Appalachian Caverns - the Wild Tour!!!
Appalachian Caverns - the Wild Tour!!! Blountville Reviews
The WILDEST cave tour I have ever been on! Sep 13, 2008
Wow - this tour was amazing! It seriously is the wettest, muddiest, wildest cave tour I have ever been on. This tour is for the adventurous only as it requires lots of crawling, slithering, climbing, wading, ducking, squeezing, slipping, tripping, pushing, pulling, wiggling, huffing and puffing. Okay, maybe those last two just applied to me. This tour is intense, but the guide caters the tour to the group's level. You must be smaller in stature to fit through many of the tight spaces - the smallest I fit through was a 7.5 inch and 6.5 inch. Or so they said. I had a harder time with the 7.5 inch one because it was a longer passage slithering on my belly. You also need to be a little flexible in some spots because there are tight turns on your belly and in some of the tight passages.
The cave was a little tricky to find because it is on some winding back roads and I didn't follow my directions very well. I arrived early for the tour, but the door was locked. The guide was in the cave taking another group so we started about 30 minutes late. We got fitted up with helmets, flashlights, and gloves. I brought kneepads and an extra head lamp and was very thankful for both! They tell you to bring an extra set of clothes and they mean it - including ALL undergarments! Also bring a towel for the showers (and soap and washcloth). Wear very old clothes and long sleeves and shoes or boots with decent soles, but nothing you wouldn't mind tossing (as I did with my pants). You WILL get wet and very muddy. Do not bring a camera!!! Unless you have a disposable, waterproof camera with a flash or a waterproof camera with a very padded case.
There were two others in my tour, Laura and Nick, both from towns nearby. Both were very nice and we had fun together. We started the tour with a few trial crawls - the first being the 7.5 inch passage. On your belly, slithering, then turn a corner and try to slither out - maybe 20 ft or so. Oh, and there's a good inch of water on the bottom. Nothing like starting out a tour wet and muddy! But it was just a taste of what was to come. We opted out of the 80 foot narrow passage up an incline, but maybe next time.
The tour was completely off the trail and probably less than half of it was spent walking upright. Most of it was stooping or crawling with several spots of slithering on your belly. We did a few little climbs - which were actually very hard since it is so darn slippery! I've been rock climbing, but not where I'm soaking wet, there are no holds and everything is covered in mud! Our guide let me step up on his legs to be able to get up one climb and then Nick gave me his hand and pulled me up the rest of the way (maybe its a good idea to have more than two people in your tour). We did it by teamwork. I think that little 15 ft climb was the hardest part for me.
I had purchased a little disposable camera, but after taking a few pictures it got wet and the flash didn't work so I don't know if any of those photos will turn out. And later on in the tour, I lost it. Literally. My pocket ripped and it fell out. We did find it on the way back, but I was really glad I didn't bring in my nice camera.
Partway through the tour we walked through an underground river. The water was over waist high - this was where my camera got wet - and I was pretty nervous to go through this. The bottom was a little uneven but the current wasn't too strong (and I stuck close to the guide). The exit from the cave also goes through waist deep water only you also have to duck through the shallower stuff. The tour was a lot of fun but a quite strenuous as well - mostly where you had to climb or crawl or slither. We saw a few bats and a couple of crawdads (crayfish to us northern folk).
By the end of the tour, it was dark and we were wet, muddy and sore (and a little hungry). They have a campground with showers and you can camp there for $1 if you take the wild tour. You sort of bond with your fellow cavers and it is fun to talk about your adventure afterwards...sitting around a campfire eating marshmallows... or at least that sounds fun to me. I guess I wasn't expecting such a wet tour since I didn't bring any underwear or a towel. I had taken a tour at another cave that said bring a change of clothes, but it was a dry tour, so only pants and a shirt were needed. They didn't tell you that you would be walking through water up to 4 feet deep until you signed a waiver. I drove home nekkie in my clean shirt and pants, still covered in mud since I forgot a towel and underwear.
After the tour I attempted to rinse off and change and I noticed the entire back pocket of my pants was ripped out. Good thing it was dark! But that explained why I had so much mud on my underwear. I decided to toss the pants. Everything else was soaked and muddy so I shoved them in a plastic bag. I was very grateful I had stopped to pick up knee pads and a lamp before the tour. I kept my lamp around my neck and used it in a few places where I couldn't use the flashlight. My headlamp that was provided basically offered no light but they did give us small flashlights which were very useful but sometimes tricky to use when you needed both hands. Even with the knee pads my knees got banged up because they would slip off. My elbows got really scraped up, even through my shirt. I didn't bring any water and did get thirsty at times, but I don't think it would have been worth the hassle to bring a bottle of water.
This was an extremely fun but strenuous cave tour and I highly recommend it. I hate to say this, but if you are a large person or very out of shape, you probably shouldn't take this tour. I'm out of shape, busty and hippy and I struggled with some of the smaller passages. Big strong guys might also have problems. Caving seems to be meant for the really skinny, flexible people, but sometimes normal sized people can do alright. Oh, and you need to be comfortable in damp, dark places and comfortable enough walking through deep water. If you have claustrophobia you probably wouldn't even be considering this tour, but if you were, you might want to reconsider.
Here's what you need to bring with you:
Long pants, thicker material is better
Long sleeved shirt (sweatshirt will be too warm)
Shoes/boots you can get wet and muddy
Clean, dry pants, shirt, underwear, shoes, socks
plastic bag for wet, muddy clothes
waterproof, disposable camera with flash, optional
food and water for afterwards
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