For me, one of the joys of traveling is discovering or experiencing some unusual things like “The World's Largest Purple Spoon” near Glacier National Park in Montana or drinking “Poo Coffee” in Bali, Indonesia.
As we spend a part of a gorgeous weekend exploring more of “America The Beautiful” one stop takes us to some place we have never heard of before, Sweetwater, Tennessee.
Here an interesting discovery was made long before we got here and today that find holds an interesting claim to fame. One hundred and forty feet below the surface on the outskirts of Sweetwater is America's largest underground lake. Even the initial thought of an underground lake seems odd to me.
For about US$17 per person with a AAA discount we are about to take a tour at what once was a mining location for “Saltpeter” during “The Civil War”. Saltpeter or niter is a key ingredient used for making gunpowder.
The original entrance has 132 steep stairs with some interesting stories behind it.
In the past there was a “Tavern In The Caverns” where bands performed and guests came to consume a little “moonshine” every now and then. Unaware of the change of oxygen levels in the cavern many guests felt cheated on their “moonshine” as it took a lot of drinking to feel any effects from the alcohol consumption.
Attempting to leave the Tavern by way of the original 132 steps it is told that a few guests found themselves at the bottom of them with broken legs and arms the next morning. As they tried to climb the stairs to exit the oxygen levels changed in their bloodstream and they instantly got their money's worth from an evening of drinking “moonshine”.
In some ways we are fortunate because there are no more stairs to climb but in my opinion a shot of “moonshine” would not be a bad idea.
Although we have visited numerous caves there is always something unique to all of them and I always learn something new.
Did you know that being in a cave can be one of the darkest places on the planet? We get to experience this for a few minutes when in one section all of the lights are turned off. If we stay here too long and keep our eyes open we would eventually go blind. I am glad that someone thought to bring “The Clapper” and in a few minutes the lights are back on.
Here it is believed that if you are a bad person and look into this hole you will see Old Satan himself staring back at you.
Now I know, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” but when I saw him looking back at me I thought about my old friend Johnny and made a bet with him.
I guess he did not learn his lesson from messing with Johnny.
The highlight of our tour is not as interesting as expected as it seemed so unreal as we glide across a dimly lit body of water. I felt more like I was on a ride at Disneyland instead of 140 feet below our rental car in the parking lot above our heads.
One cool thing that happens is seeing some pretty large Rainbow Trout that surround our boat for their regular and expected tour feedings. These fish are unable to reproduce here so the lake is stocked on a regular basis with about 250 of them. Like humans these Rainbow Trout would go blind in here except the water is lit about 12-13 hours per day.
About thirty minutes after docking from being on “America's Largest Underground Lake” we are back above ground without any broken bones. However, I still think a shot of “moonshine” would have been nice.