A Hiking Adventure: Ape Cave Lava Tube

Wednesday night rolled around and I was in a bit of a panic because I did not know what I was going to do on the weekend. It makes me nervous heading into the weekend and not having an idea of an adventure. Thankfully, Washington state provides a pretty intense list of things to do whether its nature/outdoors related, food/wine related, or art/culture related and of course I went directly to the nature/outdoors related list, where I stumbled upon something called Ape Cave.

Forming of the Cave: Ape Cave is a lava tube located on the south side of Mount St. Helens and part of the National Volcanic Monument. This 13,042 feet lava tube was formed roughly 1,900 years ago following an eruption of red, hot flowing lava (the only time in its 40,000 year existence), which flowed down the southern part of St. Helens into a stream channel. By this occurring, the surface cooled and created a hardened crust that insulated the lava beneath, allowing the lava to continue to travel. The traveling lava melted and carried away rock and soil (known as “thermal erosion”), which deepened and widened the channel, forming the walls of the cave, now known as Ape Cave.

Ape Cave: This particular lava tube is the third longest in the United States and temperature is measured to remain around 42 degrees F year round, which explains why in these pictures we are wearing jackets and scarves (it was 72 degrees above ground). There are two parts to the cave, Lower Cave  and Upper Cave. The Lower Cave is an easy 3/4 mile portion with two features including “Railroad Tracks” and “Meatball”. The Upper Cave is a difficult 1.5 mile portion in which cavers are required to climb over 27 ‘large’ breakdown boulder piles and scale an 8 foot high lava fall (there are warnings posted stating NOT recommended for young children).

This warning was not followed AT ALL. In fact, there were families attempting this cave with small children, who were complaining the whole time and not to mention wearing cowboy boots and converse shoes. I’m not a parent, but seriously, you”re going to a CAVE with rocks and you’re going to take a child in cowboy boots?!? Sydney and I thought it was crazy how many people came unprepared. I’m not joking either. It wasn’t even just the little kids with bad shoes. People attempted this cave without lights. We are underground. What do people think, it’s going to be bright and shiny? Talk about crazy. Enough venting, back to my adventure.

If you know me, you know my camera is with me on all my adventures. Well, this was the first time that I HAD to put my camera away…TWICE, because I wasn’t able to climb over  the large breakdowns and protect my camera at the same time. When I say large, I mean large. 100s of rocks of different sizes piled together in all different angles creating quite a challenge. Plus just when you think you get a break, you look up to find another pile of rocks starring back at you! It took us 3.5 hours to make the whole journey through the tube with 1 break for food and NO injuries.  Another successful first-time experience under my belt and will be returning to Mount St. Helens for more exploration in the future. Wonder where next weekend’s adventure will bring?!?

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