DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME : Text files and message bases are for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. Do not undertake any project based upon any information obtained from this or any other web site.We are not responsible for, nor do we assume any liability for, damages resulting from the use of any information on this site.This trip actually started three weeks earlier when I accepted Mark Turner’s invitation to accompany him and a "few" others to what was refered to as a Xanadu class cave. Having seen Xanadu Cave in Fentress county, Tennessee, I was eager to jump on board. There would, however, be dues to pay but not in monetary terms. What I’m referring to is skin, from the knees that is. It seems that mother nature has protected the lovely pretties in this cave with a 1500 ft long crawl which serves as a nerd filter.
Preparation immediately begun with the construction of a custom pack suited for carrying all my gear including photography equipment. My conventional cave pack would not permit efficient hauling through a 1500 ft crawl so I fashioned a new experimental design in which the gear could be strapped to my chest not unlike how a backup parachute is carried. This would permit use of both hands for crawling. With that complete in addition to the usual considerations, all that was required was the five hour plus drive to meet with the other cavers.
We all met at Mike Mosers home near Nashville on Friday evening, February 23, 1996. The weather that day was fabulous. This day was sunny with temperatures in the mid seventy’s. That evening we partied, showed cave slides and told big cave tales. By the next morning most had arrived. A total of fourteen people in all would be entering the cave on this day, truly a herd.
Gearing up at the car near noon, all of us enjoyed a warm sunny vista of the beautiful Tennessee countryside. This day was as fine as the previous, almost too good to go underground. Yet, the dark unknown of an unforgiving wilderness beckoned our call. For, the only cure to boredom is ADVENTURE!
We file in thorough the fortified concrete bunker which was the gate, in a random array, some having took longer to tie their shoes and perhaps catch a last swig of water. Once inside the gate I stumbled around partially blind waiting for the pupils to dilate. Others before me we out of sight down the passage. Hmmm, wonder which way the went. My nose caught a familiar aroma. Ah, I know what that is. I had better hurry. As I made my way down low wide passage I lost the scent. I backed up and got back on the trail. On a small side lead off to the left was a second gate. I squeezed through the tight meandering canyon following it down a gradient to a hanging handline above the top of a ladder poking up though a hole in the floor. Shakily, I made my way down the ladder to find a large gathering of people chatting and passing around a register. Once all fourteen had signed in, we were on our way.
We were all experienced cavers but some doubted we could make it to the good stuff before we would have to head back. The land owner had expressed a desire for us to be out by 9:00 p.m. and cavers universally desire to keep land owners happy. I had experienced caving with a group this large only one other time. It happened back, before I was a caver, on one of those Mammoth Cave "Wild" tours. Seeing fourteen people strung down the long linear elliptical sections of this cave was a sight to behold. Some times, however, we got too strung out. Few of us knew the cave and there was concern that someone might become lost in this thirty plus mile long system. John Cole reamed out Mark Turner on several occasions because of the dizzying pace that we were maintaining. I know that my heart was beating at it’s 80 % max. rate for two hours straight. So much for the twenty minuet aerobic workout. It felt good, though.
We did make it to the good stuff and it was worth it. We all oo’ed an ahh’ed over snow white gypsum formations, some forming helical rope, others forming long glistening ribbons. Other formations commanded such names as "The Shepherds Beard". Near the end of a long enormous section of the cave were piles of wispy cotton candy like gypsum formations unlike anything I have ever seen. In order to get to these gems we were forced to walk down a narrow strip splitting a forty foot wide passage which was completely covered with gypsum formations. Formations within this passage are so dense that there are undoubtedly ones that no-one will ever see. This being so because to get to them would destroy many others.
We paused in a sandy area surrounded by gypsum flowers. Some snacked on cave food while others took pictures. It wasn’t long however before we had to head out. We did manage to make it out on time. A clear starry night greeted us as we emerged from this underground wilderness. Wealthier for the experience, I consider the quarter size patch of knee skin a good trade for this adventure. This Yankee would like to extend a heartfilled thanks to the Tennessee cavers who showed us this really cool cave. I look forward to caving with those guys again, hopefully real soon.