Humans explore caves for the same reasons they enjoy listening to indie music—it's dark, it's underground, and it offers a meaningful escape from melodramatic breakups. Delve into a new world with today's Groupon: for $35, you get a caving adventure from River and Earth Adventures in Elizabethton (up to a $75 value, depending on the size of the group).
River and Earth Adventures carves deep into the Appalachian Mountains to expose the cave-curious to slices of pristine wilderness navigated by expert guides. The two- to four-hour caving adventures, which begin at 10 a.m., explore Worley's Cave, a noncommercial (meaning no electricity or sidewalks), 550-million-year-old underground limestone hollow featuring seven miles of large rooms and narrow passages.
These rooms, with names such as Hobbit's Hallway and Tombstone, are often large enough to hold 1 house or 125 dog houses, with 80-foot ceilings and quarter-mile-long bases. Formations called spelogions spike through, and at a growth rate of one cubic inch every 100 years, their 60-foot heights, 200-foot spans, and 10th-grade reading levels are impressive to behold. River and Earth also explores the comestible ecosystem, nourishing adventurers with deli-style lunches that are as local and organic as possible.
Tours are given year-round, seven days a week, often with the help of Laura Mallard Seldomridge, one of River and Earth's owners and a teacher of geology at Appalachian State University. The caving adventures do require minimal physicality—River and Earth likens parts of the exploration to climbing onto a kitchen counter to shout at your microwave, and cavers should expect to walk through mud, gravel and shallow water. All tours include equipment (gloves, helmets, and high-powered headlamps), guides, transportation, and, between Memorial Day and Labor day, a complimentary deli lunch.
TripAdvisors give River and Earth Adventures 4.5 owl eyes:
River and Earth Adventures
River and Earth Adventures stands out from other wilderness outfitters by being completely operated by their own guides. Their fleet of seasoned cave, mountain, and water-navigating guides work in tandem with professional ecologists and geologists, focusing Blue Ridge Mountains excursions on environmental education as well as adventure. During all day trips, guides divulge area history and expound on forest and river ecosystems as well as geology in caves whose interiors rest at 60 degrees year-round to keep them free of snowman hermits.
Each trip also immerses adventurers in athletic activity, whether on hikes to summits and secluded waterfalls, spelunking through electricity-free cave tunnels, or rafting and kayaking down the Watauga River rapids. For those in search of extended excursions, guides lead children's adventure day camps and combination trips that further an environmental focus and bottle-cap collections through river cleanup projects.