Friday, May 24, 2013

Caving Adventures

the entrance
We will start with some background.  My children have been doing school this year through Tennessee Virtual Academy.  TNVA is an online public school.  So last week we took a trip to Cumberland Caverns as a field trip for my kids.  They had never been to a cave before so it was an adventure.  This was our only field trip with TNVA.

Saltpeter room with donated still (non-operational)

S looking at the water
We met at 9:30 on the 17th of May.  When we arrived it was cloudy, but not raining.  We had some time before our tour started for the kids to play and introduce themselves to the other kids.  Of course, it started raining before we headed to the cave.  Fortunately it had tapered off a lot before we started out.  It was a 10 minute walk from the gift shop to the cave entrance.

the pool under "Moby Dick"
After we were all gathered inside our guide began to tell us some of the history of the cave system.  We started off in the saltpeter room.  This part of the cave, the Henshaw system, was initially relatively small and was used during the War of 1812 and the Civil War to mine saltpeter for making gunpowder.  We were told that 1 ton of earth produced approximately 2 pounds of saltpeter which would make enough gunpowder to fire a cannon twice.  The next room contains the water source for this cave.  It is formed by a constant waterfall that forms into two clear, pure pools of water.  The biggest formation in this room is the "Moby Dick" between the two pools.  It doesn't look like it, but our guide said that the deepest point in the pool in the picture is eight feet.  It didn't look like it would be more than about three feet.

Oasis room - small pool at the arrow
holds about a gallon & a half
From here we went through the "Meat-grinder" passage.  It is called this because the man that found and first traversed the passage between the two cave systems looked like he had been through a meat grinder when he came out the other end.  Now, however, the passage is wider and quite smooth.  This passage connects the Henshaw system to the Higgenbotham system.  The Higgenbotham section is much larger.  It is also much drier.  The only natural water in this section is in the Oasis Room.  Many of the natural formations in this room are broken, presumably by cavers racing for the water in a small pool in the corner of the room (marked by the arrow in the picture to the right).  This pool only holds a little over a gallon and takes about two days to refill when emptied.

Graffiti from first "field trip" in 1903 
The next room is called the Bone room, due to the number of broken formations found here.  There is also some graffiti to be found here, including this rock on which is documented one of the first "field trips" into the cave.  Our guide informed us that this particular group stayed in the cave exploring for three days.  Even after 110 years the names were remarkably clear.

The three chessmen in the room "Hall of the Mountain King"
From the Bone room we next went to the "Hall of the Mountain King".  There are stone stairs cut now that make the trek up the 100 feet in elevation across the length of the room easier.  There are several formations in this room including the three chess men.  From here we traveled down a stairway and through a narrow passage to the Ten Acre room.  In this room their overnight tours camp.  There is also a large assortment of graffiti in this room including the oldest known signature.
The chandelier in the volcano room

From this room we traveled trough a wide passageway to the volcano room with it's chandelier to eat the lunches we brought with us.  The chandelier is over 100 years old and was salvaged from a hotel in New York City.  This room is also where they do underground bluegrass concerts.  The acoustics in this room are amazing.

R and boys walking down a passage
After lunch we all went back up to the gift shop where each of the kids were given a bag of sand with semi-precious stones mixed in.  Then we all went out beside the gift shop to the sluices that line the sidewalk.  Most of the kids just picked out the big stones and left anything small.  B and I, however, had a lot of fun going thru the sand in the bottom of the sluice and picking out the little stones.  We found lots of little bitty stones that are really neat.  Of course, I love little bitty things so I was too busy looking for "treasures" to take any pictures of this part.  But my daughter and I did have a lot of fun finding the little ones that others had discarded.
S's bag of treasures

As I said I love little things


  1. What an awesome experience! Thanks for joining Diann and I at TTF! If you are having trouble adding a link back to the party you join, let me know and I'll help in any way I can!



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  3. What a great adventure, and a chandelier in there would be very fun, I would think. I've only gone exploring caves once and it was fun except I had a three month old baby boy to attend to at the time. Good memories! Thanks for sharing yours at my HOME.


  4. The chandelier is amazing! What a cool story; it seems like this cave has a lot of stories to tell.:) Thanks so much for linking up to Inspire Me Wednesday!

  5. This is fascinating! Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop! Hope to have you back again tomorrow:

  6. Thanks for sharing this at the Friday Follow Along! Looks like a great time! Come share again this week at

  7. Oh how interesting and so fun to learn about. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for joining Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  8. What an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing with us this week at Monday Funday!

    Take care,


  9. Wow, that is amazing! I can't believe people actually stay all night there. I assume they sleep on the floor?

    My hubby has taken our boys to caves when they were younger but nothing as awesome as this (although the boys loved it because they didn't know any better, haha!).

    Thanks for linking up to “Making Your Home Sing Monday!” The new linky is live and ready for your posts!

  10. Wow, how fascinating - all that for a little gun powder - the names to these parts of the cave are fascinating - as are the stories behind them. Makes you appreciate what folks had to do many years ago. I do appreciate you sharing with A Return to Loveliness,


Thank you so much for stopping by.