Last weekend, several dads and I took about 40 boy scouts for an overnight caving trip to Raccoon Mountain Caverns in Chattanooga TN. I lived in Chattanooga for 9 years and had heard of the caves, but I never took the tour until last weekend.
I was about 14 or 15 the last time I was in a cave - at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville TN. (Unless you count the time I thought I had been in a cave when I stumbled out of the bed and into the darkness last November and learned Barrack Obama had been elected POTUS.)
I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy the whole belly-crawling, ground-in dirt, stooped-over, damp-night experience. As a kid? Loved it. Always looked forward to it and went whenever I had the chance. As an adult? Well...
But I have to say it was a lot of fun. The tour lasted about 4 hours, and we went through some really challenging passages. I have no interest in wild spelunking in Tennessee's many caves - this was as close as I'd like to get to that hobby.
Tennessee is a beautiful state. I know I'm biased because I've lived here my whole life, but its truly a wonderful state from Memphis to the Tri-Cities. But some of the hidden jewels of the state - particularly in East Tennessee - are as far underground as some of the hills are high above ground.
By the way, as you might have noticed, I got the photos from another site. One, I forgot to bring my camera into the cave. Two, it probably didn't matter because I was pretty busy just trying to get through our tour. Picture taking would not have been at the top of my list of "things to do in a cave" even if I had remembered to bring it.
We also visited the TVA Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility. TVA has been under a lot of scrutiny and criticism lately - and rightfully so - for the huge ash spill near their Kingston TN coal plant. But their Raccoon Mountain facility is an engineering marvel. They carved out a huge multi-acre pit on top of the mountain to create a reservoir. They then pump up water from the Tennessee River below at the rate of 7 million gallons per minutes into the reservoir. When power generation is needed, water is flooded back down the same tubes through a series of turbines to create electricity. Engineering geekiness at its finest - but I really found the whole design really fascinating.
Looking for an idea for a scout trip, church or civic youth event, or just a dirty weekend with friends where you'll still respect one another the next morning? Then give these tours a try.