In my mind, of course I projected some expectation: it is July, for goodness sake, and figuring you’ll see the sun at some point in the day is a pretty safe bet. But this is my season of false platueas, and of course it was overcast and drizzly throughout task number #33visit the Ape cave and Mt. St Helens. I’ll take it on faith that the volcanic mount was there at all, because the fog was definitely keeping her chastely robbed today.

My friend Josh and I drove in my little Scion to the Ape Caves. Named by members of an outdoor group called the Mount St. Helens Apes, this cave is the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States The cliffnote skinny is that “down” there are these two underground pathways carved by lava tubes 2,000 years ago. It is wet, cool (40 degrees) and pitch black down there. The floor is sometimes flat, sometimes craggily. There is a more challenging 1.5 mile path and an easy ¾ of a mile path. Josh and I both choose the more difficult one. Prior to descending, I name my fear out loud, “I am a little afraid!” in hopes that it will some how dissipate the feeling. It doesn’t.

We start. And yep…it’s dark. Josh rented us a big lantern, but it is dark, and navigating the rocky bottom forces the light in scattered directions. I was super afraid! In fact, I kept thinking about scary movies were things eat people alive in dark. My first time in a cave, and my fears of the dark, of being out of control underground without light, gets projected onto images from stupid horror thriller flicks. Josh asks if we should turn around and do the easier one. and you know what? For the first timee in a long time, I immediately oblige. I don’t try to change my fear or overcome it or be the tough chick. I don’t try to be resilient or choose the hard way. I allow myself to “chicken out” I am a Robert Frost “road less traveled fanatic” and much of my energy is spent on doing the more complicated, messy, but exceptional thing. So this is not me, people! But …and within minutes and with just a vestigal feeling of guilt (“Weak!”) I start to enjoy myself and look up…this place is so unfamiliar! This “path more common” approach proved just fine…and fun? Why didn’t you tell me that going with the flow, with the popular route could also be so freeing?

Did I mention it was dark? So, these pictures are pretty impressive to discover. That old camera keeps on performing….

It takes us around 45 minutes total. I talk about Plato and his notion that we experience life as if seeing shadows in a cave and that the real thing out there in the real world would blow our mind away…

But the dark has its benefits as well.

It seems fitting this “easy” route is the first accomplishment.
Of course, it takes us three hours to go home…

We found this winery I was THRILLED to try out…!

Blasted! It’s Closed!
And guarded by an ewok I call “Trixie” not a friendly little lady. But that’s what you get on the road less traveled: bristles. We just had to take a few detours down country roads just to experience that less traveled terrain at least once today.
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  1. Pingback: Give it to me! « The Special K Treatment

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