Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our First Spelunking Adventure Together!

It was hot as hell (ok, it was like 90 degrees) this weekend and very few homes in Bend have air conditioning, since they were apparently all built before climate change started. I suggested to Mike that we spend a few hours in the movie theater, but anyone who knows Mike, knows he hates movies. So we went caving instead!

The Lava River Cave is located just 15 minutes south of Bend, and it's a 1.5 mile long "tube" cave that lava used to flow through. In case you didn't know, this whole area of Oregon lies on the infamous "Ring of Fire". The mountains that surround us, including Mt. Bachelor, are actually extinct or dormant volcanoes, and the ground here is pretty rocky and rough (and therefore, not awesome for growing things or building basements). But, we have awesome skiing/snowboarding and a cave to explore!


The entrance to the cave looked like something out of Batman. We didn't see any bats in the cave, but it was pitch black in there. It's unlikely there would be a lot, anyway, since tourists are filing in and out of the cave on a consistent basis. They do make sure you're wearing gear that you have not worn into any other cave, to avoid contributing to the spread of white nose syndrome.

The really cool thing about the cave, is that it's a consistent 40-46 degrees, year round! Therefore it's pretty much bug free and it was the perfect place to spend a hot afternoon. 

This particular cave was discovered in 1889, and the local hunter/trapper that found it, used it as a refrigerator for his venison. Clever dude.

We rented a $4.00 flashlight and using that and our flashlight phone apps, we proceeded down into the depths of the earth (forgetting that on the way back up, it would be entirely uphill...yuck). 




This is what you see if you walk with your light off. That's Mike on the right,
shining a light on a silty cave puddle.

Historic picture of the cave - no photographer listed.

The wire connecting those pillars (on the left in the picture above) is the emergency alert. I'm not quite sure how it works, but it only extended halfway down the cave. I guess if you're heading to the end, you're on your own!

We discovered that it's alternatingly awesome and creepy being in a cave. Being from Los Angeles, it's hard not to think about earthquakes and the thousands of tons of earth above you, squashing you flat. Even though earthquakes aren't common in this part of the world, it's still a little unnerving being below ground. Some of the parts of the cave had soaring ceilings (like the pic above), and then some parts made you feel claustrophobic:

Mike is actually crouched down in this picture, so you can imagine
how low the ceiling was for this stretch of the cave!

Geology buffs would find this cave fascinating, as it has sand gardens - sand enters the cave through water droplets, piles up, and over hundreds of years, it makes little weird sand castles. It's cordoned off so people don't trample on them. Unfortunately there's not even pictures of this online, because it's so hard to take pics inside a pitch black cave. Guess you'll have to visit us and come see them for yourself! I did manage to get a good pic of the sides of the cave, which are hardened basalt. Basalt cools into totally awesome shapes due to it's molecular structure.

the ridged walls of the Lava River Cave

Throwback to another basalt formation we've seen - Devil's Postpile, circa 2012.
Thanks to John Gallegos for taking this pic of me!

When we weren't worrying about being buried alive, we did have some fun during our cave exploration.

shadow portrait of Mike

We made it to the end and back - it took about 1 hour or so. Most people don't make it to the end, either because it's difficult to walk on the uneven cave surface, or because they weren't prepared and wearing flip flops and shorts. So the entrance of the cave is crowded with people turning back. The middle and end of the cave, however, is pretty sparsely populated, and you'll find long stretches where you're completely alone and it's super dark. Plus, your phone doesn't work underground. It's a good experiment at being alone with your thoughts. We're definitely down for another spelunking adventure in the future!

entrance to the cave and all the other cave visitors (left)

At the mouth of the cave, after completing our first underground hike!