Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

After our unsuccessful attempt to hike in Mt. Rainier National Park, we decided to head to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and try to go hiking there. To our surprise, the upper part of Mt. St. Helens was also under the snow. So instead of one longer hike at a higher elevation, we decided to go for several shorter hikes at a lower elevation.

First we went for a hike in Lava Canyon, to which I dedicated a separate post (it will appear here in two days).

Afterward, we hiked the interpretive "Trail of Two Forests", a 1-mile long boardwalk loop trail through the lava flow from Mount St. Helens' eruption that took place around two thousands years ago. One interesting part of the trail was a small, maybe 2.5 to 3 feet wide, lava tube that hikers were invited to "hike", or should I say "crawl" through. We were set on exploring this lava tube until we saw how small, dark, and dirty it was. But I bet a lot of kids would not have such inhibitions and would have lots of fun there.

We also planned to go for a hike in the Ape Caves–subterranean lava tubes formed in the thick lava beds. There are two of them: the lower and the upper. The lower one is the shorter and easier of the two. It is connected to the upper lava tube by a 1.3-mile trail through the old forest.

The upper and lower caves are 2.5-miles and 1.3-miles long, respectively. Anil and I planned to explore the shorter, lower cave, but after I managed to trip over and almost twist my ankle just after five minutes of walking there, we decided to turn around. Our flashlights were just not strong enough to light our way through this pitch-dark cave. My advice: if you plan to explore the caves, make sure to bring powerful flashlights and an extra set of batteries. Do not forget your jacket as well, as it is pretty chilly down there. And, most importantly, don't trip and sprain your ankle :)

Mt. St. Helens:

The entrance to the lower Ape Cave:

The Trail of Two Forests: