Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ape Cave

The  Ape Cave at Mt. St. Helens is a lava tube that is open to the public to explore.  The main entrance gives you a choice of heading downhill to the Lower Ape Cave or uphill to the Upper Ape Cave.  The Lower Ape Cave is a short portion of the lava tube with relatively even terrain that dead ends.  The Upper Ape Cave is longer and requires quite a lot of climbing to get over big chunks of rock left from a partial collapse that happened shortly after the lava tube formed.  Fortunately you don't have to go back the way you came; you can climb out and head back along a trail. Maybe 3/4 of the way to the end there is an 8 foot high ledge that must be scaled. We got lucky and found someone had left a good rope behind, but usually my husband will bravely climb up and toss down a rope. Some visitors like to walk uphill along the trail and climb down to the main entrance, perhaps because they feel it's easier to navigate the ledge as a drop instead of a climb?  Close to the exit, the first daylight you will see is a skylight, bringing a big patch of green to the underground. The Ape Cave is an adventure we've always enjoyed.  It's quite cool in the cave so jackets are a must, and head lamps are ideal because they leave both of your hands free. A Northwest Forest Pass is required, which they sell there. 

Most of the rocks in the cave are quite rough, but a few are very smooth.  I'm guessing this one has had water dripping
on it for thousands of years?
Sickletop lousewort.
"Lava ripples" in the trail.
Ocean spray.
Collapsed lava tube near the trail.

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