Monkey Tunnels

This week certainly started well! Tutoring was cancelled on Monday and a trip to the Ape Caves ensued.

The Ape Caves are two lava tubes created during a volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens 2000 years ago. The caves lay undiscovered for 1950 years, until 1951 when an outdoor club, the Mount Saint Helens Apes, accidentally discovered them while hiking on the mountain. The caves are cool (about 42 degrees) and moist, even in the summer time. Hikers are advised to wear warm clothes and bring headlamps and flashlights.

The entrance to the caves: your last bit of sunlight for several hours!

The two caves, upper and lower, are short (3/4 miles and 1.2 miles respectively) but it takes a long time to hike them. We spent about 45 minutes in the first cave. It’s large and cavernous with high ceilings and a sandy bottom. The walk down to the end of the cave was easy and leisurely. We mostly spent it turning our head lamps on and off, marveling at the intense darkness in the cave.The air was so cold that our breath made dense clouds in the air. We tried to take pictures of the cloud and failed, ending up only with various profile shots:

The lower cave was completely different! The 1.2 miles consisted of short stretches of flat walking punctuated by 15-20 foot high boulder piles which we climbed enthusiastically. The climbs were especially exciting because you couldn’t really see the path in front of you so you just made up the path as you went.

About half of the way through we came upon one of two skylights in the tunnel. We all cheered our first sight of sunlight in hours and eagerly speculated that maybe this meant the end was nearing. Climbing over boulders for hours is tiring!

Finally, we reached the end of the tunnel and climbed a ladder back up the surface. A short 1 mile hike brought us back to the car. Tired but happy, we returned to Vancouver/Portland and ate some really really good Korean food. Kim Chi and Ape Caves are a good combination.


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