Monday, March 30, 2009

Inside the Mountain

I don't really like caving. I've been inside a few caves, but it's just not for me. And I certainly don't want to ever put myself into some of the more claustrophobic situations that seem to thrill a lot of the folk who get their jollies crawling deep beneath the earth.

Jack Thyen, at the cave entrance.

However, sometimes I'll do some very moderate caving. Once was after hitting a major rock climbing summit on Rumbling Bald Mountain. Rumbling Bald is a huge, cliff-faced mass that rises above Lake Lure (not far from Asheville). It was named for a series of earthquakes that hit the peak in the late 1800s. The tremors were so powerful that "smoke" was seen rising from the mountain and it was assumed that the peak had become volcanic and was about to blow. In fact, it was just granitic dust clouds blowing into the air from vast slabs of stone snapping off and shifting within its honeycombed interior.

Inside one of the large interior rooms. Keep in mind that it was pitch dark in there. My camera flash creates the illusion of illumination. We were, of course, wearing headlamps.

One of my hiking pals, Jack Thyen, suggested that we visit a cave in the side of the peak after we'd climbed down from the summit. This was about as adventuresome as I'm ever likely to get when it comes to caving. We crawled through a small entrance into the cave (there's a well-marked trail to the location) and found ourselves in an almost cathedral-like room. From there, we made our way around the cave, finally climbing up to a spot called "the Attic Window", a perforation in the cliff face that allows you to look down on the forest through which you'd climbed to find the cave entrance. If you get a kick out of climbing a mountain from within the mountain, it's a unique experience.

One of the views from the Attic Window.

Finally, though, the idea of being inside Rumbling Bald Mountain began to get to me. What if it starts rumbling again? I kept thinking. Maybe it's overdue for a great huge round of rumbling. Maybe all of these uncountable tons of granite will want to shift toward the earth again! Maybe we'll get squished like bugs!

Jack, in a lower chamber, on our way out of that damned place.

It was quite good to get out of there, I have to say.

This little guy was on the ceiling of one of the first rooms we came to. He seemed quite oblivious of us.

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