Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cave #5 - Cedar Ridge

Dr. William Halliday turns 80 years old next month. He's been caving for quite a while, especially out in the lava tubes in Hawaii. He's decided that his hips and knees have had enough and he's going to retire from caving. Before he does, he decided he wanted to see one cave that he never got around to seeing, which is Cedar Ridge near Battle Creek, TN.

We all met as usual at Shoney's on Saturday morning, and after a quick breakfast we headed towards the cave. The cave is just off the Interstate on an access road. The entrance is a short walk from where you park and is impressively gated. Five of us from the Nashville Grotto arrived at about 10:15 am and saw about 12 people from Georgia headed into the cave before us. They were from the Dogwood City grotto along with a group of boy scouts.

We suited up and headed in ourselves. There's a small entrance room that actually had a single bat in it. After locking the entrance behind us we headed in, having to squeeze through an old gate which made me really have to suck in the gut to get through.

Now the reason Dr. Halliday really wanted to see this cave is because it's got an incredible amount of decorations. They get started just after the old gate and get more and more amazing as you go deeper. The cave only has about 500 feet of horizontal passage, but it's almost impossible to describe how beautiful it is. I just don't have the words. There are stalagtites with crystals growing on them, columns covered with gypsum, cave bacon, pools of crystal clear water.

We spent almost three hours in the cave and could have spent even more. Everyone I've asked has said if you only visit one wild cave in your life, this would be the one to see.

This picture is me standing next to a column on one side of the main room in the cave. Notice all the soda straw stalagtites on the ceiling. They're actually thicker than this in many areas of the cave.

Jay and I drove to another cave called Gourdneck that was a few miles away. We went to the entrance but I just didn't feel comfortable. The entrance goes straight down and they've placed 3 aluminum ladders with a guide rope. My legs and arms were already rubbery from the first cave so when I got about 4 rungs down I just had no strength left in my legs. I came really close to having a panic attack at that point. I couldn't get my feet back up to the next rung because my knee pads were grabbing on the ladder. It was just a bad scene.

I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself. I managed to pull myself up a rung at a time just using my arm strength and made it out of the entrance. I'll go back to Gourdneck after I've lost about 30 more pounds and early in the day when I'm well rested.

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