April 27, 2010

Ape Cave!

I grew up in the Willamette Valley and I had never heard of this place until last year. Currently the longest continuous lava tube in the western hemisphere (until proven otherwise), Ape Cave was first discovered by Lawrence Johnson in 1947 and was explored by a group of boy scouts called The Apes (hence the name). It was awesome.

I am kind of a martyr. When something is physically difficult and I am uncomfortable I am usually kind of into it. I don't sprint around tracks until I puke or anything, but there is something pleasant about finding your way out of a difficult spot. So Ape Cave has two portions. The first portion we explored was pleasant, flat, and populated. We went to the end. We came back to the entrance. And then I took my brother and Nathan (visiting from San Francisco) down the hole of death. It was 1.5 miles and it felt like eight. After the third enormous rock pile we had to climbed and descend, Nathan said, Okay, now I'm going insane. And I began to worry that Nathan and Laurence would kill me if things got tough. And then they actually said they would. My worries were confirmed. My headlamp was weak, my feet tired, the rocks sharp, and the darkness and the unknown, it all starts to wear on you. Even though I had done some research and was reasonably sure there was an exit at the end, I didn't know for sure. And while I was enjoying it, I was also thinking that we might not get out at all, and would end up pale bones piled up in a dark corner. Laurence fell down one of the rock piles and got wedged in between two boulders and I had to pull him out, we passed an enormous group of whining 6th grade boys, a teacher fell on Laurence (he seriously received the brunt of the trip), we clambered up the 8-foot lava fall (seriously just a huge 8-foot wall looming in the darkness) and finally Laurence told me to shut up because I kept saying we were almost there and we weren't. And I'm not going to lie, my brain was jumping to Lord of the Rings comparisons on a pretty steady basis, though I mostly kept them to myself. And finally we reached the end. It was sensory overload on the outside, our eyes were shocked by all the bright and detail and then I realized that my headlamp had a brighter setting that I had failed to use.


Ben Moral said...

Oh man, yeah -- Ape Cave is nuts. When I did it, I was going crazy and thought it was the most dangerous and stupid thing I'd ever done. Then we passed a family with two 5 year old kids. It's like "COME ON!"

Rachel Wrong said...

Right? I kept ranting about how unbelievable it was to take a class of kids through there. Death traps all over the place. What sort of parent would sign that waiver? I'm just glad we didn't have to carry my brother out of there. He had a pretty serious fall (though he managed to hold on to his flashlight).

Shiny Things and Cake said...

I will go, but only if I get to be frodo.