Ape Caves Scramble
Another weekend means another adventure. The Ape Caves at the base of Mount Saint Helens in Washington state was on the list. We have visited this lava tube a few times before, but never have we hiked the top portion of the caves; where the difficulty rises a bit and scrambling over rocks and up cascades is in the cards. Sherry, Anthony Buglio, and myself began the trek from the bottom entrance; making our way up the tube towards the direction of Saint Helens.
The bottom portion is pretty mild compared to the constant scrambling over rocks and through narrow passage ways that lie waiting towards the top. Whenever we came to a relatively calm area we stopped to take some portraits. The 1 1/4 mile hike really changes your perspective of what lies below us. The intense heat from the lava melted the rocks in such a drastic manner. You could see the signs on the face of the rocks where a black glossy sheen drips down like hot tar.
The number of ill prepared people who we passed along the way was incredible. With such treacherous terrain such as gaps between rocks that could swallow a person, jagged low ceilings that could rip your head open with little warning, and a 8 ft. tall cascade with barely one foot hole to pull yourself up, you think people would shy away. Several times we passed children 10 years old or younger, families unaware of what constitutes hiking shoes or clothing, and even a group who wreaked of booze from 3o ft. away. At least it was a confidence booster for us. We passed one exit which would require scaling up a Â 35 ft. rock face so we continued on to the far entrance, where a ladder was installed to help ascend out of the caves and back to the light above.
The hike back down the trail above showed several signs of the eruption, pushing large boulders out of the ground into stacked rows. The surface looked like a gigantic snake had slithered just below the surface down the hill, pushing up the earth with brute force. Â A strenuous hike, but worth it.