The Donahue Sea Caves (and how we fell into them)

Before we get started, I have to make a disclaimer. The name “Donahue Sea Caves” is very misleading. There is only one of them. I did not name it, so it is not my fault, but I didn’t want you to get mad later, like I did when I arrived, when you discover that the plural caves are, in fact, singular. So with that out of the way, let’s start our adventure together!

The world was frozen to begin with. It is very important that you remember this fact, or nothing else that follows will make any sense to you. The lake was frozen, the ground was frozen, and many of my body parts were frozen. Spring had not yet arrived, although it is supposed to be on its way shortly, which meant that our time for winter fun was drawing to a close. With this in mind, we went out for a walk on icy Lake Champlain.

Frozen Lake Champlain

Being a larger type person, walking out on ice to the middle of a lake always makes me a bit nervous. Nevertheless I tried to enjoy myself as we wandered around the brilliant landscape. I lamented the fact that my sunglasses were still at home, as the bright daylight gleamed off of the snow and ice in what I’m sure was a beautiful display that I was squinting at.


We had a great time out there, and when it was over my wife decided to up the ante. “Do you guys want to go check out the sea caves?” she asked us. The sea caves? What the heck were the sea caves?! I had never heard of these alleged sea caves, but they sounded awesome! One of my wife’s friends had posted pictures of them earlier, with cryptic instructions on how to get there, so we decided to continue our adventure and we drove off to the high school to park the car and look for a sign.

We did not see any omens or portents, although considering what was to come they might have helped, but we did see another sign; a wooden one sticking out of the snow across the street. Excellent. We also saw a number of other people heading in that direction. This quest was going to be a lot easier than I had anticipated!

Entrance to the Donahue Sea Caves

Though winter was lingering and spring was on its way, the trip started (and ended) with a fall. Anna was very excited to smell all the things, and the path down was steep and slippery. Edward held on to the leash very well, though not as well to his balance, as the dog yanked him down the path on his stomach. I took over dog-walking duties from that point on, and we slowly made our way down the incline toward the river.

Path to the Donahue Sea Caves

The river, as I mentioned before, was frozen. The sea caves, of which there are just one, are only accessible from the river, as they are under a tall cliff with said river flowing past and through them. The only times you can reach the cave is when the river is completely frozen over, which doesn’t happen all that often. It is a big river. So once again I found myself out on the ice, trying very hard to think light and fluffy thoughts as we made our way to the mouth of the only cave that makes up the sea caves.

Children at the Donahue Sea Caves

It was awesome in there. The colors were wondrous, the echo was fantastic, and we felt like we had discovered a hidden world set aside just for us. Everything was going marvelously until Edward decided to do the Penguin Plunge after all. He really wanted an icicle, located all the way in the back of the cave at the edge of the ice, and he went for it. Unfortunately the ice got him before he could get it. I was walking out of the cave to try and find someone around to take a family picture of us when Ruby screamed that he had fallen through the ice.

Kids at the Donahue Sea Caves

This was a terrifying moment for me. On the one hand my every instinct was to run to him and pull him right out, but I also considered the fact that if I ran out to where he was, my extra weight could break the ice even further, which was not only my greatest fear of the day, but which would not help him at all. He was screaming and crying, but he was only in up to his waist. His arms were still on the ice, and I got as close as I dared, stretched my arm out as far as I could reach, and begged him to grab hold and pull himself up. Which he did. He got out, wet and upset with some scratches on his belly, but otherwise unharmed. I did not fall through the ice, but even so it was time to go home.

The walk back up the hill was much longer and harder than the walk down it. Ruby was dashing ahead the whole time, and I tried to keep up with her enough to still have her in sight, without losing my wife behind me who was carrying Edward up the slope. I finally made Ruby stop to wait for the others, which turned out to be a terrible idea, because it was right at this spot that Anna found a large pile of non-cleaned-up dog droppings to roll in. She was covered, I mean covered, in crap. Her leash, her collar, her fur, everything was a stinky, messy disaster. I grabbed her head and tried to shove it into the snow, but she did not like that for some reason. I took snowball after snowball and attempted to get most of the disgusting ick off of her, but there was no way to get it all.

At this point my wife, who should be applying for sainthood, arrived exhausted with the boy, and had to sit in the rental car, holding the dog to keep the car clean, and getting all gross herself. I don’t know who was happiest to be home. Edward got dry clothes, the dog got her first real bath, my wife got to clean up, and we all decided that we had had enough day for one day, so we hung out and relaxed.

Despite the crazy ending to the story, I do have to recommend checking out the sea cave. There is only one, but it is worth the hike. A secret, otherworldly nook in our own backyard? If you don’t want to check something like that out, then you are clearly not me. I don’t know how frozen it still is. The weather is (slooooowly) warming up, and you may have missed your chance. But when the river is frozen, and you find yourself in Burlington, Vermont, do yourself a favor and check out the Donahue Sea Cave(s). Just maybe stay away from the big icicles way in the back. And for the love of all that is holy, clean up after your pets, people!

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Posted in Dogs, Edward, Hiking, Ice, Misadventures, Photo, Ruby, Winter.


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