You can do the hike on your own-hard hats are not just a nice suggestion, we all smacked our heads and were grateful to have one on! A bike helmet would be better than nothing, the ceiling is low here and there and simply raising up after a long crawl, you may not be totally clear of that tunnel roof and WHAM. Flashlights-more than one each, water and a snack and shoes with some grip, it is wet, sandy and covered in slick clay in there! Loads of climbing around on breakdown-those big chunks of rocks that fall from the ceiling. But, having gone in with the ranger and in a group of 10, there were times even following Park that I never would have thought we were on the right track. There are a few side tunnels as well, most dead-end after a short while, but one winds back another 90 minute scramble before you realize you are going the wrong way. That could mess up your day!
I would recommend going with a ranger at least once! You can call and arrange a trip with a group or find out when the next trip is planned by contacting the Visitor Center at (931) 924 - 2980. He gave us plenty of time to crawl around and explore and pointed out some smaller tunnels the kids slithered through. At the end, I was COVERED in mud. David, Deb's hubby, looked like he had just gotten dressed. He had a little smear of mud on one boot! Some people...hahaha! If you do go on your own, follow the water, but with some common sense-there are times you have to leave the water and climb up and around instead of slogging through where it may be deeper than you realize, or there's a drop off. It's a really cool cave, if you have the chance to go, go!
We had to leave the house at 5:30, so crossing the river, it was still early and misty!
The soybean fields in southern Tennessee
I love this station and that smiling train! I have a close-up of it printed and hanging on my wall.
Park came in just after we arrived and our sole singleton, Leslie, pulled in after him. We sorted helmets and tinkered with our packs and got the call from the visitor center that the rest of the group was en route.
We used the time to look at the map and talk about ideas for play areas and upgrades to the visitor center.
This is a jelly fungus, likely witches butter, though it is usually yellow to orange. It gets lighter as it ages and only grows on coniferous branches. There is another kind called leaf jelly that is brown and purple and only grows on oak. I wonder if Park will hike back out there and find this clump and ID the branch...It was near a curve in the trail...
Yeah, I don't know summer wildflowers.Without the bloom, I would have said wild lettuce. But then we broke a leaf and there was no white liquid, so it's not that. So, I have narrowed down one possibility, only what...400 to go? hahaha!
This is commonly known as an earthstar fungi, the center is a puffball.
It's a combo of 'earth' and 'aster' (flower). Nearly my name! Aster, Esther...
The arms keep curling away from the middle and pushing the middle upward until it resembles a tiny man standing in the leaf litter, arms, legs and a round puffball head.
It's in the geastrum family, I am going to guess fimbriatum, Latin for 'fringed'.
Can't wait to return with a better camera and some lights to set up long exposure shots. Eep!
We had our snacks with the lights all off, sitting in total darkness. Now I see why. hahaha!
Gathered around to look at cave crawdads.
Park quit leading and gave us the map. He said it was a learning experience.
Climbing out at Peter's Cave entrance (exit)
My pants were soaked and dirty, so I rolled them up to keep from tripping myself on the cuffs and my legs fared only slightly better!
My face, the only non-filthy bit on me.
We wanted to stay and hang out all afternoon and go swim, we had all our gear, but ended up heading right back home. :(
Another pony on the loose! I tried to get this one in the van, too.
At least heading home early scored us some pizza from the Arab store!
Since my previous fall turned out to be no biggie, I decided to shrug it off and keep walking this time, too. After 10 minutes it hurt WAY more, mainly when I lifted my foot up and if I flexed it in any direction. I could take my own weight, so I kept going, albeit SLOWLY. We went all through the cave, I was sweaty and felt like I was going to throw up. I should have stopped, but...well. I was able to crawl a good bit or lift with my left leg and just keep balance with my right foot. I managed anyway, even if I did not get to run around exploring side tunnels. We hiked back out and by the time we got back to where the trail looped back and met up with the Buggytop, I knew I was done for. Matt stayed behind with me and I took my time picking each step. That trail is nothing BUT uneven with little steps up and down constantly. I found that going uphill was less painful, it was stepping down that made me see black dots.
Park got everyone else back to the parking lot and came back to meet us and headed us down a side trail that went to the paved road, cutting off half a mile or so. He then ran back to the parking area and drove around to get us. Walking down that slope, UGH. It hurt and then hurt more and then burned. My foot had swollen until my shoe felt like I would have to cut it off. It hurt when I lifted it off the ground the most, any 'hang time' was excruciating. I was glad everyone went ahead so I could have myself a good self-pity party for a couple minutes. Matt was SO sweet, especially since he just spent last week babying me through that shoulder nerve thing. I'd take the shoulder thing again in a heartbeat, not being able to WALK is way suckier than not being able to brush my teeth right-handed! I did not really mind having to hand off my chores for a few days. hehehe Hey wait, that still applies! Bright side!
|despite what my children will tell you, my toes have always looked like that|
Here it is this morning, after being propped up overnight. The swelling has gone down some, but the bruising is about to commence along the outside edge.
So anyway, it was a great day and I am really glad I stuck it out, though I feel badly for everyone else who had to deal with my slowness and hesitation. I don't like being 'that' person who is scared. We had to climb down at one point and Park was helping everyone and they climbed right down with hardly any issue. I weenied around until even I was irritated with me. I was SO scared of sliding off, either into the jumble of rocks or onto our ranger, who is roughly the size of Benny. All my weight had to be on my left foot while I slowly lowered down to the next foothold. It was awkward but almost ridiculously simple-other than the hurting bit. That was the worst part of the whole day for me-being afraid I was going to hurt myself more.
I don't know what the solution to that is. Is it my weight, my age, my propensity to just have my feet slide out from under me? I was wearing nearly brand new $100+ trail running shoes designed to grip in mud and on rock that had a zillion excellent user ratings AND that Ben was also wearing. We each had our own pair. We were not in the SAME pair, even I can figure out that would be a problem.
I bought them after a good bit of research for him to use on the Panther Run because they were so recommended for slippery conditions. They were the editor's choice in Backpacker magazine for crying out loud, and mine were turquoise, which really should have added to their power. And I still slid twice when no one else did at all. Both times doing nothing more than just walking on the marked trail-no fooling around or even going fast.
I fall a LOT, I could name off 10 more falls in the past year and none of them were from doing anything even remotely dangerous. I can't just sit at home, I want to be active! But I am always slightly scared, especially when footing is tricky. That's a suck way to be. I am going to do some research and see what I can do about it.
Okay, here is it about 7 hours after the first pic. The bruise is coming in nicely, despite my Arnica gel brigade. The swelling is up, but I have read the initial swelling speeds recovery and that's what we want! I have a camping trip in just over 2 weeks and let's not forget Disney this fall. I will NOT be the chubby white woman in the hoover round chair!