Before having Luna so many people told us that our wild and crazy adventures were over. Forget traveling, spelunking, skydiving, rafting, road tripping or anything else you enjoyed because babies ruin all your fun. Clearly, Husband and I took the many negative comments with a grain of salt. We know ourselves to well to believe that our fun was over. Since having Luna we have traveled abroad, hiked, rock climbed, been on road trips, biked, ran races and so much more all with Luna. The one thing I have yet to do since becoming a Mom is go caving.
I missed the last couple of caving trips because I was either 6 months pregnant or caring for a newborn. So, I was definitely not going to miss this recently planned trip. I dropped Luna off with her Grandmother on Sunday morning, left her for the longest I have ever left her (10 hours) and joined my wild and crazy friends for crazy spelunking adventure!
We went to our favorite cave, the one we call the “waterfall cave”, and oh how I wish I had a special caving camera to prove to you just how ridiculous this cave is! There are not only waterfalls, but pools and pools of water, cliffs, tiny tunnels, mud, giant rocks and everything you could ever possibly want in a cave.
We began by wading in knee deep water to get to a very slick and muddy edge that went along the tops of the falls in a long stream of water. We held onto a muddy rope to keep our balance and inched along until we got to solid ground. From there we tunneled on our bellies, swam in the cave, explored some random passage ways, screamed over scary giant cave crickets and got a little lost.
I always get a little scared in the high and slick parts of the cave, but the worst part of this trip was repelling down a rocky muddy wall with a rope and no harness. I completely trust our expert caving friends to keep me safe during these times, but it’s still a little nerve wracking.
Three hours later, when I finally saw the light of the sun and made my way to the exit of the tunnel, I felt like I’d just conquered the world! 16 of us survived the cave that day. Half of us went in not even knowing each other’s names and now we have this incredible experience together to bond us and hopefully keep us as friends for a long time.
I’m sure our next caving trip won’t be too far away…who’s in???
The day I announced I was pregnant my Mom basically said “No caving!” along with a list of other dangerous activities we enjoy. I assured her I would not be caving while pregnant, “I’m not crazy, Mom.” Mostly, I was sure the opportunity to go caving wouldn’t come up anytime soon. If it did, I assumed I’d be big and pregnant and unable to crawl around in tiny tunnels of mud.
While planning Sara’s itinerary I thought about caving, but decided not to mention it (hoping Husband wouldn’t think of it). It took him a total of 5 minutes to plan a caving trip from the moment the idea came to him. The fact that I am carrying his child did not phase him. Let’s face it, if everyone else is going caving, so am I! I’m still early in my pregnancy and I promised myself I’d be extra careful and take things extra slow. After all the doctor only said NO skydiving.
We went with a group of friends that included our expert caving friend, Mike. I have entrusted my life in Mike more times than I would like to admit. We always go caving with him, and because we are clueless inside a deep dark cave we believe every word he says. So, once again we followed him into the woods in Middle of Nowhere Tennessee to the opening of a big empty cave. This particular cave, is one we have searched many times before. We call it the “water cave” because, well…it’s wet and full of water.
Mike told us that new passages were recently found in the cave, so it would be a new adventure for ALL of us, including Mike. Now, before I get into the details of this caving exhibition I want to explain that 1) It is VERY difficult to take photos in a cave. It is pitch black (except the light of our headlamps). It is wet, dusty and muddy. Plus, none of us would dare take a nice camera into a cave. 2) It is very hard to describe what spelunking is like, but take my word for it…this was the wildest caving trip we have EVER had. (Wildest, not most dangerous)
It all began when we entered down through the mouth of the cave. It gradually got darker as we inched our way over the large stones and into a cave with 6 inches of water flowing across the bottom. We have had A LOT of rain in Tennessee lately and it showed in this cave. To avoid treading into deeper water we walked along the edge of a wall lined with rope from previous cavers. It was slippery and scary, but we had each other, the rope and lots of previous experience.
After the slippery edge, we crossed over the water, up a muddy wall and into a tunnel just big enough to crawl through. At the end of the tunnel we had to slip through a skinny crack head first in order to get to the next room. Believe it or not, head first was easier than feet first. Lucky for us, Husband let us use his back as a brace for each of us as we followed him.
Then, the fun arrived. In this next room was a tunnel made of mud. Not only was it made of thick slippery mud, but it sloped down hill. We all took turns sliding all the way down the tunnel getting covered from head to toe in mud. Unfortunately, we found a dead end at the bottom of our muddy slide. We had to crawl up through the mud to get out, which wasn’t hard until someone started a mud throwing fight.
From here, things got REALLY interesting. We searched, climbed and crawled a lot more and came to a drop-off, a drop-off over a large pool of water. Of course, Husband and one of the other guys immediately climbed down to check things out. After lots of persuading, the rest of us were convinced to follow. They managed to convince me to follow them by carrying me through basically any scary spot I refused to do by yelling, “but I’m pregnant!”
The room we dropped into was un-be-liev-a-ble. There was a waterfall in the distance that ran into the most beautiful flowing small pools of water which flowed into a very large pool of water and at the top of a huge rock was a raft! Obviously we got the raft. I mean who has the opportunity go rafting in a cave?!?! Three of us (including pregnant me) got to lay on the raft and paddle while the rest of the group had to swim in the freezing cave water. We paddled/swam to the edge of the water. We realized we could go no further and paddled back. It was a surreal adventure.
Now, freezing, muddy, wet and tired. We decided it was time to find our way out of the cave.
Mike, of course, knew the way out, but it took more climbing, crawling and knee scraping to get there. Caving is always fun, but there is no bigger sigh of relief than when you can see the sunlight coming through the opening.
Sara got a real Tennessee spelunking experience, and thankfully, she loved it. However, I think my next caving trip will be after Baby Z arrives.
Husband and I used to go spelunking with a couple of our Nashville friends fairly often. The first time we went was with our friend Mike. At the time Mike was basically a stranger. On our very first caving expedition we followed him hours away into the mountain of Tennessee, traveled down skinny empty roads, parked on the side of the road and were told to give him our keys and wallets. We were slightly worried that we were about to be murdered and robbed, but handed over our valuables and followed him into the woods anyways.
Mike, turned out to be the best “tour guide” we could ever imagine and a great friend who we later had many outdoor adventures with over the course of a year. The caves he took us in were always found in the middle of the woods which involved a long, usually steep hike, and were often next to secluded waterfalls. We spent hours in the empty caves crawling through tiny tunnels with only the light of our headlamps, repelling down tall cave walls and discovering beautiful underground sights.
It’s been three years since our spelunking adventures, so when our good friends called and asked us to go to Mammoth Cave with them we immediately hopped in the car and drove to meet them in Kentucky. Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest known cave system. It has over 400 miles of explored cave tunnels! It’s a National Park and a World Heritage sight. It is crazy big, wildly beautiful and ridiculously full of tourists. It’s nothing like spelunking in unexplored caves in Tennessee.
We took the 2-hour “historic tour” with our friends where we learned all about he famous slave cave tour-guide, Stephen Bishop. He eventually made enough money in tips to buy his freedom, a home and several acres of his own. He was the first person to make extensive maps of the caves and taught the guests in his tour groups how to write their names on the cave walls using the flame of a candle.
Walking on the artificial floors edged with ropes to keep us from going off course was not quite as exciting as wearing helmets and squeezing through 8-inch tunnels, but we had a good time hearing the old stories and enjoying the sights. Mammoth Cave is really an amazing attraction…especially if you aren’t interested in spelunking with strangers in dark abandoned areas.
We actually toured Mammoth Cave a few years ago on a 5-hour tour, and I’m sure one day we will return for a different tour. They have about a dozen different tours, and opportunities to spelunk (is that a word?), camp, horseback ride, hike and much more.
If you’re interested in touring the famous Mammoth Cave, check out their list of tours and activities here.