Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ruby Falls

As friends and family may know about me, I don't go in for the usual 'tourist' attractions--and especially not caves!  Now, don't get me wrong--I am fascinated by caves but most of those one encounters when traveling the byways of the US are not much more than big holes in the ground that someone is making way too much money from.
There are exceptions--Kartchner Caverns in Arizona is perhaps my favorite (I have visited it 5 times now) and I highly recommend the out-of-the-way trip to see something that is both uniquely beautiful and properly well-protected.
Many, many years ago I visited Carlsbad and was impressed but I will have to visit it again in the future to see if it is still as impressive as I remember.
There is an underwater cave in the Bahamas that was featured in a James Bond movie that was worth the visit.  It is so out-of-the-way that it was still in pristine condition when I saw it some 30 years ago.  I hope it is still that way.
And then there is the Chauvet cave in France I have seen only in the documentary, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" but can only imagine the thrill the discoverers felt when they found it.  It is not open to the public but the film and website are well worth a visit.

So why did I stop at Ruby Falls?  Well, it was recommended to me by the Earons and I have found that recommendations are generally worth the time and trouble to check out.  This was no exception.
First there was the drive to the top of 2000' Lookout Mountain (located just outside of Chattanooga) with a spectacular view of most of the state of Tennessee.

The entry fee was not small (another money-making cave for sure) but I bought two tickets (the cave and Rock City) for a discounted rate and pleaded senior-citizenship on top of it.
This perky guide informed us that we were going to descend more than 1100 feet underground to view the tallest underground waterfall so far discovered.

Next, I discovered the original cave explorer was a Lambert!  That is my maiden name.  Perhaps a relative?  Could be.  I spied pictures of him and his wife on the wall and saw no family resemblance in Leo but Ruby has my nose--poor dear.
An elevator took us down 200'.... then we descended a long, long walkway into the bowels of the mountain....


"Deep into the darkness peering, 
Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before..."
Edgar A. Poe

(I think old Edgar was a spelunker!)

When poor Leo found the cave opening in 1928 he crawled in and continued crawling for 17 hours before he could stand up!

There are a few open chambers but most of the cave was small walkways that have been chiseled out of the granite rock..

There are the usual formations....

and there was even some moss growing in the depths and without sunlight.

Later when I looked at my photos I thought....Rorschach Test!

In some of them I could not tell what was up--and what was down...

But, all in all the cave was interesting....

and sometimes eerie....

I have always thought that naming rock formations is a rule I prefer my own imagination. 

As we descended we began to see signs of water....

Pools appeared and the drip, drip echoed through the tunnels...

I was really getting excited with anticipation when--suddenly--the battery died on my camera!  I quick stepped to the side and tried to change out the battery but in the dark I jammed the new one in the wrong way!  Oh, shucks!  (yeah! right!)  The guide was explaining that the falls would be lit for only a few minutes before the lights would go out (Saving money I suppose) so we had to hurry with our pictures.
My hands were shaking as I tried to reposition the battery in the faint light of the tunnel.  I could hear the Oohhs and Aahhs of the group up ahead of me.  Did I come all this way to not get a picture of that silly waterfall?  Wow,  finally the camera hummed into action just as the guide said, "15 seconds to go!"

Well, I got my picture but I was too close to get it all in one shot...

It was good to get back up top.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  Leo's waterfall is pretty spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk.  Next stop--Rock City!


  1. I remember going to Ruby Falls when I was a teenager! It was very beautiful, even way back then:) Denise

  2. Toni,
    Great underground photos! I have a very strong aversion to being underground -- caves, tunnels, etc. -- but I love seeing photos. I went once to Carlsbad, because my sister shamed me into it, and have a few vague memories of going to caves with the family when I was too young to refuse. So I am glad to experience the cave vicariously, and, like I said, great photos.

  3. Lynda, My fear is in heights more than in tight places. I had to work on that fear in Rock City--you'll see from the pictures in my next posting. Thanks for the nice comment. Toni

  4. Glad you enjoyed this, too! Another amazing marvel and I love the story about how they found it! Wendy