It was the weekend of the TAG fall cave in and Wade and I made it to Jasper, TN at 3am. We pulled up to Kelly and Jason’s house and snuck in for a few hours of shut eye. We all awoke around 7:00 am to get ready to go. We headed towards the Cave In but took a small detour to go see Anderson Springs Cave first. The hike to Anderson Springs is great on the way to the cave. It’s all downhill! Of course we all joked about the fact that after completing our visit we’d be walking back up hill for about a mile to get to our vehicles. During the walk we talked a bit about Anderson Springs Cave. Kelly was our fearless leader today sense she is only one that had been there before. Kelly had actually been there about nine times! She made it clear this time we were making it to the 25 foot waterfall in the back! We were only too happy to oblige. Wade and I live in Florida so we try to make the most out of every cave trip we do.
Once we made it to the cave entrance we all got changed into our caving gear. As we entered the cave we all noticed the water level seemed really low. This was a good sign sense some areas can sump in this cave, making it impossible to reach the back. Shortly into the cave you get to the first area that can sump. It’s was a nice wet crawl today! Jason and Kelly in the lead, we could hear the noises we know we all make when that initial cold water gets into your clothes and shoes. Nothing like getting wet the
first 10 minutes into the cave! After the crawl we were able to stand up again. The passage continued for a ways with mostly walking and some stoop walking. Then we saw that beautiful Georgia mud we all love. You know the kind that suctions your shoes. We worked our way up to a room that Kelly had wanted to show us. We were really glad she knew about this room. What awaited us in the stream passage was another wet crawl. So we headed up into this room instead. This room was beautiful! There were formations everywhere. We took a short break in this room while Kelly got out her camera equipment. We all obligingly spread out around the room with flashes. I quickly volunteered to go hide behind a beautiful row of formations. While back there I noticed a beautiful pool of water with an interesting formation in it I’d never seen before. There was also a spot between the formations that look just like a heart. After photographing this room we moved on to find some awesome looking bacon formations. Kelly and Jason played with all kinds of ways to light this up. We then headed on and did a slide down of mud that we all kept telling ourselves would be easy to climb up later. Jason decided to go a different way and popped out below us. We knew we were definitely going out the way he came!
The next area was very unique and beautiful. It was an area where the stream when thru all kinds of fossils. We decided to photograph this passage. Jason stood in the middle with his carbide lamp lit and showed Kelly the biggest smile I think I’ve seen on a picture of him yet. Wade hid behind him to get the lighting just right. I lit up the area from next to Kelly.
After this point the cave becomes a blur of stoop walking and wet crawling. Kelly had never come much further than this in the 9 times she had been there. At this point everyone had always turned around, wet and cold. Well we were not about to do that! We pushed on. I recall some cold ear dips that is for sure. We got to area where Jason was in the lead and he disappeared down a crawl way. While I watched his body slide downward and disappear I thought, “oh this is not going to be fun coming out.” I sat there for a moment and said, “I don’t know if I want to do this.” Wade was all ready to go and was about to jump in front of me and I couldn’t have that. We heard some moaning and grunting coming from Jason and thought, “oh this can’t be good.”
I had already told Wade I was going next so in I went. Once I saw that crawl way I knew why I had heard moaning and grunting, there was a huge rock right in the middle of the crawl way that you had to work your way over. The passage was just big enough for my helmet and body to get thru. At one point I started laughing and that yelling that my helmet was stuck. Once I was able to unstick my helmet and turn my head I started grunting as pulled my way over the large rock in my path. I decided to exhale and push and pull all at once, determined to make it thru with that breath. Well I did, but I also ripped a giant hole clear thru the first shirt I had on. Luckily I had on a few layers. I made it thru and we were in a low area that looked sandy. I waited for Wade and Kelly to come thru. Kelly laughed as she got her
helmet momentarily stuck, as well. Once all of us were thru the squeeze we continued on. At this point the cave went from crawling in and out of water. I decided during the areas where I couldn’t crawl on all fours that I would roll. It seemed perfect for rolling sense it was a long sandy/rocky area with no formations. They all made fun of me but I was super-fast that way!
I can’t remember who called it first but someone heard a waterfall! This excited all of us. We knew we were getting close. Kelly had warned us there was a small waterfall before the large one so we weren’t disappointed when we first approached a tiny 5 foot waterfall. We climbed up and crawled around the waterfall excited, knowing we were close to the end. We turned a corner and there was the waterfall pouring from the ceiling. There is a rope installed back there and the cave apparently
continues on. We noticed a small wear spot in the rope. None of us had brought vertical gear, anyway. We were just excited to have made it to this point. Kelly quickly handed out strobes to all of us so we could get a picture of this waterfall we had heard so much about. Plus, I wasn’t so sure any of us would go all the way back there to see it again! After a few photo attempts we decided to head out.
I don’t think I’ve ever exited a cave so quickly. We bypassed the muddy climb ups that we were worried about and swam thru the wet crawls instead. It’s funny how no matter how many times you crawl thru those, the water always shocks you. We took a couple breaks and that crawl we all enjoyed so much on the way in was just as fun on the way out. Going uphill while squeezing thru a tiny area is always fun, especially when there are no foot holds. I accidentally kicked some mud in Wade’s face and it stayed there all night. Kelly and Jason made it out first. Wade and I followed and I was excited to see sun light. We made it out and changed into some clean clothes. We then started the mile hike back up the mountain to our cars.
The hike seemed to go on forever. Once we finally made it we headed over to the TAG Fall Cave-In and set up tent for the weekend.
By: Marissa Lasso
Photos Courtesy of Kelly Smallwood