PNW 2011 Trip – Day 5 Part 1

Aug 17, 2011 – Today saw us on the bikes for a long time and seeing a pair of related natural sites. One of the highlights of the trip in general was to see Mount St Helens. I’m sure everyone knows the significance of Mount St. Helens – if not click here. Today also marked the last time we would be on an Interstate Highway.
PNW2011 St Helens Map

I did forget to mention the dinner and a show that we witnessed the night before – after we checked and had the campsite setup, the man and woman that were running the campground got into a huge fight, yelling, screaming, F-bombs all throughout. We really thought for sure that they were both quite mad and would kill each other. But finally they were separated for a few moments, and the woman took off on the dude’s mountain bike! The guy came out from where-ever he was yelling and hollering first at whatever started, then when the realized she had left on his bike, we really went wild. Eventually he did calm down and a hush came over the campground.

I can’t recall much about waking up at the campsite in Cougar, but obviously we did. We mostly packed and the made some tea ate oatmeal for breakfast, here’s Louise either packing the stove or firing it up …

Breakfast at Cougar

Breakfast at Cougar

While we were packing up or eating, one of the more colourful long-term denizens of the campground came by with his little dog for a chat. He was a bit of a scary guy in that he was missing some teeth, had long stringy hair that looked kinda feminine, but he was balding, and he … had man-boobs – really big man-boots. He had on short shorts and a pink tank top or something like that – hard to recall now. He was a gravel truck driver or something and stayed in the campground in a junky old trailer. The dog, a little Pekinese, was pretty cute though! I didn’t take any pictures of him, but in retrospect I should have – just to prove the description.

Ape Caves SignAs I mentioned before, one of the goals for this trip was to see Mt. St. Helens and I had originally planned today’s route and mileage with that in mind. However, if you recall from yesterday’s post, we had seen a signpost for something called the “Ape Caves”. With a name like that, who could resist checking it out?

So we headed out, back the way we came for a few miles until we got to the “Ape Caves” turnoff. The road in to the caves parking lot was pretty quiet and fun to ride. After a few more miles riding we came to the parking lot …
Ape Caves Parking Lot

The Ape Caves themselves are actually lava tubes and don’t have anything to do with apes … sadly. The story on the apes is that back before the caves were discovered in the early 1900’s, some Boy Scouts were out in the area camping and at the same time some prospectors or surveyors were working. The Scouts were up on a ridge above where the men were working and spotted them below. Being smart-ass kids, they started whooping it up and tossing pumice stones down onto the men. The men, not really being able to see clearly what was up on the ridge thought they saw “apes” tossing boulders down on them! Then later when the caves were discovered the story of the “apes” on the ridge was recalled and the locals put the two together – probably realizing the tourism benefits even then!

The lava tubes called the Ape Caves are one network of tons of similar formations all over the mountains of that area. The Ape Caves lava tube was formed in the long ago past by some lava from Mt St Helens running underground. After the discovery of the caves, they were added to the National Volcanic Monument.

This is the small building at the start of the trail that leads to the cave …
Ape's Headquarters Building … and called the Ape’s Headquarters because the Scout troop that found the caves renamed themselves to reflect their role in finding the caves in the first place. Note that I may have some of the details wrong here – I’m going from memory – but I have the gist of the story!)

Once inside the cave through this entrance …
Ape Cave Entrance

We took quite a few pictures down in the caves and some were pretty cool, like this one …
Inside the Ape Cave To see more Ape Caves pictures, click here for my Flickr page on Day 5 where all the pictures from that day are.

Cave entrance from insideIt was really dark down, I mean pitch black, as you might expect. Our little flashlights and headlamps didn’t throw too much light and it was pretty erie down there. After about 30 minutes of hiking along in the gloom, we turned back to the original entrance. It was pretty hard hiking since, because it was chilly in the caves, we left our riding gear on, including the touring boots, which aren’t made for hiking in! Eventually we got back to the entrance, and headed back to the bikes.

So it was now close to noon and we still had to get to Mt St Helens and then out to Raymond for the night. Back on the road we whipped past Cougar and continued on to the infamous Interstate 5 that runs north-south in Washington. Pulling onto a freeway for only the second time on the trip, we booted along for only a few minutes until we pulled off onto the road leading up to Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt St Helens. But first – lunch! We stopped at Burger King just off the highway, sat down to a fine lunch of a Whopper and fries. While we were sitting there eating, a fellow biker all leathered up rolled in on a custom painted Hayabusa and sat near us. We chatted a bit, he had taken the day from work in Portland, OR, a ways south and had ridden fast from there to the Burger King for lunch, then he’d be heading back south. Just a day trip on the Interstate for him.

St Helens in the distanceBack out on the road, we soon left the built-up area behind and headed into the woods on a wonderfully twisted road. At some points we could see Mt St Helens off in the distance and As we climbed and headed east, getting closer the landscape became more and more barren … the trees thinned out and we started seeing stumps that were totally blown apart. To see all the pictures we took of Mt St Helens, click
here for my Flickr page on Day 5 where all the pictures from that day are.

I’ll add more tomorrow!

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