Sarah Davis loves bats. They’ve been the wintertime residents of Linville Caverns for as long as she can remember, a marker of the seasons she looks forward to each year. The cave, a commercial cavern near Marion, has been in Davis’ family since the 1940s — she and the bats go way back.
“There would be hundreds of them in the winter, and I absolutely loved them,” Davis recalls.
By Stephanie Wampler • Columnist
Our Saturday morning cave adventure started out innocently enough. We would need flashlights. Check. I had purchased three apiece, plus four spare AAA batteries. Change of clothes. Check. Layers for warmth, since it was after all underground and therefore likely to be chilly. Check. Hiking boots. Water bottle. First aid kit, including snakebite venom extractor just in case we did happen to run across an angry and poisonous snake two miles deep into the cavern. (You never know. It could happen.) In any event, first aid kit, check. Sandwiches. Chocolate chip cookies. Check plus. They were very good cookies. I put a few in a bag to take into the cave and left the rest in the car for when we came out. We were packed and ready. The possibility that we might need anything else, like rope or a ladder or a safety net, never occurred to me.
Legend has it that curious fishermen watching trout seemingly disappear into Humpback Mountain back in 1822 discovered an entrance into what is now known as Linville Caverns. Henry E. Colton of eastern North Carolina and once a state geologist for the state of Tennessee was one of the discoverers. Colton wrote about the discovery in an 1858 issue of the NC Presbyterian: “… we emerged into an immense passage, whose roof was far beyond the reach of the glare of our torches, except where the fantastic festoons of stalactites hang down within our touch. It looked like the arch of some grand old cathedral, yet it was too sublime, too perfect in all its beautiful proportions, to be anything of human …”