The outing this time was to Indian Grave Point Cave on February 3rd, named for the Native American ceremoniest that took place there. Although more people committed to going, I’m kind of glad that the ones that showed up did. I don’t think the ones who bailed would have really enjoyed this cave as much as we did. Frank and Pogue stayed at my house Friday night, and by the time Willie arrived, we departd Nashville at 09:00.
The cave is located outside of Dowelltown, in DeKalb county, Tennessee, a mile from the infamous site of the Battle of Snow Hill that saw the fight between the confederates and the 9th Cavalry on April 3rd, 1863. This cave is a semi-bi-level horizonal saltpeter wet cave. The cave ranges to a depth of 112 feet, and is recorded 3.166 miles long, making it the 41st longest cave in Tennessee, but the largest in its area.
We arrived on site and were hiking up to the cave by 10:15. Cave safety parameters suggest letting someone know where you are and an approximate time when you are to return in the event that something happens to you. There is a house near the cave entrance that you can inform of your whereabouts. As we drove along the fenceline of what was literally a cow pasture, the land owner had placed signs requesting that all cavers use the ladder that is permanently erected in the corner for easy traversing. We parked off the side of the road and prepared our gear for the hike in. Fresh batteries and clean clothes, we were on our way!!!! Deciding where the entrance was was entertaining as we were unsure exactly where it was. Progressing uphill (which was a nice change) and dodging cow patties, we finally located a lone stand of trees about 3/4 of the way up the slope. While we made final checks of our packs, Pogue made a final wardrobe adjustment and we started the descent.
Pogue coming across the field
Willie taking a breather at the rim of the entrance.
(Lookingback out over the countryside.) Quite beautiful. Simply looking out, it’s hard to tell that this countryside is literally dotted with cave systems. In my opinion, the best hiking in Tennessee is below the surface. For all of you who think it’s crazy, you really don’t know what you are missing!
The entrance is protected by a steep climb down. There is a rope to assist. Simply by looking at this picture, you cannot quite grasp how far down the climb really was. Lesson learned. Make sure there is something for scale in the photos.
NOT MY PHOTO. This was a really good photo I found on the web of the entrance. This is not mine. It also shows the surround topography, simply a stand of trees in the middle of a pasture. Were you to drive by, that’s all you would think it is. Little did we know what beauty lies below the surface!!
For scale, I used my zoom to capture Pogue and Frank entering the mouth. After a few adjustments with Adobe, I was able to lighten it enough for viewing. Mental note: need spotlight with mega foot candles (Ahem, Santa).
As indicated, ths map of IGP cave was surveyed in 1955. Although the cave is only 3.166 miles long, the traversing on hands-n-knees, low-crawling, and climbing over breakdown, combined with exploration of side chambers will make it seem like much more mileage. Even though we spent over 7 hours in this cave, I honestly don’t feel like we explored enough, and I want to go back a few more times with larger groups of people.
There are a few websites featuring “haunted sites” and IGP was one of them. Suggested Phantoms of IGP Cave However, after taking this photo, I learned that those loonies are full of shit, because they would say that the cloudy forms following Pogue and Frank are “phantoms”. However, just to clear this bullshit up, what you see in this photo of the original descension is the vapor from their breath, which hangs heavy in the air throughout the cave without much air movement. The light from various sources (flash, headlights, flashlights) really display it. It doesn’t really move, since there is little airmovement, except for what is caused by our “wake” of movement. This myth is “busted”!
This is a cleaned up version of the descension, which really highlights the wackos’ “phantoms”. Willie, Pogue, and Frank have already passed this point ahead of me, and their breath is heavy in the air.
The first thing I noticed when entering the first chamber (after the mud, of course) was the colors in the formations and ribbons. The geological lines are very beautiful and defined. Although my photos will not do justice for these caves, you can barely make out the pretty ribbons of color. While you look at the photos, know that it looks much better with your own eyes. But for those of you who will not venture, I hope you enjoy them.
Since this is a wet cave, and a high-clay content soil / topography, it only leads to the fact of the silt and clay content, not only at the entrance, but throughout the entire cave. Later on in the cave, throughout the walls and formations, we will be able to detect geological timelines created by the clay of yesteryear. And while a lot of these formations are different tones and shades of brown, to truly behold these structures that literally took thousands of years to form is simply breath taking when you sit down and think about it.
I was thrilled to see the first of the cave dwellers. I read on one site that one of the state’s grottos came here to do a bat-count. In the reading, I learned that one of the detections of a cave’s health is its inhabitants. The number of bats help assure of the cave’s health and balance. Well, let me tell you that there was no shortage of bats. They were everywhere we looked! No, They really didn’t care we were there.
Through this blog, you will see various formations that we ran across. Please keep in mind that most of these formations are damaged from the constant traffic this cave withstands. While they aren’t as prestine as many of the lesser traveled and private caves are, they were still quite fascinating. Unfortunately, as I review these photos, I don’t feel that my camera quite did the justice of the cave. Later, after returning home, I did have an email conversation with Chuck, who has done some outstanding photography of this cave and others, and learned that I need a mega-foot-candle-spotlight (ahem, Santa) to do some offlighting. Checked into a cave photography class at NSCC. The photography professor was bewildered, wanting to know “why on earth would anyone go in a hole to take pictures when there is so much beauty on the surface.” No sense of adventure, huh?
I was fascinated by this formations and hole that appears beside it. It didn’t seem to have a bottom to it, at least none that my light source could detect. Willie pointed out the fact that there could be another entire cave system below our feet, which really made me think. If you had not known about this cave system as you walked across the pasture, would you have really known that it was there? Kind of makes you wonder about the stability of the ground beneath your feet, now, doesn’t it?
Beautiful ceilings. The ceilings in some of the chambers were literally covered with gypsum, which made them sparkle like a starry night. Looking closer, some of it actually favored fools gold. The ceilings were simply beautiful, and I thought about how that wouldbe for a person who was camping in this cave way back when…
Another beautiful ceiling in another chamber. This picture actually was closer to how we saw it than the other one.
This is what the ceiling is probably made of. From another source, this is what they felt the ceiling was coated with, which is quite realistic. Very beautiful. I often lagged behind at everything, taking pictures, and simply taking in what I was seeing.
Willie pretending to be productive. Ha-ha! This is my caving / hiking buddy, Willie. He wanted an “action” shot… so there ya go, Willie
Another Cave Dweller. As I stated earlier, these little bats were everywhere we looked…
Formations were nearly everywhere you looked. I just took a lot of photos, hoping that a fraction would turn out all right. I really wanted you to get a feel for what I was seeing. I simply can’t say it enough, how breath-taking this underworld is. How quiet, and serenely beautiful, beyond anything I have ever experienced.
Dead rimstone pool. This formation used tobe a sort of “damn” for a pool of water. For whatever reason, be it traffic damage, or water diversion, this pool is not extinct. It may also be that the water source was simply not high enough to support this pool. When these are thriving, and not damaged due to traffic, these pools can sport beautiful gypsum flowers and crystals along its edges, making some of them glimmer like rhinestones.
This is flowstone with straws and stalagtites in the background. Unfortunately, many are broken off, from traffic, I am going to assume. Stand back and imagine this giant sheet of flowstone… light gray-blue in color… looking like water frozen in time, with waves and ridges, like rapids in the middle of a river. Simply beautiful.
This is a dead timy rimstone pool measuring about a half a meter across. Perhaps at one time, this was a site of good water flow, perhaps this was the wrong time of year for it? Who’s to say? Either way, there was only a little bit of water in the bottom of it. But the colors extending from it were very beautiful.
Cave dweller & colorful cave wall. As I was crunched into a space less than a meter tall, we noticed this little guy was about 20 cm from my head. After withdrawing from the spot, I noticed the beautiful ribbons of color surrounding him and had to take a photo.
This is a beautiful example of the formations that I saw. I was very pleased that this photo actually turned out! This structure here took thousands of years to form. So beautiful, and only available to the adventuresome!
Beautiful ceiling to floor columns near the wall. You can see the edge of my mag light in this one! Oops! They look like long solemn faces in the stone, fronze in time!
Pogue on the way to the Jacuzzi. This was the entrance passage.
OK, so it didn’t turn out like I wanted it. This is actually Willie standing up on the wall, allowing Frank to pass between his legs so that Frank could see the Jacuzzi. It really looked funny at the time, but it didn’t turn out really well, even with the adobe adjustments.
So this is the Jacuzzi. It is a small room with a wonderful small pool in it. This is taken at an angle.
I simply cannot get enough of these formations! These rinds are very beautiful, cascading from the ceiling into flowstone, like a waterfall into a lake.
Nice looking gypsum formations.
Traversing. Nice looking gypsum formations.
These formations just seem to disappear at times into the abyss.
Frank would move out ahead of us, and at times there was no telling where he would be. I thought this would be a good photo for him.
This is the famous Fountain. It hangs from the ceiling, which is about 4 meters tall. It spills into a basin that is about 1 meter tall and has a hollow center, as if a man-made basin. The water is wonderfully clean. It was in this room that I slipped and broke my ass, but don’t worry about it though, my ass was already cracked.
Pogue demonstrating the wonderfully tasting water by taking a drinking from the Fountain. You go, Soldier Boy!
This is the Horny Man. I am thinking that fellow cavers before us were a bunch of pervs!! We saw a woman waiting for Willie (a spread naked woman painted into the cave floor), and man-made formations featuring clay human genitals throughout the clay rooms (laughs) but I didn’t want to get reported for featuring them on this blog!
This is a PG-rated man-made formation of Nessie in the Clay Room, just off from the Fountain Room. There were huge naturally formed blocks of clay throughout this room. Quite fascinating, but the pictures didn’t turn out very well.
Throughout many of the passages, you could see the floor lined with rimstone. They no longer supported water, either due to traffic or change of water flow.
NOT MY PHOTO. This photo shows how many of the rooms are: Huge assed stones balancing seemingly precariously against the wall. Sometimes it can be very eerie.
NOT MY PHOTO. None of my photos of the Columns area turned out well, so I borrowed a few from other cavers.
NOT MY PHOTO. This features another column formation in IGP Cave. Notice the person to the left of the formation.
NOT MY PHOTO. Another borrowed photo. See what you guys are missing????
NOT MY PHOTO. Another view of another ribbon formation. Nice that there is someonein the photo for scale. Wow is all I can say!!!
NOT MY PHOTO. It’s amazing the shape that these formations can take.
NOT MY PHOTO. Very nice photography here. I am thinking this is Chuck’s possibly? Hmmm…. anyways, although it’s not mine, it is still IGP Cave.
NOT MY PHOTO. While I didn’t have the room or the gumption to take all the photography equipment necessary to take photos such as these, I do want to see that I am getting quite interested in cave photography!
This is Pogue testing the depth of the waters at the Great Lake Extension. Silly Soldier Boy forgot to take his cigs out of the lower pocket! Soggy cigs and wet lighter (sighs) not a happy Soldier Boy!
NOT MY PHOTO. This is a formation at the Great Lakes Extension. See that little knob on the right side? The next photo is there. The Great Lakes Extension has nothing to do with the actual Great Lakes up north.
Me Passing the Formations at the Great Lakes Extension. There was a lot of complaints that I wasn’t in too many of the photos. Well, guys, I’m usually the one taking the photo. Such is the break of being the photographer.
Pogue helping me down at the Great Lakes Extension. Ok, so there are now two photos of me now. At this time, Willie was running around with my camera taking photos of the clay boobs and peni on the walls (laughs) is that the plural form of penis? Sheesh, Willie, you perv!
NOT MY PHOTO. Swirl at the top of the passage to the Great Lakes Extension. My photo did not turn out at all I didn’t have enough light. The tops of some of these caverns really show how they used to be full of water at one time. It’s amazing what time and nature can do. Fascinating indeed! Even rocks cannot endure through time.
The Blue Line. This ribbon of rock / mineral was lined throughout the entire cave structure. I wonder what it was made of.
The Blue Line. It is made of a soft material. Beautiful!
Very young soda straws, probably only a few decades old, tucked away in a corner.
This is the Sign-In Area. Leave your mark, leave your trinket on the shrine. We left our mark in the book. I’ll bring some more tea candles next time.
Basins along the floor on the way to the Garden of Eden. These seemingly simple little structures are along the floor. The “bowl” in the center is where the water has dripped for years and years, and dripped down the sides, depositing minerals as it went. Beautiful.
These gypsum crystals simply covered some of the walls. It was like a super thick crust of frost, like what you would find in a freezer that really needed to be defrosted.
Gypsum crystals up close. I was trying to demonstrate without touching how they just “grew” from the walls.
Stalagtites from a fallen ceiling. Although it seemed rather recent that some of these ceilings fell, it was reassuring from othe stalgtites dangling from the ceiling that it was actually probably centuries ago that they fell. The ceilings appear to be made of a sheet of rock, as previously demonstrated by other photos. These “sheets” lose their support from erosion and topple down.
NOT MY PHOTO. This is what is fondly referred to as Madonna’s Pool. it is a wonderful room featuring stalagtites and stalagmites, soda straws, and columns.
An angle shot of the stalagmites in the middle of Madonna’s Pool.
Pogue looking at Madonna’s Pool. Notice the stalagtites above his head.
NOT MY PHOTO. Nice photo that demonstrates another view of Madonna’s Pool.
The Straws at Madonna’s Pool. Beautiful straw formations extended from the ceilings. For those of you who have not read my past blog above the cave formations, a soda straw is a delicate hollow tube of calcium that suspends over time from the ceiling. After this straw reaches the floor, it thickens and becomes like a column.
Frank in the Straws, demonstrating exactly how low the ceiling is here at Madonna’s Pool amongst the straws. Like I said at the beginning, there was a lot of low crawling involved. Definitely not a cave for the weak hearted or not-so-adventuresome and claustrophobic people.
Through the Straws. We squeeze through a spot that was just wide enough for me to squeeze through on my side. It was exciting to say the least. I can’t say enough how amazed I am by these formations. These seemingly simple formations took many centuries to form. From floor to ceiling is about half a meter in height.
Through the Straws.
Straws up Close. Notice the texture of the formation, as well as the delicacy of the infant straws.
This is near the end of the IGP Cave. You can see Frank going down below Willie. Frank will traverse the water below, while teh rest of us will take the ledge to the right. This ledge was less than a meter wide that angled down from the wall towards the ravine below. It was made of slick flowstone with precariously placed remnants of stalagmites dotted strategically along the way. It was best if you anchored your right boot into the crevasse and inched yourself along. At the end, we rested, while exploring the litle corners. We found what we thought was tree roots stretching from the ceiling to the floor. It was the official end of Indian Grave Point Cave, but my photos didn’t turn out so well.
Finally back at the surface, Pogue, Frank, and Willie stop to pose for a memory.
And here ya go, another photo of me, with Pogue and Frank.
Down there is the car, somewhere along the road. Fortunately, it was all downhill from here, as we were quite tired. Mother Nature was nice enough to put a creek near the car, and we stripped on the side of the road, putting our clothes into black plastic bags, and exchanging for clean ones… all except Frank, who made the memorial trip home in his boxers!