Let’s just say Day 2 didn’t go so much to plan – not that we really have a plan, but we have a loose outline of how we would like the day to go, and let’s just say, almost kinda counts. We woke up this morning with hopes of testing out our percolator on the Coleman grill which were promptly dashed after coming to the realization that it had rained all night long, and was still mostly raining. So, we decided instead of dawdling in the campground that we would get a head start to the day, turn a negative to a positive. It took us about an hour to break down and get freshened up and out of the site. Although, since we are new to camping, we didn’t realize that we needed to check out, we had to double back and grab our registration receipt in order to do that. As we came out of the campground, the fog we have come to know and love (loathe?) settled upon our car once more. We decided instead of spending the rest of Skyline Drive encased in dense pea soup, that we could shave a few hours off our trip, jump off at the next exit and make our way to the Lost World Caverns in West Virginia. Grateful for a successful stay in Shenandoah National Park, we headed out in to the crazy world of the highway once more.
Our next stop along the way was The Lost World Caverns in West Virginia. When we arrived at the street to turn down to make our way to the caverns, we thought we were being led astray. Turns out that the road we were on was in fact still a real road, and not a mistake made by Waze. It’s a winding dirt/ gravel road that is not wide enough for two cars to pass each other without both of them being on the grass. We honestly thought that it was possible that at the end of this rambling road was a giant hole in the ground and that was all it needed to be to be a cavern. Thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised. The road opens up to a fairly large parking lot and a very pretty wooden building. Half house, half store with a giant water wheel out front. …. And about 40 elementary school aged kids running around, screaming like maniacs - all in matching blue “Field trip of 2016!” t-shirts. Apparently, Joe and I managed to pick the day where there was a school field trip in the works. Of Course. So we waited a little bit and dawdled in the store until all of the pint sized banshees made their way outside. Each of them bragging about how much money they managed to spend on the inside of the shop, I could understand why. Lost World Caverns store is a wealth of gadgets, dohickey’s, thinga ma jigs and gizmos. There are stickers, fossils, toys, magnets, bumper stickers, geological crystal rocks, shark teeth and all sorts of fun stuff. After the last straggler made it out the door, we spoke to the employees about how exactly it works to go see the cavern, because up until this point, we hadn’t even seen an entrance for the cavern.
Turns out, that is because the entrance and exit are conveniently located inside the gift / souvenir store. We paid our money, were handed a flash light and told to stay to the right. The cavern is a self-guided tour, which is nice because it means you can take your time and really appreciate the amazing structures that the earth created with nothing but the power of erosion and time. You come down a tunnel that has concrete steps and pvc railings. It’s lit on the sides and leads you to a rock overhang ledge that you have to duck under. On the other side of that ledge is the largest hole in the middle of the earth I have ever seen. The sheer vastness of the cave is magnified by the distant echoes of water trickling down the sides of the walls and in to the streams rushing underneath. So, the first thing we want to do is test out our new GoPro in this beautiful, low light environment. Who wouldn’t?! Excited for our new fancy high quality photos we geared up for our first photo together, we put the GoPro on the bannister to take a picture in front of the bride’s veil (an impressive pure crystalline column that looks white because of the calcifications of the crystals) and it promptly plummeted to the bottom of a collection of fallen hex rocks and stalagmites.
Devastation washed over us. Immediately, we found the best place to enter and climb over the craggy rocks and search in desperation for our camera. But then hope! We found….. the supposedly impregnable housing and tripod. Grief edged its way in to our hearts as we searched in vain for the actual camera that had through the force of the fall, ejected itself from the housing and continues to tumble even further down the craggy rocks below. Precariously perched on the mere edges of these rocks we searched. And failed. It was gone. Defeated we continued our tour in hopes that the caverns natural wonder would improve our spirits. We resolved ourselves to the fact that we would simply buy a new one, and that since it was essentially only money that it didn’t matter. We trudged up the cavern steps resigned to our fate.
And then we met Kyle. Kyle is an incredibly nice and talented employee of the Lost World Caverns, who makes lost item relocation a special talent. I guess you could call him head (toes?) of Retrieval services. Kyle walked back with us to where we watched our GoPro plummet to its surprise death. He climbed quite skillfully over the terrain and searched for our camera. After approximately 10 minutes of rooting around in stalagmites Kyle looked at us and said “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
Bad News: It’s very difficult to reach the space where the camera is.
Good news: The camera is still intact.
And then, with some very impressive foot fenagaling, and excessively impressive toe gripping skills, Kyle retrieved our GoPro. Praise be to Kyle! Except that wasn’t enough for Kyle. His exceptionally talented tootsies also managed to take a few pictures as the camera was being raised from the depths of the cavern, into our welcome arms. We took this gift from Kyle as our sign to leave. We were exhausted, sweaty, hungry, and shaking. The emotional rollercoaster of an “Essentially Priceless memories and $500” swing made us experience something of an Adrenaline dump. Thankfully, there was a vegetarian gluten free café called the Wild Bean Cafe less than 2 miles from where we were. We gathered our honestly stunned and unbelievably grateful selves, and settled our spirits. (Black bean spinach Quesadillas and Ultimate grilled cheeses are really the only thing that was going to help, obviously.) After filling our bellies, we set out determined to make the best of the rest of the day.
We booked a space at Grandfather Mountain Campground and began our 300mile journey. We crossed from WV back to VA and even a touch through Tennessee before finally hitting North Carolina. And you guessed it, it rained. Fog and rain mostly chased us throughout the entire journey. There were moments where we were able to peek out from underneath the massive cloud systems and see the sunshine on the pavement as we traversed the winding highways carved out of the mountainside. Originally we had wanted to see Grandfather mountain when we arrived, but we were exhausted from the rainy winding drive, as well as starving. So we opted to see Grandfather Mountain in the morning, and simply set up camp.
Even though it was drizzling, the set up for the tent took half the time it did on day 1. (Practice makes perfect) and we were cooking on our Coleman in no time. After dinner we relaxed in the tent, only to discover that we were on a mild side incline this time. So, my brilliant husband and I angled the bed so it would not be sliding down the hill again, and also created a make shift headboard / end table to prevent our pillows from falling off the bed. After a bit of relaxing, talking, and picture reminiscing. (Mostly about losing the GoPro in the caverns) we laid ourselves down to sleep and had one of the most solid nights’ sleep that either one of us has dared to have in weeks.