Mount St. Helens the day before was certainly one of the highlights of this vacation. We are determined to see the mountain again today, but not that close. And we had a different agenda for today: visit the Ape Cave, a famous lava tube just south of Mount St. Helens. Originally we planned to go all the way to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint, but given that it is a 3 hours drive from Vancouver, WA (where we stayed over night), we skipped this part and decided to spend more time at the Cave site. Totally worth it!
The way to the Ape Cave is the Lewis River Road, WA State Route 503. Following this road will inevitably bring you to Yale Lake.
Beaver Bay Park
At the east end of the lake is another camping ground, in the Beaver Bay Park. Of course it comes with a Geocache. The lake slowly transformes into the Lewis River, and the color of the water changes from blue to a bit more green. After throwing a few stones into the river, we used the place for a quick snack.
Near the Ape Cave is an incredible site, Trail of Two Forests, which shows what happens if hot lava get’s in contact with nature. Trees and roots are burned, and leave behind long holes, both horizontally and vertically. An Earthcache got us there.
The above picture shows where a root of a tree was encased by flowing lava, eventually burst into flames and was burned to ashes. Now it’s a long hole, wide enough that a human can crawl all the way to the end. The picture was taken from where the stump of the tree once was.
The above picture shows the other side of the roots. Wide enough to crawl in, but the end is closed.
From the Trail of Two Forests site to the Ape Cave site it’s only a few minutes driving up the Forest Road 8303. If you plan to go down into the Cave, bring strong lamps for everyone in your party, sturdy and good shoes, and also clothes for near freezing temperature.
The Cave is a long lava tube (almost 4 km), which can be entered at one end and near the middle. Walking is possible until almost the end, and it will take around 45 minutes from the middle entry to the lower endpoint. Discovered in the 1950 years, this cave predates the 1980 reuption of Mount St. Helens and is believed to be around 2000 years old.
Of course there is a Geocache nearby.