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Do you know Florida has caves? Here’s a look inside Dames Cave near Brooksville.
Last year, I attended the CCA Florida STAR banquet in Citrus County and set out to find Dames Cave in Withlacoochee State Forest, about a 30-minute drive from Brooksville. Apparently, there are more than 35 caves in Citrus County, but I only had about an hour to explore.
If Hiking and Exploring Caves Alone, Use Extreme Caution
Hiking and venturing solo into caves is risky. I wore sturdy hiking boots (caves are slippery), I carried my iPhone (to use in an emergency) and tucked my headlamp in my backpack in case I ventured into a tunnel (which I did not). When I hike, I also carry a paracord survival bracelet on my backpack which includes the equivalent of a small knife, if I need it for survival or protection. And, I have a whistle.
I felt comfortable hiking and entering this cave alone, but I’m hesitant to explore other caves which are narrower and more remote alone. There’s too much risk in slipping or getting stuck. Or, who knows what!
The roundtrip hike from the trailhead of Trail 22 (located on County Road 491/S. Lecanto Hwy. in Withlacoochee State Forest) is about 1.2 miles. It’s relatively flat terrain with some sandy areas to Dames Cave. I saw few people along the trail which was nice and peaceful. But, I had one of those moments when I thought since I was out here alone, I should be extra cautious.
When I hike alone, I have flashbacks to a time years ago when I lived in Tallahassee. I was taking a course and arrived early to the meeting location in a forest and hiked around a bit. I still remember law enforcement reaching out about a week later because a woman went missing. Her car was found where I was. They wanted to know if I had remembered seeing anyone or anything. I had not. But, I followed the chilling case realizing this and other murders were at the hands of a serial killer (dubbed the National Forrest Serial Killer). Because of that experience, I keep my head on the swivel.
A Quick Look Inside Dames Cave
As I neared the entrance of the cave, I spotted a trail running off to Peace Cave. I also noticed some of the trees are spray painted with graffiti with symbols of peace and love. Dames Cave is vandalized with spray paint, which explains the alternative name of “Vandal Cave.” Please. Please. Please. DO NOT add to the graffiti.
The entrance into the cave a bit steep and slippery. I navigated the tree roots slowly and carefully. Inside the cave, it was moist, a bit muddy, and the air was noticeably cooler than the air at the surface. In addition to graffitied walls, remnants of a campfire were in the center of the cave. Apparently, there’s a tunnel leading to another chamber, but I did not enter it. From what I’ve researched, it’s narrow and not for the claustrophobic.
I really didn’t stay long, I heard voices of a family and decided to leave so they could enjoy it without some stranger. Plus, I still needed to check into my hotel and get ready for the evening.
Nuts & Bolts About Visiting Dames Cave
Dames Cave is accessible from Trail 22 at 10701 S. Lecanto Hwy., Lecanto, FL 34461. It’s just over a half-mile walk. Wear sturdy shoes, bring water, apply sunscreen, carry insect repellent, and dress for the current weather conditions.
If you plan to spend the night in the area, I have stayed several times at the Plantation Crystal River (9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429; Tel: (352) 795-4211). It’s about a 30-minute drive. Plantation is also a great place to stay if you’ll be visiting during manatee season for a snorkeling trip with manatees or scallop season for a scalloping trip. And if you do spend the night at Plantation Crystal River, grab breakfast at Grannie’s Country Cookin’ Restaurant (1712 SE US Highway 19, Crystal River, FL 34429).
For information on what to see and do in and around Crystal River and Dames Cave, visit the tourism office for Citrus County.
And speaking of caves, check out this post about my visit to Florida Caverns State Park.