Friday, October 4, 2013

September 19th, Part One: Yale Park and Ape Cave

Mark and I had a loooong day of driving ahead of us, so after grabbing some tasty breakfast courtesy of Wayne (I asked him several times if he wanted to move back to VA with us...he could live in our guest room if only he would make us tasty breakfast every day!), we grabbed our stuff, hopped in the car, and started driving north. We were heading to Washington!

Hello, WA!

After spending a couple hours driving nonstop, we decided to pull over at Yale Park. There were a couple floating docks that stretched out into the water, so we walked to the end of the longest one. They were bouncing around quite a bit, but I managed to grab a picture looking back toward the lake; you can just make out Mount St. Helens peeking over the top of the hill.

We hopped back in the car and kept driving. After a little while we got to our first stop for the day: Ape Cave.

After parking, paying the daily fee, and winding our way around dozens of school kids wearing headlamps, we took a short walk through the woods and came to the cave entrance. After picking our way over a few rocks (you can see them just past the steps), we reached a second set of steps that instantly made us glad that Wayne had recommended bringing two flashlights instead of just one.

It got dark FAST!

Ape Cave is a 2000 year old lava tube on the southern end of Mount St. Helens. At 2 miles long, it's the longest lava tube in the continental US. The stairwell comes down into the tube about two thirds of the way through the distance; the Upper Passage is about a mile and a half long with rock scrambles, and the Lower Passage is both easier and shorter, at around three quarters of a mile. Since I had all my camera gear with me (and most of the school groups seemed headed for the Upper Passage), we decided to check out the Lower Passage.

Most of the cave was pretty open with fairly high ceilings. It was neat to see the marks on the wall from the lava flowing through. (And no, it wasn't's just over 40 degrees once you get down into the cave.)

If you turned the flashlights off, through, it was pitch black. Like, couldn't see your hand in front of your face black.

We walked almost to the end of the Lower Passage, then turned around and started to work our way back up to the stairway. I kept stopping to play with my camera and the lights; by the time Mark would realize I had stopped he would be pretty far ahead of me. (You can see his light out in the distance in this one.) As we got closer to the stairs we started to hear a strange humming noise. As we got closer, we realized it was a group of people singing! Their voices were echoing down the tunnel, so we stopped for a minute, shut off our lights, and listened to the music in the dark. Definitely a little creepy, but neat.   :)

After a little more walking we made our way back up the stairs, over the rocks, and back to daylight. That was definitely one of the crazier walks/hikes I've done, but I'd love to do it again someday to check out the Upper Passage (with a headlamp and a better setup for my camera gear, of course!).

It was only a short walk back to the car, so we said goodbye to Ape Cave and set out for the rest of the day's adventures. 

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