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Blue Spring Cave (TN) & Cliff Cav'in '04

By: Nate Newkirk & Ryan Moran

Blue Spring Cave, located in TN, is an amazing cave system. It is around 32 miles long and contains some of the nicest cave passage I have ever traversed. It is famous for many things. "Mega Junction" is a huge intersection of two monster sized boreholes. Blue Spring is also home to one of the most remote pits in TAG. There is only one entrance to this cave, which makes getting to some places very difficult and time consuming. It contains some awesome gypsum formations.

The plan was to all meet at Blue Spring. Brian Ade and I rode down together. I quickly grew frustrated at the amount of traffic on 65. I don't recall there ever being that much traffic. People were just driving way to slow.

We arrived late at the spring. Ryan was already there and asleep. I prepared "Hotel Xterra" for a good nights sleep and the others slept in tents.

The group consisted entirely of members of the Purdue Outing Club: Ryan Moran, Brian Ade, Tom Duselis, Mike Goodwin, and Nate Newkirk. Ryan agreed to play tour guide for the third week in a row. The trip was initially set up for people who had tried caving before, but wanted a little more "involved" trip. Both Mike and Tom had only been on a couple short horizontal trips before. Brian and Nate have both done LOTs of caving, but wanted to see Blue Spring, so they came along too.

The five of us, plus Doug Strait, congregated Saturday morning, and after finishing arranging access through Lonnie, we headed in the Historic Entrance. The plan was to give people a long tour that would make them feel like they had done a good bit of caving. We were going to go out to the Mega Junction and then try to find and see part of the NA survey. The objective would be far surpassed.

Doug and Ryan, the tour guides for the day, had a bit of buffoonery in the entrance section. It took them 10 minutes to find the second gate. I think getting lost where you could still see the light of the entrance worried the group, especially since we were heading into a complex, 33 mile long cave. Our luck would change though.

Once in route, we moved at a good pace down the entrance area borehole, stopping to take pictures of the suspension bridge and some formations. We made good time to the entrance and shortcut crawl (BO survey). We traversed the crawl to the MOB room, then intersected the M trunk and toured to the Mega Junction. Everyone marveled at the huge room.

After a quick lunch, we went back to the turn-off for the N-Survey and headed out into unknown territory. Ryan had seen some of this passage on his first trip in the cave, but was so lost by that point on that trip that he just followed blindly from Mega Junction down to the end of the NC survey. We quickly located where the NA survey crosses the N trunk, so, with all of our objectives met, we decided to just follow the NA to see how far we could get. Doug and Ryan both had intentions of returning some day to try to do Crashing Spire Plunge, the 150' pit in the far reaches of the cave, which I believe, has only been done on one trip. We figured traveling a ways out the NA would be a good prep for this trip in figuring out some of the route. Well, we quickly made it to the first river crossing, then the NC junction, followed eventually by the second and third river crossings and beyond. We just kept going and going. After a long while, the passage had lowered to a crawl and we were dealing with various breakdown areas. I was under the impression that we would not be doing that much crawling so I didn't wear my "special" knee pad configuration; others in the group didn't even have knee pads. The group and I decided we had reached our end. However, Doug and Ryan had not.

Doug and Ryan pushed ahead. In another 15 minutes, Doug and Ryan had found their way through the breakdown and popped into the Mega Canyon. It was awesome. This huge canyon passage is very impressive. They explored around a little bit, and after deciding that they were close enough to Crashing Spire that they could risk hauling vertical gear and a rope next time to do the pit, they turned around to head out. The amount of cave to traverse to get to this point was roughly 5.5 miles...it is not somewhere that you want to haul gear and rope if you're not going to use it.

Meanwhile, while Ryan and Doug were gone, the rest of us had some fun. At first, we just took a break and munched on some cave food. The passage here is very dry and sandy. I asked if anyone wanted to be buried. Brian Ade volunteered. We started tossing sand on top of Brian and all around him. Pretty soon, we had completely covered all but Brian's head. I took some pretty cool pictures of just a head sticking out of the sand.

It was quite an experience for all of us, especially the new guys, to be over 5 miles away from the nearest entrance. Upon reaching the rest of the group, we switched to full route mode and high tailed it out of there, making good time all the way back to the new entrance. We exited the cave in the early evening to make it a 9.5 hour trip. Everyone was pretty spent. Brian and I took a refreshing dip in the freezing cold spring water. We headed to Ryan's (aka "The Trough") in McMinnville to stuff our faces. The trip was definitely a success. With having traversed roughly 11 miles of cave passage that day, the new guys had increased the amount of cave they had seen by about 50 fold.

Tom and Mike headed home the next day. Ryan, Brian and Nate did Lost Creek Cave. It was a multi-drop, pull down through trip. We had some trouble finding the upper entrance. We found it with some help from the GPS and headed in. We had to watch where we were walking because there were pits and drop downs in a few places. We then climbed down to the first pit, it was a nice 100 footer. At the bottom of that, Ryan instructed us to take off our vertical gear because there was some tight squeezes and bends up ahead. I found the squeezes to be fun and not too bad.

Just as you get through the last bend, you are at the edge of the next pit. You get on rope and touch bottom to then get on rope again for the last drop. We were then in route to the waterfall. This waterfall could be heard far before we got to it and just kept getting louder and louder. When we finally got to it, it was thundering. We all jumped in the pounding falls. Very wet and cold, we headed for the exit. This passage is amazing, it's huge monster borehole, which leads to a huge entrance. When you exit the cave, you are at the bottom of a massive sink and can see a raging surface waterfall on the opposite side. This was a great cave and a great way to end the trip. The drive back was fun as Brian and I were looking for good looking female drivers to hold up our "signage".

Pictures from this trip

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