In Search of Autumn – Cumberland Caverns

In Search of Autumn – Cumberland Caverns

This post was updated on January 12th, 2018

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Today Solo is taking me to the Cumberland Caverns, a cave system located about 90 minutes from the farm. Once more Solo is taking me along roads that I haven’t been on before. Though he is always telling me that I know now all the places and roads close to his farm so that there would not be any reason to return for another visit. Still, he finds some that I haven’t seen. So there are reasons to return one day in the future after all. And besides, I haven’t seen them in spring…so I still have some more adventures that I can imagine here some day in the future.
For now, we are following a route of narrow roads. The same streets Solo used a few years ago when he cycled from his farm to Key West, Florida. The miles we have cycled in the last few weeks are no more than a Sunday afternoon walk in the park in comparison.

Confusing roads…we didn’t lose our way again?

The last few miles to the Cumberland Caverns are confusing. The road is so narrow that it would be hard to get passed cars coming from the opposite direction. The best description I have for it would be “A long and winding road.” We soon start wondering if we are on the right route. But then we both saw the sign directing us into this street, and there has not been any intersection so we apparently cannot have missed one. As long as no one has decided to play a prank and misplace the sign we should be in the right place here. The confusion solves when we arrive at the parking lot and get directed to an empty spot.

The Caverns are known for their Bluegrass concerts, which sell out weeks if not months ahead. We, however, are not here for a concert but a guided tour through the caves. And we are lucky; the next tour is going to start only thirty minutes after our arrival. Our guide is a 17year old guy, who is soon to be a College student. He talks in a thick Tennessean accent. I feared something like this. Feared I would not understand a single word and would have to rely entirely on Solo’s translations. But it is not that bad. There are just a few pieces of information that I do not get, but more so because I cannot hear everything.

Exploring the Cumberland Caverns

Cumberland Caverns, located in McMinnville, Tennessee, are the second largest in Tennessee. They consist of three connected caves: Higgenbotham Cave, Ten Acre Room, and Henshaw Cave. Aaron Higgenbotham discovered the entrance to Higgenbotham Cave in 1810 and started exploring it. The tale goes that during one of these explorations he lost his torch and could not find his way back out. A search group found him three days later. When Aaron Higgenbotham finally saw the daylight again his hair had turned white, legend says.
Caverns are created by nature and are home to species that cannot survive anywhere else; this makes the protection of these caves crucial, and their commercial use debated. Sometimes it might be an advantage to have some caves used for tours like ours. This usage can create an awareness of the beauty that lies beneath the surface and could protect those caves which are not open to the public.
In a section of the Cumberland Caverns which we are visiting during our tour, our guide plays a light show for us. But before he starts the show, he demonstrates how pitch black the darkness in these caves can be if you are so unlucky to lose your torch. I find it astonishing that Aaron Higgenbotham only came out with white hair and not crazy after three days in this darkness…

After ninety minutes we are led back out of the Caverns into the daylight. They do offer more adventurous tours, including tours to stay overnight in the Caverns. Would I have made it through one of these? How tight would those narrow sections be and how hard would it be for me climbing the ladders? This time we cannot find out about that, but maybe if I come back here one day in the future, I will.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

It is already after lunch time when we are leaving Cumberland Caverns behind us. Solo decides to take me to a restaurant in Fall Creek Falls State Park, only a 45-minute drive from the Caverns. Once more I am ill prepared. We do find the way to the restaurant easy enough. Even though it is already 3 p.m., we still get some a la card menu for lunch. But if I prepared myself better for this we might have been able to find a beautiful hiking path or the way to a boat rental for the time after lunch. Now we are stuck with the information that we can find in the restaurant’s building. We can make out where we are on the maps that we can find. But where would we have to go? We do not know. I do not fell adventurous enough today to go on a hike without knowing where we will end up. So we decide to start the journey back to the farm instead. Should we manage to find a spot that intrigues us, we will stop there and see what we can find from there. Again, the fall colors have not peaked here. As we are driving through a beautiful forest area, I imagine how nice it would look like if the colors had turned already.

One day I will need to go on another In Search of Fall adventure. They say the best colors are only shown once every five years, and I recall the colors from 2015 were spectacular. So maybe if I can find the time 2030?

If you liked this post, you might also like the other stories from my In Search of Autumn adventure:

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