Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mt St Helens

We decided to rent some lanterns and explore Ape Cave in Mt St Helens. Ape Cave is essentially a lava tube formed when hot lava sank through the earth as it rolled down the mountainside, forming a tunnel as the rocks closed again over it. It's the third longest in the country.

(Here we are with our lantern. I'm looking a bit touristy here with my energy drink. Normally it's Brendan who has the energy drinks!)

We had only a few hours, so we decided to walk through the lower cave only. It's a long passageway about twice as tall and once as wide as a person in most places, so it's relatively easy to navigate. We also walked a little way up into the upper cave, to a place where the rock is actually only 8cm thick above another lava tube. The cave stays at a constant temperature of 43*F, or 6*C. Hence we have red noses.

One of the interesting features of the cave is called the Meatball - can you see why? It's a block of rock which floated on the lava 'river' until it became wedged in this narrow gap.

We also explored an area where lava had flowed around the trees in an old-growth forest. Because the trees were so large and old, it took them a long time to burn. During this time, the lava cooled, leaving tree-shaped holes in the ground.

One of the trees left a crawl-space where two tree trunks crossed. We crawled through it. It felt smaller than it probably was, since you could actually sit up in the middle. (I'm not good with small spaces, so this is an achievement for me.)

Here is Brendan in the centre of the two trunks...

and here I am....

After driving around the side of Mt St Helens (it was a long drive along a few winding roads), we discovered the road to the mountain was closed at Bear Meadows. When the mountain erupted in the 1980's, a man taking photos here managed to capture quite a lot of the spectacular first explosion on film at this spot. Then he and his friends realised just how fast the cloud of ash and rock was moving....

You can see where the eruption blew a huge hunk off the mountain on this side. The trees and vegetation are only just starting to recover.

On the plus side, Mt. St. Helens is probably the only place in the world where amphibians (e.g. frogs) are thriving, not declining, due to less predators.

Here is a bonus pretty waterfall we saw....

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