Born again: Caving in NW Georgia
Unbeknownst to many, Georgia is a world-class caving destination. Georgia is part of a greater cave system known as TAG (Tennessee –Alabama- Georgia). Last summer I organized a trip with the leaders of a caving grotto while studying White-Nose Syndrome. They agreed to teach me about cave geology, biota, and management strategies while exploring a cave in the region.
Our adventure began with a short hike through a pastoral cow field and the woods led our caving group to a small opening in the earth. As we descended, the temperature dropped and the darkness was pervasive. Caving is a dangerous activity, one should never go caving without an experienced caver, plenty of backup lights, batteries, water, and food in case of emergency.
Caving is not for the claustrophobic. Imagine crawling on your hands and knees through icy waters with only an inch or two between your helmet and the cave ceiling. Then envision squeezing through openings so small that you have to exhale to fit through and on the other side you feel born again. The thrill of exploring somewhere few or no humans have been before is an exhilarating feeling well worth the tight spaces.
Inside the cave there was an array of organisms. There were two bats hanging from the cave ceiling cuddling for warmth and an orange speckled salamander. Many cave species are endemic only to certain cave systems. For this reason protection of cave ecosystems is important. The best way to protect cave ecosystems are to maintain water quality above ground as it flows into caves through the natural hydrological cycle.
In the southeast there are many ways to explore the region’s abundant geological resources. You can join a local caving club called a “grotto” where you can go exploring with experienced cavers. Remember to never go caving without an experienced caver. The consequence can be dehydration, starvation, and ultimately death if you get lost or trapped underground. Caving must sound enticing right?
Regardless of the consequences for the unprepared I encourage readers to contact their local grotto and explore the unique geology of the TAG cave region. Below I’ve provided a link to the National Speleological Society’s grottos for Georgia. Now be safe, have fun, and explore!
- Jeremy Cherson
Jeremy Cherson is an Environmental Policy student at American University. He is from Norcross, Georgia and enjoys hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and playing several instruments. He is a contributor every Tuesday.
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