First off, let me tell you, city life has many great activities and fun events, but nothing comes close to hiking through an underground cave, made of volcanic lava! Honestly up to this moment, the most hiking I have ever done was walking up the stairs from the lobby to the 17th floor of a busy office building.
My experiences hiking through Mount St. Helens Ape Cave Lava Tube was really fun and exciting. However, before I could reach to the cave, I had to walk the trail throughout the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Walking through the forest seemed to have no end because there were no directions, or signs posted anywhere. Despite it all, the hike was very peaceful.
The path was shaded and covered with lots of trees and grass both dead and alive. Occasionally, I saw cobwebs swaying in the breeze and a trail of ants scurrying across the ground. The path was bumpy and rigid from the rocks. The formations of the stones were from the lava from the volcanoes of the Cascade Range. So pay attention to where you are walking!
Finally, I arrived at Ape Cave. Inside the volcanically formed cave was dark, wet and a spacious. There were boulders balanced on the ceiling of the cave while the smaller rocks and lava beds blanketed the ground. I wore tennis shoes on this trip but I would recommend a sturdy pair of boots instead. If you do not take my advice, you are going to have trouble balancing and climbing the many hurdles of stacked and unavoidable boulders.
The most challenging and perhaps comical part, was me, a city girl trying to come down an 8ft drop off on a rope. Luckily, the people ahead shared their cord and helped me down this slippery and slimy cliff. If they had not, I would probably still be sitting on the ledge holding a dimming flashlight, wishing that someone would turn the imaginary lights on…smile.
My final thoughts are to go with a group, take at least two flashlights, and wear thick gloves. Do not forget to lightly step on the boulders before walking entirely on it and keep small kids at home. Start from the top of the trail and work your way down! To all the visitors who grew up in a city, an island or a small town, if I can do it you can do it too!
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