refuse their offer.
So we bunked down in the master suite at the Cave Inn, which, I should note, is tastefully and thematically decorated in animal prints and safari décor, with touches of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion in the form of colored lights and decorative skulls tucked in every nook and cranny (of which there are many). It’s a cave, for chrissake, with rough-hewn rock walls pock-marked with all kinds of nooks and crannies! The floors are covered with colorful casino carpeting, and the doors are designed for maximum airflow, with openings at the top to ensure ventilation throughout (thanks to its thick rock walls, the cave stays a cool 72 degrees, year-round). The lights, TVs and appliances are 100% solar powered, and the fully-plumbed bathrooms (complete with rock-walled showers) use water from the onsite well. This is a cave where you really could ride out the Apocalypse!
Speaking of the Apocalypse, our hosts had a pantry full of canned goods laid in, in the event of just such an inconvenience, and when my date and I announced our intentions to go out and grab a bite to eat, they offered to share what they had in their larders as the nearest restaurant was around 45 minutes away in Golden Valley, Arizona.
Not wanting to intrude, and wanting a bit of local color, we insisted on going out. But after all was said and done, I have to concede: if you stay at the Cave Inn, it’s best to either eat dinner before you get there, or bring stuff to BBQ on the beautiful patio out back. It was a looonnng, bumpy drive to and from Golden Valley, and there are no streetlights in the neighborhood around the Cave!
Luckily, we made our way back safely, and bedded down cozily for the night in our safari-printed bedding. And let me tell you, sleeping in a cave is like being in the womb! It was pitch dark and totally silent and felt very safe, like being cuddled in the bosom of the Earth.
In the morning, our hosts had coffee and Danish waiting for us in the cave kitchen, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast chatting with them about their life living in a cave in the Arizona desert. The wife had a friendly, nurturing mom vibe, while the man of the house resembled nothing so much as a biker version of one of the Seven Dwarves, a quiet twinkle in his eye visible above his whiskers. Great people!
In fact, we hit it off so well that we ended up staying in touch and over the following months. When the wife checked in with us during the pandemic and I asked how the quarantine was treating her, she replied that their lives had changed very little. Maybe fewer Airbnb bookings, but overall, life in a cave during a pandemic is pretty much like life in a cave anytime!
We became such good buddies with the cave couple that we have a standing invitation to come back anytime, and I must admit, during the craziness of 2020, there have been more than a few occasions that I’ve considered taking them up on their offer. And if 2021 is anything like this past year….
Who knows? I might just be moving to Dolan Springs myself! There are plenty more rocks for the blasting down there…
To check out the Cave Inn for yourself, look them up on Airbnb in Dolan Springs, AZ., or watch the video I made for my YouTube channel, “Wonderhussy Adventures”