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.