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Day 49: Mt. St. Helen’s National Park & Ape Cave

Day 49: Mt. St. Helen’s National Park & Ape Cave

Day 49: Mount St. Helens National Park & Ape Cave
There are a few different types of travelers out there one can embody. One can be the careful traveler, someone who sticks to the main roads and a strict agenda. Reading all of the signs and going only to those places known for tourism this traveler sees the same sort of things that they can experience with an internet service and a basic knowledge of search engines. The places this kind of traveler goes to have already been seen over and over, and from the exact same perspective. The careful traveler only stops to photograph views that are designated by road signs and very likely stands right next to the sign with a camera icon for every scenic picture. A typical cookie-cutter vacationer who wants to see everything they’ve seen in photos exactly as they have seen them.
Another type of traveler one can be is the reckless traveler. These types jump in head first without reading the signs. They trespass into places they have no knowledge of and destroy delicate ecosystems and ancient rock forms. The reckless travelers are the ones who run out of gas and money before the allotted time for vacation is even near to being up. They don’t plan a vacation at all, and leave home with none of the gear they will need forcing them to use all of their spending money on supplies only to show up to the park and learn they can no longer afford the admission fee. This traveler is also the most likely to be injured not because of their activities, but because of their lack of information, common sense, and planning.
There is a third type of traveler and this is the one that I strive to be. It walks the line between careful and reckless. This traveler plans their vacations well but allows for a good amount of wiggle room in budget and time. This traveler plans a generic agenda but is prepared to change it on the fly when they come across something new. They will leave the well-beaten path, but only because they have educated themselves in how to handle every situation. They aren’t always law abiding, but they are respectful and resourceful. This type of traveler is known by a single adjective.
Adventurous.

Mt. St. Helens June 27, 2011. "29" and I.

Mount St. Helens is a place of adventure. Most people think of Mt. St. Helens and think of the explosive event of 1980 when the nation was glued to the news as they watched a mountain transform in front of their eyes. This is one of the aspects of adventure that many of us seek: a slight sense of danger. You can’t get that when you are on confined trails with a monotone tour guide telling you the kindergarten version of the geologic history. The Mt. St. Helens National Park has many things to see and is surprisingly well catered to the traveler who doesn’t want the cookie-cutter guide to take them around (although they do have this on request).

An angry "29". Mt. St. Helens N.P. 6.27.2011

The drive up Mt. St. Helens started out exactly as I expected it. The long, winding road wound up the side of the slumbering volcano, rocky road cuts slowly being replaced by something that looked more like volcanic ash just as one would expect. Unfortunately this mountain was no different than the rest in the country that had received an excessive amount of winter precipitation. I drove for almost 40 miles to find out the pass was closed. It was still buried under 10 plus FEET of snow. My Jeep doesn’t usually care for “Road Closed” signs too well, and it sought an alternate route…. but I force disappointed “29″ back down the winding road for an over 100 mile detour to get to the other side of the park.

Ape Cave. A lava tube in Mt. St. Helens National Park. June 27, 2011

On the other side of the park sat Ape Cave, a lava tube that was discovered about 30 years prior to the famous eruption of Mt. St. Helens. It is 12, 180 feet long, completely dark (as you would expect any cave to be), and a lot like a subway tunnel full of sharp boulders. Inside you get a to take the choice of two routes, Upper Passage or Lower Passage. The Lower Passage only goes about 0.75 miles and is an easy walk. Upper Passage is 1.25 miles and a more difficult traverse, climbing large boulder fields and scaling an 8-foot “lava fall” free style. Best of all: The entire tour is self guided and you must provide your own lighting. Guess which route I took…

A skylight in Ape Cave lava tube. Mt. St. Helens N.P. 6/27/2011

Upper Passage was a lot of fun. I will have to say that I found my first lava tube to be interesting, but rather boring in comparison to the winding limestone caves I am used to in the Midwest. Ape Cave is a pretty typical lava tube, a very straight cylindrical cavern with a few sky lights here and there, and small lava drips that hang from the ceilings. The temperature is cooler than the caves I am used to, averaging only 42 degrees fahrenheit.

Ape Cave lava drips in Mt. St. Helens N.P. June 27, 2011

After my tour of Ape Cave (I must proclaim the tour guide was fantastic…lol!) I headed to another interesting place of interest that wasn’t on the agenda. The Trail of Two Forests is a lava flow with hollows where trees originally stood. You can see the ghost tress almost perfectly preserved in the lava, and you can even play a game of prairie dog if you are so inclined, crawling through the tree hollows and popping up through skylights. The place is pretty interesting, and a lot of fun for kids (or the kid in you). Yet another example of how hands-on Mt. St. Helens N.P. seems to be. It allows you to be the adventurous traveler, leaving the paved path and mundane talks behind while still remaining safe and informed.

A tree cast in Mt. St. Helens N.P.'s "Trail of Two Forests" 6/27/2011

Me in a ghost tree! "Trail of Two Forests" in Mt. St. Helens N.P. 6/27/2011

On the way out I ran across some off-roading trails. There were no signs forbidding me to drive on them so I took advantage of the opportunity to jostle around on dirt and rocks in the shadow of a snow-covered Mt. St. Helens. There couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to the day.
If you find yourself preparing for a vacation please keep in mind what I have said. You can’t truly experience other worlds if you don’t leave the path, but you need to do so smartly. Be the adventurous traveler, plan your trip with plenty of spare time to enjoy anything you run into, and be ready to change any existing plans at the drop of a hat. A vacation isn’t an itinerary and a bunch of duplicated post card photos. Travel is for experience, for knowledge and growth, for relaxation and something out of the norm.
The only traveler worth being is the adventurous traveler. Anything else can be spent reading a book or a week in the hospital.
Tomorrow I will be continuing my adventurous journey of the summer. My Grand Summer Adventure. Tomorrow will be my 50th day since I embarked on my journey but I’m not slowing down yet. There’s still so much to see, experience, learn…..and share. I’ll see you all there.
Nicole

A view into a cavern from above. Ape Cave in Mt. St. Helens N.P. June 27, 2011

June 27th, 2011 | 1 Comment

One Response to “Day 49: Mt. St. Helen’s National Park & Ape Cave”

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