On Friday, March 1972, John von Wallace checked his four-seater for a flight to Tennessee at Charlie Brown Airport in Atlanta. The program was designed by Johnny's wife, Unland, and their children, Paul and Erica, along with Art Art Smith and Jack Ye Pace to drive to Canberra Mountain State Park in Crossville, Tennessee, and rent a cabin for the weekend. My wife, Katie, our six-year-old daughter, Deanna, and I would fly with Johnny to the Crosville Memorial Airport in Crossville and spend the next day exploring.
We would be an alternative to driving and flying to move caves to the southeast from the airport. Half of the group was flying and the other half was driving. This trip was quite enjoyable along the interstate, then we followed the state road to Crossville. It was dark when we arrived and the airport lights did not go off. The airport is on top of the mountain, and we were a little nervous about landing. John Won's wife was there, but couldn't get in touch with anyone at the airport. John John finally made it to someone on the radio, and they turned on the lights.
It was a big cabin in the park, and we enjoyed a good evening's rest the day before the trip. We planned to visit the Devil's Sink Hall with family, and then we would explore the Grassy Cove Saltpeter Cave across the mountain. Katie and Dana had a lovely day strolling around the park as we went to hide.
A few miles southeast of Crossville is Grasse Kovne. Depression between two mountains, which by all rights should be a large natural lake. Rainwater that flows deep into the cave flows north into the cave, then appears in the sinking hole of Satan, south of the cube and on the mountain. This long mountain contains many caves and a large stream that flows beneath it. The Grassy Cove Saltpeter Cave is known for being a dusty cave, and dust masks are suitable to avoid histoplasmosis, a lung disease that is common in dusty caves and chicken houses. Later, I found out a slight case of it, and it could very well be from this cave. The doctor wanted to know if I was around some chicken houses.
We entered the cave and debated exploring the dry western portions or sinking the waterfall at the eastern end of the cave. It is reported that more caves are falling under water. However, ropes would be required, and we were not ready for it. The Fall Fall Room sounded good enough to pass, so we decided to go through the mosaic and the water drop.
The Chasm is a short drop that can be raised if you leave the chimney off a narrow slope. However, we chose to use the rope for the fall. We continued down to the waterfall room and hugged around, looking for any easy guide to continue. John was checking behind a large rock on the north side of the lane when he noticed the air blowing from the rocks. We were all excited and started helping dig easily.
In less than an hour we had a small hole that looked out from the bottom. I was chosen to try, I'm not sure why I was there for the first time, but thank you. My feet first went into the hole to remove the hard hat to squeeze. At the bottom there was a low crater going about 50 feet north-east, then a fence about 5 feet short of falling, a large room turned down. I was exploring the floor and couldn't make any traces. I sat there saying that others were encouraged to come down. We had found something great.
I felt that Neil Armstrong was on the moon when I made the first step down to the floor and left that first foot print where no one had gone before. The mud from the top had a black coating, and when lifted it left a very simple orange print about 1 inch deep. It was amazing to walk down that huge room downstairs and then look back at the single row of foot prints that would soon turn into a well-worn path.
During the rest of the day, we explored sixty thousand feet wide by thirty feet wide and thirty feet high, finding structures along the western wall and crystalline gypsum flowers covering the floor as the ceiling was lower at the end. Finally we crawled under a break to a much smaller room and continued to find another way.
We were all very excited about our new find and planned to return to this new mapping section next month. We returned on Saturday, 1972. On April 22, with the help of my cousin Bill Meyer, we mapped the March 18 discovery. At the time, I worked at Eastman Kodak Co. and had access to the latest home cinema cameras. I was trying to come up with a new model with very low light capability to make movies in the cave. We used the Coleman Lantern for the light source, and the laurel speed slowed down as much light as possible. These short films can be viewed on my caving site.
When P Pace moved to Nashville, he discovered the cave group there. Three years later, in 1975, a group of Nashville caves pushed to the bottom of the Room Orchid Room and discovered the Nashville Extension, a stream passage that extended the cave beneath the mountain. That is why we enter the caves to see what is there.
As of the end of 2013, the largest room at Grassy Cove Saltpeter Cave has no name. Since I was the first person to set foot there, I enjoy calling the section thirty feet on average sixty feet high and a thousand feet long called the "Room of the Vulture."
Grassy Cove Saltpeter Cave is eleventh in Tennessee for the longest cave in the state. I would like to think that we made it a little easier for future cavers to discover the miles of caves that followed this great cave. In the years that followed, great discoveries were made, and then in the late 70's, the Smoke Mountain Grant sealed our small hole, "S.M.G. »With concrete slab with mark.
1 Blue Spring Cave 33 Miles
2 Cumberland Caves 27 Miles
3 Xanadu Cave System 23 miles
4 Rumbling falls in the cave 15 miles
5 Nunley Mountain Cave System 15 Miles
6 Big Bone Cave 15 miles
7 Snail Shell Cave System 9 miles
8 Rice Caves 9 Miles
9 Cuyler Cave 8 miles
10 Dunbar Cave 8 miles
11 Grassy Cove Saltpeter Cave 8 miles
12 Wolf River 7 Miles
13 Haws Spring Cave 7 miles
14 Zarathustra 7 miles
15 Camp Gulf Cave 6 Miles
This was the first major discovery I was involved with, and I was more excited about the cave than ever before, not just exploring, but also mapping, painting, filming, and writing articles.