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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Geocaching: Craighead Caverns - The Lost Sea of Tennessee





My mother grew up in these parts of the knobs of Monroe County, Tennessee. Many folks go further and call it "East Tennessee" by habit. Even though I was raised in North Carolina, I spent a number of summers on my grandparent's farm on Kinser Branch, just about three miles as the crow flies from Craighead Caverns, better known today as "The Lost Sea". I grew up hearing the stories of the cave. A few years after my folks moved into the hills just west of the knobs a Pleistocene jaguar's remains were found in the caverns. This happened in 1939. Further exploration revealed that the caverns had been used by the Cherokee Indians and by Confederate miners extracting saltpeter to make gun powder for the war effort. The entrance to the cavern had even been turned into a tavern for drinking and dancing a one point. In the 1905 a thirteen year-old boy exploring the caverns discovered a small entrance that took him into a large room with a body of water. His lantern would only illuminate so far but as far as he could see and as far as he could throw balls of clay there was water or the sound of clay hitting the water in every direction. By the time he convinced his father to come see it the water had risen and the entrance way to the large room was lost. Several years later other explorers found the entrance and re-opened the quest for the Lost Sea. The large underground lake is considered to be the second largest in the world and the largest in the USA. It's worth a visit to anyone traveling through East Tennessee. Today all you have to do is follow the signs from any direction that lead to The Lost Sea. The tour includes a tour of the several rooms that are open to the public, a chance to experience 100% darkness, stories about the caverns and a boat ride on glass-bottomed boats affording you a view of the blind fish. When we went a guide told us about a workman who was down in one of the holes not too far from the tourist walking path. He was outfitted with a red jump suit. He'd gone into the hole to repair some of the lighting system. A tour came along about the time he came up out of the hole. One women nearly had a heart attack and was convinced that the devil was coming up out of the ground to get her. By the way, the area has its share of geocaches too. The closest one to the caverns is right on the property. Be sure and find the micro called Wishing you Well (GC359EA). Yeah, the name says a lot about this particular hide. If you get the itch to see some beautiful back country roads, head back through the knobs about three miles until you find Middlecreek Cache (GC1EAFH). It's right down creek from Kinser Branch where my folks used to live!
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