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Day 2--Alabama Caving
Fear... I was processing near-paralyzing fear, as I stared down the 190' pit below me. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, I had bounced a deeper pit, but that pit was in the dark, in the shadows. Here on the rim of Natural Well Cave, I was in broad daylight. I could see every detail. I could see all the way to the bottom. I could see how crazy this was.
"I hate this," I muttered to myself. "Why am I even doing this?" I asked.
Surprisingly, a female voice responded, "I don't know. Why ARE you doing this?"
I didn't realize I had said it so loud. I didn't realize anyone would hear my doubt.
I had no answer, no response. I only had a choice--get off the rope and regret it, or step off the ledge and face my fear.
And so I stepped off the ledge.
Twenty-four hours before facing Natural Well, five cavers (3 from Illinois, 1 from Tennessee, and 1 from Colorado) met in the Coosa Valley of the Appalchians and hiked up to a tiny hole on the side of a mountain. This was was the unimpressive entrance to Moses' Tomb Cave.
Pasture in the Coosa Valley.
Standing at the unimpressive entrance to Moses' Tomb.
Mike from Colorado squeezing into Moses' Tomb.
I imagine the folks who first found this tiny hole in the ground weren't expecting much. What they found was a 228' deep pit, with a gigantic 175' flow stone formation.
As you look at the pictures below, does the formation not seem like a momument to an ancient Egyptian ruler?
From the Encylopedia Brittanica...
Valhalla--The hall of slain warriors, who live there blissfully under the leadership of the god Odin. Valhalla is depicted as a splendid palace, roofed with shields, where the warriors feast on the flesh of a boar slaughtered daily and made whole again each evening. They drink liquor that flows from the udders of a goat, and their sport is to fight one another every day.
Thus they will live until the Ragnarök (Doomsday), when they will march out the 540 doors of the palace to fight at the side of Odin against the giants. When heroes fall in battle it is said that Odin needs them to strengthen his forces for the Ragnarök.
As intemidating as Natural Well was, it was a mere hole in the ground compared to massive Valhalla. The 227' deep pit could house all of Odin's warriors and still have room for more.
Note the caver on rope in the above pic.
Behind these cavers lies miles of passages. We spent four hours in the mountain. We squeezed through tight crawlways. We climbed 200' domes and then rappelled through "windows" 100' off the cave floor. Before our return to the pit, we encountered a 160' waterfall cascading down from heights unseen.
It took nearly 2 hours for the five of us to climb back out of the pit. We hiked back to the trucks under a full moon, as temps dropped into the teens.
New Year's Eve came and went. I could care less about a ball drop. I'll take the rope drop over it any time!