See video below: As I descended into the dark cave, partially climbing and sliding the rest of the way, I heard a loud roar of water in the distance. Once I found a firm footing and was able to fully stand, I asked my friend Jeff Paul if we were in any danger of the water rising as it was raining outside. He gave me a reassuring, “If the water was six inches higher in the cave, I would not have taken you in here.”
As we continued our journey we would step on cold rock mixed with mud every few feet followed by knee deep water. Walking deeper and deeper into the darkness I could hear the roar of water growing louder. The sound echoed off the walls of the cavern. “Make sure you don’t fall there [pointing a few feet to the left], the current will suck you under that rock,” he said with a smile. We were walking through an underground river.
In some areas, the current was swift enough to knock you off your feet when you combine the flow with slippery mud. So we tried to stay on the rock and out of the water when possible.
Most of the passageways we were on had a ceiling height of about 7-feet while other areas left you ducking to miss stalactites. My helmet and attached light would routinely scrape on a rock above reminding me why I am wearing it.
In case you don’t know, stalactites hang from the ceiling of a cave like an icicle and stalagmites look to be growing up from the floor of a cave. The two are formed from calcium salts deposited by dripping water.
“This area we call the kitchen,” he told me. “Why,” I asked with curiosity. His response made sense, “Because we usually stop and eat lunch here.” Well, we didn’t bring any food with us so we continued our trek.
Rutherford County, Tennessee has a prolific cave system that has yet to be fully mapped. The cave we visited was one of those caverns that lacked a complete survey. I guess you could say, I was in somewhat uncharted territory.
In speaking with Jeff, it was obvious that he had a massive love for exploring. In this area he has found a Mastodon jaw bone, teeth of a Mastodon and even teeth of bears. Keep in mind the teeth he has found are hundreds and even thousands of years old. So, no bears and no Mastodons have been spotted anytime recent.
Today Jeff was targeting a large rock in the center of the underground river where he found a bottle that had a note inside of it. The note was apparently thrown into a well located in Williamson County, TN and over an 80-year period, traveled to Rutherford County, all via underground streams.
After much research, Jeff was able to get the bottle and the note into the hands of the rightful owner. That rightful owner was the 79 year old granddaughter of the man who originally threw the bottle into a well. Betty Bell Brown told Jeff that her grandfather John Marshall Hunter threw that bottle into a well while he was visiting the grave of his father. At the time, Betty would not have been born yet, so her information came from an old farm diary that belonged to her grandfather.
Mrs. Brown has since passed away, but the bottle remains with her family.
William Stone (1603-1660), English pioneer and early settler in Maryland once stated, “Caves are whimsical things, and geology on a local scale is random and unpredictable.”