Ever since I started caving a few years back, everyone has mentioned Indian Grave Point (IGP) cave to me. I was starting to feel like I was the only person in Tennessee who caves who had not been there yet. As a matter of fact, I was sitting at Paul's house Saturday night watching fights, and we started talking about caving. One of Paul's friends immediately asked me, "so have you been to IGP yet?" I told him I was leaving at 8am the next morning to go. He told me about going there 40 years ago with the Nashville Grotto.
So we all met up at the McDonald's off Hwy 109 at 8am, and headed out about 8:30 or so after waiting for a few stragglers. There were 12 of us total on the trip. We got to the parking area near the cave a little less than an hour later.
The landowners of the cave are very friendly. The cave is located in a cow pasture on the side of a very steep hill. You park on the side of the road next to a creek and then go over the fence on a climb-over that's been installed to avoid damaging the fence. Then you're staring up a hill that you've got to go up about 250 feet at about a 50 degree angle. The view of the surrounding valley from up there is great. It was early enough that you could still see some mist moving around on the hills.
Once you get up there, you're at the entrance sinkhole. You slide/climb down about 8 feet, with a nylon rope being there to help out. The entrance sink hole is fairly large, with a good bit of water dripping down and moss growing on a lot of the rocks at the bottom. At the back of the sink, you head down into the cave through what at first is a low crawl.
It opens up fairly quickly into what I was told was some old saltpeter works. There's a small stream channel twisting through the mud and the ceiling gets low a few times before you get to another short crawl which opens up into the first good-sized room, which has a small dome at the top. On the right side of this room, there's a huge chunk of rock that at some point in the past broke in half, leaving a crack that you can crawl through to take a shortcut to the deeper parts of the cave. This rock is about the size of a trailer, so it's pretty impressive to think about it breaking in half at some point.
After that is a crawl down a big pile of breakdown. It's not that big of a deal normally, but almost all of the breakdown in this cave is covered in mud, so you have to be extra careful. I still banged up my shins and my forearms a lot, and my ankles and knees took some extra punishment as well. All of them are talking to me today.
Then you come to a nice open area with a fairly clean floor that you can walk around. Since this is such a popular cave, someone got the bright idea to build a fire ring here. I'm not sure what the attraction is about building a fire so deep in a cave, but it doesn't appear to have smoked things up too badly.
After milling about in this area for bit, we headed deeper into the cave. At one point there was a low crawl that everyone went through. I saw a slighter taller space to the left that I decided to go through to spare myself a bit. Unfortunately, I had to slide off this into mud. I didn't think it was that deep, but it ended up going about half way up my calf. Nice. Now my boots weighed about two pounds more each.
We slogged on over some more muddy breakdown, where my newly muddied boots caused me to slip and slide even more. That's where most of the bruises on my shins came about. Eventually we arrived in the largest room of the cave, known as the Cascade Dome. It featured twin domes which had some water coming down. Apparently there's a route to the top of them, which James and a few others explored a bit, but didn't attempt to go to the top.
After resting there for a while, we pushed on back some more. Joey and I ended up in the area known as the Garden of Eden and we waited there for the rest of the group. This area features some dried up rimstone dams and a small pool of water known as Madonna's Pool. It has some nice decorations as well, and what appeared to be bivalve fossils in the ceiling. Someone had also crafted a miniature Stonehenge out of mud and left in on a shelf here.
After we met up with the rest of the group, a failed attempt at rocking an abandoned pack was discovered. We also played around for a bit with the strangest discovery of the day. Someone had left a stuffed marionette cat in the cave, wrapped in a baby blanket. This prompted stories about the "ghost baby" the rest of the trip, and we left the marionette hanging by the register on the way out to intrigue the next group of cavers.
By the time we were headed out, I was just about bushed. I had to stop and rest several times, but finally climbing out of that sink hole was awesome. This time is wasn't my legs that were so tired and sore, it was my shoulders and arms. I guess all the walking for the last few weeks paid off, so now I need to do some more push-ups.
This was supposed to be a clean-up trip, and all 12 of us had garbage bags, but only 4 bags ended up being hauled out. There was also very little visible graffiti, so someone has apparently been doing a lot of work on the cave lately. It was definitely worth the trip, and I'll definitely be going back at some point to see the parts I missed on this trip.