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This course is intended to familiarize you with the frog ascending system. The frog is a very flexi...
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Written By: Rebecca Pierson


Your first real trip in will either intimidate you, or make you fall in love with caving.


When you first get into a cave deep enough where natural light is no longer an option, the darkness weighs all over you, which for some people might trigger an attack of claustrophobia, but in other people like me, the darkness, while cold and stifling itself, makes the adventure that much more exciting. A one-word description is wow!


My first trip into this wonderful access to the abyss was just over a week ago, Nov. 7 2009, on Brittontown Mountain into the Wrong Turn Cave. I followed Josh Dunn up the mountain and along the way he pointed out numerous cave openings and crevices, and a sink hole the size of a gas station that swallowed a tractor and numerous bails of hay when it collapsed years ago. While it was a beautiful hike up the mountain, and all of the karsts landscape surrounding us was wondrous and a rock-hounds dream, frankly it was nothing I hadn't already seen before living in east Tennessee my entire life. But then we reached the entrance to Wrong Turn where Don Beach was patiently waiting on our arrival.


It was a big ‘ol crack in a rock.......at least upon first glance. Not until you got down at knee level and looked in could you really see the opening (about the width of a coffin quite frankly) down into the cave. I watched Don go in feet first, snapping my camera as he went in, until his helmet disappeared and all you heard was the sound of moving pebbles and denim rubbing on dirt.


Now, I am not a slim person, and watching Don narrowly wriggle around in that opening, I wondered if I was going to make it in. The point of Josh and Don’s expedition that day was to make Wrong Turn Cave accessible, so I was a good test dummy for a one-size-fits-all hole. While the slanted drop into the staging room at the front of the cave was do-able, the opening needed some work, and there was another narrow opening that dropped into the left side of the cave off of the staging room that also needed widening before anyone larger than a 30-inch waist would fit.


Josh worked on the cave's main entrance and, after a few minutes, I went in, feet first crawling backward towards Don in the staging room. Josh followed, and then he, the only one slim enough on this trip to go, went through the tube into the rear of the cave, while Don worked on the inner part of the tube entrance. Josh also took my camera into the rear of the cave to take some pictures for me of what I was obviously, by the looks of the even narrower tube opening, not going to see first hand on this day’s trip.


While he was doing that, I sat in the dirt with my flashlight and looked over every inch of the stage room. While to most cavers, there isn’t much special in this room...some flowstone, snails and crickets mostly, but nothing that incredible. I, however, was in awe. I had seen caves before, even been in them at parks and on tours. This was so much different then the previous trips when you couldn't smell the cave wall that is three inches from your face and taste the dirt in your mouth. I lost who knows how many moments watching a water drop hanging down a developing flowstone in an almost frozen suspension...just hanging there at the tip of the stone like it had been there for millennia.


Josh then handed me back my camera and I looked through the pictures, realizing at that moment that the staging room was nothing compared to the amazing formations that was on the opposite side of the tube. After Don glanced over my shoulder to see the pictures, both he and Josh began working on the cave opening in such haste like life depended on it. They were both excited like five-year-olds opening presents on Christmas morning.


I sat in the staging room, taking more pictures and getting more excited about where I was at that particular moment in time. I lost track of time there for awhile until Josh yelled from the other side, “Becca, are we boring you to death?”


“Not at all", I said back to him. “Not in the least little bit.”


Then I put my camera away, and turned the flashlight off. While I could see Don’s feet with the flash light on, his upper body was in the tube enough to block his light from entering the stage room at all. It was a complete and total abyss...a beautiful and wondrous abyss. After lots of digging, beating, and banging (and I think I heard an "ouch" or two in there as well), Don tried to wiggle into the tube...but could not make it all the way through. Exhausted, both of them said they would work on it again another day.


My first real trip, while not involving anything extreme and vertical, or venturing deep into virgin or nearly virgin caverns, was exciting enough for me to want to venture back again and explore what other beautiful and unique formations the abyss has to offer.


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