Rhone and I set off on an adventure for Independence Day to Ape Caves near Mount St. Helens. Be prepared for an otherworldly, underground journey with possible bat sightings and phosphoresce, glow in the dark, algae-covered walls. The Ape Caves are ancient lave tubes that lay underground near Mount St. Helens. The caves are cold year-round, so be prepared with a warm layer.
Today we could see our breath. The cave length is just less than 2 miles underground, and gains about 500 feet in elevation. You will only notice this once you emerge at the end and hike above ground to the Ranger Station. The terrain is rough and uneven, so bring good footwear and definitely bring a headlamp as even in the flat areas, grooves of lava can ride from 2-6 inches off the floor. You will traverse a series of boulder piles, some up to 20-40 feet in height. Be ready for some good footwork as you scramble up and over the piles. There are also a couple of narrow areas where you must squeeze between boulders and there is one large rock about 6-8 feet high which you must scale. Today there was a fixed rope with loops for your feet making the effort much easier. Also, watch your head as you squeeze through some areas, as the ceiling comes down, and sometimes sharp stalactites are pointing your way. You can rent propane lanterns which add to the old school ambiance, but I also suggest a headlamp so you can visibly see where you are looking at all times – be mindful of your feet and head. This is truly a wonderful adventurous hike in a truly unique area, and I highly recommend it to everyone to experience our diverse geology.