Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Salt Peter Cave Rerun

At least I am recycling:


Not long ago, I suggested to a fellow blogger who lives in the area that she should visit Saltpeter Cave just outside of Cartersville, Georgia.

I have been there several times and had adventures each time that I will remember the rest of life. After I told her about the never-ending cave I did a Google search to maybe give her some good directions and found out that just about every southern state has a cave named Salt Peter. However, when I made Salt Peter one word: SaltPeter Google narrowed the possibilities down and I found it.

Unfortunately, the Saltpeter website said it was on private property and visitors were not welcome. I thought it was just outside of Cartersville – well it is, but it is in Kingston, Georgia. I should have thought of that.

Back as teenager, probably about 14 years of age, I was in the Explorer Scouts. Our troop (or whatever the group calls themselves) went to Saltpeter Cave on a weekend and camped out outside the main entrance.

It had two entrances. The big entrance is huge, King Kong could have tossed huge new houses through the opening with plenty of room to spare. The other entrance is around the hill’s corner and high up.

The cave had never ending rooms, one after another. I was surprised at the pitched black of absolutely nothing when we all turned out our flashlights.

There seemed to be big rooms at first and got a little smaller as you went back. In one of the first big rooms was either two or three rectangle holes in the earth, about six feet deep. Were these graves? Another scout troop there were from nearby, one of the boys said he heard they were Indian graves.

Also, somewhere we heard they mined salt peter in these caves in the Civil War. I heard salt peter was an ingredient the military gave its enlisted men to keep down their sex drive. I doubt if that is true. It seemed that the fighting men would need all the raging hormones they could pull up. I also heart that salt peter was used in gun power, that seems plausible.

This cave had plenty of stalactites and stalagmites. In one room there one of each, one on top of the other, almost like a mirror image. Another one, which ever is the one that is on the floor was the size of a teepee and had a crawl entrance. I entered it and climbed down and down, maybe 20 to 25 feet, and it stopped, so did I and climbed back out.

One crawl tunnel empted out in the first room of the big opening. It opened up with maybe 8 feet below you into the room. Before you had a chance to figure out how to maneuver yourself out and down the steep wall the oozing bat shit solved the problem for you and gave you no choice. You could only side one way, down – sliding.

As the rooms got smaller one time we were wading and heard running water ahead. We were not brave enough to move more in that direction.

In little small tunnel that I had to squeeze through and opened into a larger room, I clung on to edge, because darkness was below me I came across something smooth and round. Had I found an egg of a mysterious extinct cave dwelling animal? I put it in my coat pocket for closer examination when I got into the day light.

It was a used flash bulb.

We went back there in just a few weeks but this time it was a day trip. We didn’t camp out.

In a couple of years when my friends and I became old enough to drive and enjoyed rambling on the old country roads in Georgia we went back a few times and went in the cave.

The last time I went I think I was about 17 or 18 on a Sunday. It was with Larry S., cousin Jesse, and a friend or two more. They were fascinated by the cave.

After we went into the innards of it and came back out Larry took a rope out of his trunk and went over the big mouth of the cave and tied the rope to a tree there and it dangled down over the opening.

As I type this I am wonder if this was the same rope that I hung on and vomited while lowering down the cliff above Dahlonega, Georgia (remember that blog?). Roughly same time period and same car that held the rope, same friends.

It is possible, but if so, it would have to be after the Dahlonega event because the rope was much shorter.

One at a time us boys took times grabbing the rope and swinging out into the mouth of the cave and swinging back.

The mouth of the cave, once you enter it on foot you have to be careful descending down a steep loose rock incline. The incline went so far then there is a drop off of about 15 feet. On foot, you would need to go near the outer end of the cliff where the incline continues.

Of course if you are swinging out on a rope your primary concern is not to fall.

I fell off the rope. Once airborne, swinging out in the huge mouth of the cave my hands started sliding at a rapid rate. I held harder, which burned the flesh off my hands.

I slid right off the rope and fell on the steep inclined and rolled and tumbled at a fast rate of speed towards the drop off. A out-jutting big stone stopped me.

I wished I was dead to get rid of the pain. Both hands on the inside were burning like hell, no skin, just raw red hands that blisters were forming. My bones were in pain also.

But, again, I slipped by death by a hair. I could not walk well. My friends and a couple of strangers helped me out of the mouth.

We went home, me completely absorbed in my pain and burns.

I knew the moment I realized I was in pain, that would be my last visit to Saltpeter Cave.

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