Chris Halleen, Chattanooga, Tenn. – Whether students know it or not, they don’t have to look far for a little adventure. Chattanooga is located near a hotspot of some truly amazing underground caverns, and it doesn’t take much to get involved.
“The ARC offers about three trips a semester, and they’re provided year-round,” said Allison Hughes, Coordinator for Outdoor Programming at UTC.
This is possible because the temperature in a cave stays close to the average annual surface temperature of a region.
In Tennessee, caves usually stay between 50-60 degrees all year, and this makes it possible to take caving trips any time. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of July or early February; a cave in Tennessee is still going to hover around the same temperature.
That being said, caves create a perfect trip no matter the date. They are fun, beautiful, exciting and unlike anything above ground. It only makes sense that people would want explore them, and students should take advantage of opportunities to get involved.
The ARC is having its next caving trip to Howards Waterfall Cave on Oct. 22. The free trip will offer training on proper caving techniques, provide all the necessary equipment to explore the unknown and educate students on the ecological footprint people can leave in caves.
Caves attract many people that cause harm to their environments. It is important for visitors to stay knowledgeable of the impact a person can have on caves, and going on an ARC-led trip serves as a way to learn just that.
But not all adventures to caves start with good intentions. Harm towards caves comes from a lack of appreciation and disregard for nature. When visiting Howard’s Waterfall Cave students will see graffiti covering walls in the historic room.
The name “Brian” is spray-painted over ancient Cherokee cave writings, and pre-Civil War signatures are almost ignored on nearby rocks. Gaining an understanding of just how old and historic these caves are can instill a desire to protect them.
Other problems occur in caves when people are not cautious and informed of how lethal they can be towards a cave environment.
When a cave has no more access to water runoff or moisture, it becomes what is known as a “dead cave.” A dead cave can no longer be shaped and changed, but it will remain the same forever.
When a person recklessly enters a portion of a cavern that is dead, and breaks a piece of the rock in the process, that foundation that has been forming for ages is now permanently marred and disconnected from the cave.
The art preserved in these caves, whether it is ancient writings or natural formations, is done away in seconds with a couple shakes of a can or a kick to a rock.
When a person is informed on how to properly interact with caves, they can then experience something unlike anything above ground.
“It’s trying something new; getting out of your comfort zone and going to a place that can only be found underground. It’s the only place you can experience natural, complete silence. The quiet is so loud, that the quiet deafens you. It’s a great opportunity for people who want to get into caving or explore new caves,” said Bryson Locke, UTC Outdoors employee.
As such, caves have qualities that aren’t easily found. They provide an escape, an adventure, and leave you feeling humbled. It is important to be knowledgeable, respectful and prepared when entering a cave.