On the Cades Cove Loop Road, there is a turnoff about a quarter of a mile before you reach the road to the Primitive Baptist Church. Beyond the gate, a short walk will bring you to the mouth of Gregory Cave that is blocked with large iron bars and a gate. At one time, the park service gave guided tours of this cave. Today, access is allowed only by special permission from the Park Service.
I was lucky enough to go on one of the tours before they were discontinued. Armed with flashlight-fueled bravado, I stood with my parents, sister, and the rest of the group at the mouth of the cave. The ranger who led the excursion briefly discussed caves and provided instructions on what to do or not to do inside. He explained there were no dangerous drop-offs or similar circumstances to worry about. However, the floor was slick and caution should be exercised.
No matter what was said, the mental images abundant in my mind were of dangerous precipices and bottomless holes. This was a cave, was it not ? Isn’t that what caves were supposed to have in it ? All the ones on TV did. At the same time, I told myself I would be fine as long as I had a parental hand and a good grip on my flashlight.
Beyond the open gate, the blackness of the cave loomed before me. It descended steeply from the entrance and we soon left the light of the outside world behind us. I do not remember many specific details other than the slick floor which caused me to slip and slide repeatedly. It was very wet with dark pools in several places. Boards were strategically placed over some of the slippery areas but they did little to help.
I am not sure how much time passed before we reached the far back end of the cave. Once again gathered around the ranger, he pointed out the differences between stalactites and stalagmites. The former is created over time by water drips from the ceiling and appear to be giant teeth suspended from above. The latter resemble teeth protruded up from the floor where the water and sediment drip down from above.
The ranger then announced we were about to see just how dark it was in the cave. He asked everyone to turn flashlights off. My mind screamed, “We’re gonna do WHAT ?” After a momentary hesitation, I switched mine off as those around us switched off. Soon it was completely dark. I do not mean the dark you see outside every night. I mean it was pitch black. You literally could not see your hand in front of your face. This is when it happened……….
Find out what happened in the cave.
Purchase your copy of Under the Smoke today !