Saturday, November 21, 2009

Decent into Madness - Hiking the Ape Cave of St Helens

Every few years we like to hike the Ape Cave at the base of Mt St Helens. Winter is the best time to go, for the snow and fewer people.

This year we went with the two younger boys and their scout troop.

Mom always makes alot of Golden Graham cereal smore cookies - the best survival food on the planet!

All the previous years there has been at least 2 feet of snow up there. This year... rain!

We all camped at the lower parking lot. There were 2 other groups of scouts this year too. What gives - no snow and lots of people!

Oh well - get those tents up, boys!

Despite many valiant efforts of the boys to light anything on fire with everything possible... none of them could get a fire going in the downpour.

A good scout leader can ALWAYS get a fire going - even if it has to be lit on the propane stove to get going! Twice we had to do this... it was wet!

Meanwhile... success in getting all the tents up!

Not sure how dry, but at least it will keep out the rest of the rain.

Finally! Success with the fire! Keep it big -n- hot, boys, we don't want it to go out.

A good hot fire keeps the boys farther from it - less playing with embers and sticks lit on fire.

With tents up and the fire going, many of the boys focused on fixing their dinners.

Thats alot of potatoes!

Many of us brought foil dinners already made and quickly cooked on the grill or fire.

Fresh venison sausage is great in a foil!

Lots of ketchup always helps hide the crunch of undercooked potatoes...

Later that night, with all the boys fed and full of energy, we took a long hike (several circles and loops in the woods) off to explore the lava tubes - tunnels in the lava left by trees and logs that were encased and then burned out of the flowing lava.

Especially fun in the dark!

These tubes are the best part of Ape Cave - if you look at the walls of the tube you can see the old bark pattern left from the trees.

They say the lava and the Ape Cave itself was formed almost exactly 2000 years ago. What major event occurred on that date?

Later as we listened to the rain on the tents, the sound got softer...

...and we woke up to snow! Yeah!

There was about 2 inches of snow, and it kept falling hard all day.

While everyone else finished packing up camp, we went off and explored the lava tubes again.

Here is where the longest tube comes out.

That lava is tough on the hands and knees!

Finally - off to the cave!

It was nice this time - usually the lower gate is locked, and we have to hike a 1/2 mile or so up to the cave enterance. This time it was still open.

Alot of other people there - about 20 cars!

With all the rain and hyper-active boys in a dark cave, the air was very wet and humid. Tough to take many pictures in there.

The hike went well - most had never been there. No major injuries or boboos. Everyone had a great hike on the Upper Cave.

We emerged into the bright light of snow!
Without wasting a stride, the boys immediately grabbed snow to throw.

The hike back was very beautiful.
It was still and silent. Can you hear the silence?
Except for the screaming of many 13 year old boys throwing snow, that is...
...oh well, thats why we came, right?