Days 4: Iron Creek & Ape Cave
I will admit, when morning time came and it was time to pack up the campsite, I was glad. After exploring Iron Creek trail for an hour in the morning, it was time to see some water falls.
On our way up the pass towards Cougar, we stopped at Iron Creek Falls to hike to the falls. I love waterfalls, and this was the icing on the cake for me.
After days of waiting to see of road to Windy Ridge would open, we were disappointed in finding out they were not going to open the road for another few days. This meant we would not be seeing the crater or hike down to the pumas flats and valley floor on this trip. Bummer I wanted to see some pocket gophers up close! Instead we headed down route 25 towards the town of Cougar.
Along the way we decided to head towards Ape Cave for some spelunking. I have never done bouldering nor thought I would be crawling over rocks in a dark tunnel of a lava tube. My excitement of doing this soon wore off when I realized I would be getting cuts, scrapes, bruises and crawling around a pitch black tunnel with only headlamp as light. Would I do it again? Yep! Because after all the cussing and battle scares it was one major accomplishment to overcome fear, build confidence, and learning how much mental, emotional strength you have. When I finally reached to top of the lava tube (going from the bottom to the top of tube) and crawled out a small hole to the outside was exhilarating.
Ape Cave did not come to being until after 1980 mass eruption uncovered it. This lava tube is third longest tube in North America and formed over 300,000 years of basaltic eruptions. The cave is uneven terrain with an average temperature 42-50 degrees and pitch black conditions. Just as the park ranger said, you want to have warm clothing ( the cave drips water), close toe sturdy shoes, pants (no shorts!), headlamp and a lantern (no phone flashlights!).
Our last campsite was at Cougar Camp next to Yale Lake for our campsite turkey dinner and one last time around the campfire together. The next morning we packed up the van and headed to the last two places before heading home.
Day 5: Lahar Viewing & Lava Canyon
First stop viewing the Lahar viewing area which show how the mudslide from all the eruptions had scoured the canyon leading behind large boulders like a massive dry river bed. This is a massive geologist’s dream with all the different rocks littering the canyon towards Muddy River valley.
Second stop hiking the Lava Canyon where numerous lava eruptions over time build a Canyon with a very beautiful water fall.
** White-nose syndrome has killed over 7 million bats in US and Canada since 2006 and is considered the most devastating disease ever reported for wildlife in North America. The disease is named for the white fizzy growth on the nose, ears and wings of affected bats that caused by cold loving fungus that thrives in bat hibernation sites such as caves. Affected bats wake up more often during hibernation causing them to use crucial fat reserves leading to possible starvation and death. The disease has spread across 32 states and 5 Canadian Providences. As of March 2016 Washington’s first case was conformed Near Bend and is now within miles of Mount St Helen’s Ape Cave and Mount Rainer National Park. There is a screening procedure in place at Ape Caves to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome. Please note any clothing, or equipment that has recently been in any cave or mine outside Ape Cave will not be allowed. You must decontaminate the items. Learn more about white nose syndrom please visit http://www.whitenosesyndrome.org. ***