Exploring Mystical Caves With Cloudland's Georgia Girl Guides



Exploring Mystical Caves With Cloudland's Georgia Girl Guides

Making Adventures At Cloudland State Park Memorable By Offering Wild Cave Tours To Guests

Family Poses After Exploring Cloudland's Caves [Courtesy/Georgia Girl Guides]

The texture of any state park is dictated by the beauty it presents contrasted with the information that can be gained by great individuals inside its borders.

Spanning across 3,485 acres of land in the Northwest corner of Georgia is Cloudland Canyon State Park. Founded in 1938, it is the only park in Georgia containing caves, which can be explored alone or with tour guides. Two beautiful waterfalls frame the park and the canyons inside have been shaped by the erosion of sandstone over a period of millions of years into a smorgasbord of prehistoric nature culminating with a journey into the unknown.

The right guide for caves always makes the experience more dynamic. Christine Rose and Amy Gonzalez, founders of Georgia Girl Guides, assist in making the adventures at Cloudland State Park memorable by offering Wild Cave Tours to guests. Christina explains: “We get people appreciating nature in a way [maybe] they have never done before. The underground environment is very unique and presents many challenges that most people have never had the opportunity to explore and discover. By providing the guiding service, we allow people to see this amazing place while teaching them the science behind what they are seeing.”

With safety gear included, visitors can expect a thrilling experience when opting in for a tour with Georgia Girl Guides. Adventure enthusiasts are provided with helmets, headlamps, kneepads, and gloves before making their way into Sitton Cave, an underground river passage. While the canyon is home to two caves, Case Cave and Sitton Cave, tours are currently only provided inside of Sitton Cave. Christina advises more experienced explorers to contact the park to venture inside Case Cave, which contains a vertical rappel and requires experience as a vertical caver.

For people who have never seen the inside of a true cave, Christine teases the experience:  “[The cave] is very peaceful. [Our guests get to walk through] an underground river [where it's just like being] in a flat creek bed.” A variety of hidden nature elements can be found in Sitton Cave, and can be viewed while crawling along the mud and rocks. Amazing cave formations, bats, and salamanders await inside the cave for visitors to uncover. Unique cave formations include calcium formations like stalactites and stalagmites. Named after their unique look, other formations include cave popcorn, cave coral, curtains, flowstone, and cave bacon.

Exploring The Caves At Cloudland [Courtesy/Georgia Girl Guides]
Waterfall At Cloudland [Courtesy/Georgia State Park]

Rose relates one of her more memorable guided cave experiences: taken with two young men who were blind. Having to describe the caves to them was a whole new experience: “We were able to share with them not what everyone gets to see about the cave [including] the sounds and the feeling of the cave. We experienced it through their [perception] in a [whole] new way.”

Currently Christina and formerly Amy [who left the business to embark on a new adventure of starting a family) were former naturalists at the park. They saw a need for tour guides in the caves. With the park facing budget cuts, they were brought face with the fear of being laid off from the park they love so much. Their response to this crisis was to petition the park to open up a service as adventure guides. They were granted this opportunity as an outside vendor in 2011 and have been providing this unique experience for visitors ever since. With a staff of between 5 and 7 guides who embark with visitors on cave tours, guided hikes, and educational programs for both schools and scout troops, they also hire local college students, who apply via their website.

Christina found her love for nature in the woods of New Hampshire through hiking, skiing, and fishing. Upon moving to Georgia as a teenager, she says she fell in love with the forest, rocks, and valleys of the Northwest Georgia Mountains. Her credentials include a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Master’s of Science Degree in Ecological Teaching and Learning from the Audubon Expedition Institute through Lesley University.

Tours are offered for everyone, but Georgia Girl Guides got their name in part by wanting customers to know that they are female guides in a male-dominated outdoor industry. They offer an environment that allows people to put their skills to the test and be challenged, but to not feel pushed to go further than they are comfortable. The tours are instead guided in a nurturing and safe environment that is welcoming of everyone. Far from Christina’s personal experience on other tours, guests are welcomed and encouraged to leave the cave at any point in time should they become scared or exhausted.

Daughter And Mother Experiencing The Beautiful Cloudland View [Courtesy/Georgia Girl Guides]

While safety gear is provided, explorers are encouraged to wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, and closed toed shoes as well as bringing a complete change of clothes for after the tour as well as a personal camera. Christina again reminds those considering to go on a tour that it is physically demanding and to not forget to keep this in mind prior to making an appointment with Georgia Girl Guides.

The most unique feature of the park itself, from Rose's perspective, aside from the caves, is definitely the canyon walls. The layers are visible to hikers, campers, and climbers. Eroded over millions of years, the sedimentary rock mountainside lays exposed in the sunlight.  The lower layers of the walls are composed of limestone and each show a different story. The canyon literally is a piece of art itself.

Earning the right of the name: “Cloudland”, early in the morning the clouds can be seen slowly rising out of the canyon and into the valley. “There is nothing more magical and beautiful than sitting there and watching those clouds move all the way out,” relates Rose. “[It exposes] the rocks and trees in the canyons and being able to hear the creek down at the bottom and the waterfalls.”

Those peaceful sounds of nature create a perfect setting. And, with Georgia Girl Guides, the experience takes on a unique edge that can only provided by those who understand the intimate and powerful nature of such a park.

Lindsay Roundtree

Pursuing a degree at the University Of Utah in Psychology, Lindsay has written for Underground Barber among others. She enjoys hiking, coffee and cooking.

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