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Cave Walk




search “Wear supportive shoes, no flip-flops.  The temperature is a cool 55 degrees.  It’s about a mile and a half walk.  Nothing strenuous.  Just uneven ground and some steps.  You have to watch where you walk.”  That’s what Tucker told me about a cave tour when I called Cumberland Caverns.  He said all the right things to encourage Husband and me to take our nine-year-old Grand to the cave.


The tour starts with a 600-yard walk along a narrow gravel road.  “Does this count as part of the 1 ½ mile walk?”  Husband asks Tucker, who is now our tour guide.  It does.  We walk into the first cave huge room and David is mildly impressed.  We are all impressed by the waterfalls and the pond with albino crayfish.


Tucker points out stalagmites, stalactites, and columns, and he assures us that the huge cracks in the ceiling prevent it from falling.  We walk along a rough pathway that’s wide enough for a jeep.  Then Tucker says, “This next section is 350 steps, up 175 and back down.  If you don’t want to go, you can sit on that bench and wait.  We’ll be back in a few minutes.”  Steps up – rock steps, some tall, some short, all uneven, and narrow.  That wooden bench  is inviting.


Tucker looks toward three people: Husband, me, and a man who is carrying his toddler son in a large, metal frame backpack. “It’s a bit slippery in some places.  You can hold on to the railing.  Anybody want to wait?”  The railing is a one-inch metal pipeIs it stable?  Backpacking Daddy takes a deep breath and says, “I think I’ll wait.”  Tucker tells him that the lights may go off, but some emergency lights will turn on.   Husband and I both nod our heads – we’re going.  Backpacking Daddy takes another deep breath and says, “I guess I’ll go, too.”  Did he change his mind because if someone like me, at least 30 years older than he, thinks she can walk up and down all those steps, he figures he can?


David and two other young boys fall in right behind Tucker.  Ten steps up and a ninety-degree turn.  All three boys grab the handrail. Tucker says, “Feel how wet that railing is?  That’s bat pee.”  The boys immediately wipe their hands on their pant legs.  “Just kidding.  Do you know what condensation is?”  I cling to the railing, wet or not.


With a few huffs and puffs and gripping the railing, everyone makes it up and back down.  And those young boys practically step on Tucker’s heels as he leads.  We see the bare cave, so named because it’s empty and the meat grinder tunnel, named for what an early spelunker looked like he’d been through when he came out.   Finally, we toured the concert hall for Bluegrass Underground.  A perfect tour, I think.


“What’d you think of your first cave tour, David?” I ask.


“It would’ve been a lot better if we’d been able to climb the rocks and not have to walk on a road somebody made.  You know, really see the cave, without electricity.”  he says.


Yes, I know.  There’s such a cave tour.  David can crawl through tight squeezes and along a muddy bottom.  I’ll tell his daddy about it.






2 Responses

  1. This column reminds me of my childhood cave adventures There were two caves near my house and neighborhood children played in them. Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2014 01:34:23 +0000 To: brendarich@live.com


  2. Brenda, I never went in any caves in Pickett County. Now I’m hearing there are several there.


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