Saturday, October 1, 2016

Untold Story #1: The Lost Sea

The little kids and I vacationed in Tennessee, last month, and the day before we left to head home, we took a trip to The Lost Sea in Sweetwater. I'd lived in Tennessee from sixth grade until graduating from college, but I'd never been to The Lost Sea, and neither had the little kids or my nephew Boone, who played hooky from school to go with us.

Well, technically, Boone played hooky to go to Santa's Land with us, but for several reasons, I changed my mind at the last minute so that, the morning of the trip, I was texting my brother: "FYI, we're heading to Sweetwater instead of Cherokee." No regrets on this, although The Lost Sea was different than I'd expected.

I'd been expecting something straight out of Peter Pan...something, you know, like this:


With a glass bottom in the boat. And lots of magical things to see all around, while in the boat.

I don't know how I'd expected to get to the boat, but somehow I'd missed the walking-a-pretty-good-distance-through-a-cave factor; thus, everyone but Boone was wearing inappropriate shoes. I think it's humorous, to be honest, that my sister-in-law had no earthly idea that we'd remain in Tennessee (as opposed to heading to North Carolina), let alone that we'd be hiking in a cave; yet, she still managed to outfit her child better than my kids. This says a lot about the kind of mom I am.

The good news is that--while Charleigh took one good tumble, and Chip got rocks in his sandals something like five times--we all survived to tell the tale.

The Lost Sea was the fourth cave I can recall visiting, and I thought it similar to Luray Caverns and Shenandoah Caverns, Luray being by far the most impressive of the three. (I think Mammoth Cave very different from the others: vaster-feeling and less Disney-World magical.) The Lost Sea has a pretty interesting history; you can read some it here. One tour guide did mention that there was a bar (Tavern in the Cavern, or some such) down there at one point, but it only lasted two months. He said alcohol doesn't affect people the same way in the cave; therefore, they would drink too much and fall down the steps or crash their cars upon leaving.

Anthodites, or Cave Flowers

Of course, the sea part of The Lost Sea sets it apart from the other caves I'd visited. It's more of a lake than a canal (as I had imagined) or a sea (as its name suggests). There are some huge rainbow trout in it, but I saw those off the side of the boat, not through the boat; the glass part runs skinny as a 2x4 along the middle of the boat's bottom, and our panel was really muddy. Our tour guide said the lake is really deep; yet, there was no mention of life jackets. Bizarre, but like I said: we all survived to tell the tale.

If I remember correctly, our tour guide also said that, while the trout aren't blind, they don't procreate in The Lost Sea. The people who run the cave leave lights on for them, feed them, and scoop them out of the lake once they die. What a strange, unnatural existence; right?

After leaving the cave, we took a little hike through the woods. The kids were walking just ahead of me on the trail, and Boone had Chip by the hand. There was a bit of a drop-off on Chip's side, at one point, and Boone said: "I'd feel better about this if I were on the falling side." Then they switched places. I'm just crazy about Boone; he's an unusually thoughtful person.

After our hike, we hit the buffet at Donna's Old Town Cafe in Madisonville, which met everyone's approval. Several folks commented on the excellent behavior of my little kids, who were, in fact, exceedingly well-behaved. I smiled and said: "Thank you," but I knew the truth: my little kids were exhausted from hiking through a cave and the woods in inappropriate footwear. Even Boone took a nap on the drive back to my parents'. It was a most excellent adventure.