Do you remember when you were little and couldn’t wait to start school so that you could tell everyone about the great “adventure” you had over the summer? Or was I the only “nerd” who was excited about that? No. . . . good, glad to hear there are others of us out there! Get ready, you are about to experience what my great adventure was. It is behind this door. . . . . . .
While on a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina, The Husband, Daughter and I took a little side trip to explore the marvels of Linville Caverns. Now I will tell you that if you are a claustrophobic person, this may not be the experience for you. I LOVED IT. The Daughter, not so much, but she was a trooper through it all and stuck it out with me. The Husband . . . . well, no, poor guy, claustrophobic. Quite honestly I was not at all sure how I would do being “underground” and likely would not have done it if it had been a self-guided tour or a wander around and explore on your own type experience. It is however, a guided tour and I was amazed! Linville Caverns opened for public touring in 1937. There have been many upgrades to the paths and the lighting system that makes it a safe touring experience for all ages. The caverns were discovered in the early 1800′s by Henry Colton. While on a fishing a expedition he was amazed to see fish swimming in and out of what he thought was a solid rock formation. He explored and found a small opening in the mountain and entered the subterranean recess that is still home to native trout.
Once inside the mountain our tour guide talked about the stalactite and stalagmite formations, the underground stream with the trout and the hibernating bats (not there this time of year). The tour participants were educated on the ecosystem of the cavern, the geological history and the formations were so beautiful that even with my camera phone and very little dim lighting the pictures are pretty darn good! The guide told us that the formations grow very slowly, 1 inch equaling 125 years. That makes them thousands of years old!
The guide shared a story about the history surrounding this little flat area. Apparently it was a place that deserters (both North and South) during the Civil War managed to find and use as a fire pit. They camped out in the caverns for some time before their smoke was spotted wafting up through a crevice.
The next stop on our tour was the Bottomless Pit. At this point, she asked if anyone was claustrophobic. Seriously, now you ask after several hundred feet of semi darkness, stopping for low hanging formations, walls so close you could feel the moisture and the cool surface without coming in contact with it, you want to know if anyone is claustrophobic? I had that thought until we were all out on this metal walkway, single file, moving sideways, suspended over the Bottomless Pit. Named this I might add because they never have managed to find the bottom and gave up after measuring down 250 feet.
Our last adventure in the cavern was a story the tour guide told about 2 teens having been lost in the caverns in the early 1900′s. They wandered in exploring, telling no one where they were, with 1 lantern that blew out when one of the boys fell leaving them in total darkness. Guess what happened next? Yep, you guessed it. We stood still and she turned out all the lights. I MEAN ALL OF THEM and we were in total and complete darkness while she continued on with the story about how they waded in water sometimes up to their armpits for 2 days before they found their way out AND telling us about how long it takes before you go totally blind from darkness and/or go insane. Okay . . . . . lights. . . . . NOW. . . please!
I laugh about it now, but at the time I admit it was a bit disconcerting. I did not panic because I knew my cell phone was safely tucked into my pocket and I could whip it out and shine the light if terror started to set in! As the tour ended and we turned around and made our way back to our beginning point, I was so glad we had stopped and explored the caverns. This was one summer adventure I will never forget.