I think I remember this story from a while ago...
Lava tubes are great. We went to Lava Beds National Monument (north and east of Mt Shasta, CA) a couple years ago and explored quite a few of them...nothing as long as the Ape Cave, but some up to a quarter mile or more, with different branches here and there...one place had us going in circles a little bit. But the darkness is absolute, good head gear is recommended (we did not have any and had a couple bloody, but shallow head gashes), and two flashlights per person! Some of the deeper tubes had ice floors.
But one can only have what one takes with oneself. Occasionally one might gain some insight from such a unique experience, but insight is difficult to gain in such a crowd...it sounds like the kids (and the parents) needed a good grounding...a base from which to gain from the experience. Very little in modern life naturally prepares people for insightful experiences. So while not unexpected, one does wish that people would look, feel and otherwise sense...and thus gain from...such experiences as being in the lava tubes.
I took the boys to the Redwoods today (also took the 8x10, but too much rain so it stayed in the van), a tradition I have for the the first day of the New Year. Very beautiful. I have three 11 year olds and I got a lot of mouth from a couple of them ("Its too wet!", etc) as we bushwacked through the soggy ferns. We explored on section of the creek, looking for salmon, but found none (medium-high water flow...not too clear). We went down to another section of creek and found a very recent fall of a giant redwood (perhaps 12 to 15 feet in diameter, a couple hundred feet long, but in several chunks with some splintering), so we used it as a way to get down to and across the creek. The boys refocused on the experience and there no more complaints. The boys bushwacked their way up the opposite slope to check out the hole created by the root ball of the fallen redwood. We ended up walking down (and in) the creek a ways , being careful not to step on any redds we might come across, but we all ended up wet to at least mid-thigh. We did end up finding one Chinook over a redd. We also came across a fishery biologist tracking fish movements by radio transmitters.
So if one were listening to my boys earlier they would have a low opinion of how grounded they were...but later they might have been a bit amazed at the boys' sense of wonder and adventure in conditions that most would consider a bit cold wet and unpleasant.