Sydney on the Trails: Spelunking in the Appalachian Caverns

Trail Team 11

(WJHL) – Crawling through small, dark, muddy spaces is usually something that people want to avoid, but not for this Trail Team 11 adventure! 

In Blountville, Tennessee, down a long curvy road, sits the Appalachian Caverns, a cave system that has been heavily trafficked by people across our region for decades, making it the perfect place for beginner spelunkers to give the sport a shot. 

This isn’t for the faint of heart though; this is something for those with the extra adventurous spirit.

Roger Heartly, the steward of the Appalachian Caverns says, “We’re going to get in there and do some stuff that is a little bit different, maybe out of your comfort zone somewhat, but that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to leave you in that comfort zone.”

Before you head out for your first trip spelunking, you need to find clothes that you’re okay with throwing away after. 

“You’re definitely going to have long sleeve, long pants, stuff you’re not in love with because you may not be when you’re done,” Heartly explains. “When you get done with this, you’re going to need a complete change of clothing. You’re not going out to eat right now, that’s not happening. You just need to be prepared for doing this kind of thing, and if you’re not prepared for adventure, don’t sign up. This is not a sales pitch. If you’re not ready to do something that’s out of your comfort zone, don’t come here.”

Also, it’s recommended that the pants you do decide to wear be comfortable and flexible, but thick enough to slide on the muddy cave floors.

While climbing through the caverns you’ll notice a lot of stalagmites and stalactites. Heartly explains how you can tell the difference between the two in the video below:

Climbing through the caverns isn’t easy, and for many, there is a level of fear they experience when going through. However, this is normal and expected. Workers at the caverns say their goal is to push you beyond your comfort level and to show you what you can accomplish.

“If you get a little apprehensive about things we judge the group, judge not, we judge everybody, we’re going to judge you and see what we thing you can do, what we think you can handle,” explains Heartly. “We’re going to push you a little bit.”

And push you they do. During the full tour, you’ll cross through creeks that are chest deep, slide through mud, army crawl your way through 7.5 inch-tall tunnels, and push yourself in ways you never thought you could. But Heartly adds that not everyone has to take it to that level. 

“We can adjust the tour to everyone’s level. Okay? You were intense about it; we did intense things. If you’re not so much so, we’ll tone it down,” he said.

As well as spelunkers, animals also venture their way into the caverns! Watch the video to learn more about what you could see:

When you’re done with your spelunking trip, be prepared to feel the work you put in, the next day, or even that night.

“I don’t think really they realize how strenuous this is,” Heartly said. “Okay this is a different muscle group. You’ll be sore tomorrow, maybe tonight, you’ll feel it. So know it’s going to be a different type of work out, you’re not going to man through this. It’s not a macho kind of thing.”

It’s very important to note: Never enter a cave you don’t know, never go spelunking without a professional and always inform people of where you’re going, even if it’s on a tour.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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