After 3 solid driving days, we were all thrilled to spend a little time in one place…Bend, OR. And a wonderful place it is! We spent 5 nights camping in the mountains outside town, near a wonderfully cool lake. Since temperatures hit the 90s during the day, we made ample use of the lake. The best part of our stay was camping with some friends who drove down from Seattle to welcome us home! We hung out and did as little as possible during their visit, a welcome break from our usual intrepid exploring. We all really enjoyed their company.
After they headed home, we spent 2 days exploring Bend’s awesome network of mountain bike trails. I was too busy riding to take any pictures, but the riding was so fun that we’ll definitely be back.
After leaving Bend, we headed to the Columbia River Gorge for a couple of nights. It’s hard to believe that we’re only a few hundred miles from home! Starting tomorrow, we’ll be staying with family until we roll into our driveway on the 31st. Tonight is our last night of camping! In fact, today was probably our last day of official intrepid exploring. So we had to make it a good one.
We’re camped in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, home of Mt. St. Helens and all sorts of cool volcanic geology. We came here because we’d read about a cave that has ice formations even in the middle of summer. Because the cave is relatively small and we had a map, we decided to explore as much of it as possible. We grabbed our flashlights, packed lots of extra batteries, dressed in our grubbiest clothes, and donned our bike helmets since we don’t have proper caving hard-hats. The first part of the cave was fairly open and easy to avoid the icy rocks. But as we worked our way into the deeper, narrower passages, we found that ice covered almost everything. Not only would we have to shimmy on our bellies along the ice, but we risked being unable to come back up the icy inclines.
We went as far as we felt comfortable, then decided to head back and explore the warmer, easier part of the cave. We’ll return another time with ropes and better gear!
While we set up camp, our campground host told us about the Cheese Cave, an unmarked cave not far from the Ice Cave, so we headed there next. This place was well off the marked path, and we had it to ourselves! After climbing a precarious ladder and scrambling down a huge rockfall, we entered the cavernous lava tube.
We could see where the surface of the tube had melted during the lava flow and seemed to be dripping from the ceiling.
The cave is allegedly named for a cheese making outfit that used the cave to ripen bleu cheese in the30s. Toward the end, we found the decaying remains of the shelves that must have held the cheese and a giant staircase leading to the now-locked underside of the abandoned cheese house built directly over a natural cave entrance!
C really enjoyed exploring a cave all on our own, and we all had a great time.