We didn’t take any cameras with us to the ATM caves since they weren’t allowed inside.  They weren’t even allowed on the hike up to the cave, and had to be left in the parking lot.  The tour started out by fording a chest deep river, then hiking through the jungle for 45 minutes, including fording the river twice more.  The cave entrance was daunting, as it was something that belonged in Romancing the Stone.  To enter the cave you had to jump into a pool of water and swim upstream for a bit to get to a small ledge.  Then you had to go upstream through large boulders to get to the ruins.  There was one section where you had to get down chest deep and squeeze your head through a rock just so, where it looked like the rock would take your head off.  This was by far the most strenuous part of any tour I’ve been on.  The water made it both harder and nicer, since we were cooled down by all of it.

After about 3/4 of a mile we got to the climb up to the archeological site.  Once we got to the part with the remains we had to take off our shoes and then we got to hike into an area that had pottery everywhere.  There were also a good number of human remains.  Since the cave had water flowing all over the place many of the remains had been swept to different areas of the cave, and some were encased by calcite deposits.  The main attractions were in the back of the cave, that wasn’t too easily accessed.  The first skull was of a young child that most likely had hydrocephalus.  This skull was the reason for no cameras, since someone had previously dropped a camera onto the skull.  The second main attraction was the Crystal Maiden, which wasn’t actually shiny since it was dry when we were there.  The cave formations were pretty neat, and I really enjoyed the intense hike it took to get to the site.

The hike out was easier, but everyone was very tired.  We had lunch in the parking lot; the same lackluster lunch.  Everyone got cleaned up, and dried off.  Then we went back to Caves Branch and more or less crashed for the rest of the day.

10801788_10100399119817662_4715252480312854558_n