In our (successful) effort to get Kim to both Las Vegas and Los Angeles on time we’ve been forced to neglect blogging for a couple of days. Now we’ll try to catch up as quickly as possible so things don’t pile up too much.
On our way from Oregon to California we took a massive detour to drop in on the Oregon Caves National Monument. The detour takes you way off I-5 and into rural districts with windy roads and not much population. And that’s before you reach the tiny town of Cave Junction. From there it’s a 30 minute drive into the wilderness along a road that gets narrower and windier until you reach a final series of twists and turns so sharp that you can’t make them unless you slow down to about 10km/h. The weather was pretty crappy – full on rain the whole way – and visibility was less than stellar. Since we were going to the caves out of season we had very little traffic to compete with. But in its place was massive rocks that were comming off the sides of the mountain! About halfway up we started encountering minor rock slides that had dumped fist and football (the English one, not the American one) sized rocks down on the road. I think they were triggered by the rain but on our way down we met a deer that ran up a slope and kicked off a fresh slide so the blame might actually be at least partly placed in the hooves of our furry long legged friends.
Arriving at the Caves themselves there was a huge parking lot with only a very few cars (again, we were going there out of season – according to the guidebook parking can be impossible and you can expect wait times of up to two hours during peak seasons) and after donning our rain coats we rushed the 500 meters by foot from the parking lot to the actual cave complex. The cost of entering the caves is $8.50 per adult – no AAA or student discounts but you can get it cheaper if you have something called an “America The Beautiful” card or something like that – and definitely worth it. We were grouped with some other people (max group size is 16) and a friendly and knowledgeable park ranger took us for a guided tour of the caves themselves.
It’s hard to explain exactly what the experience is like and unless you’ve actually been in a cave before you won’t really get a good picture from text or pictures. Kim, Anny and I have all been in caves of various sorts before and we all agreed it was a good tour, allbeit a bit on the dumbed-down end. Then again there’s a limit to how much information about topography and rock formations people can process while huddled down in a chilly cave with only artificial lighting. Rather than try to give you a description of the tour itself I’ve posted a bunch of pictures that’ll give you a general idea of what you’ll see. You can see more pictures by visiting Anny’s blog.
Things to know:
A few pointers for when you visit the Oregon Caves National Monument (I say when because if you ever have a chance, you should!):
- Dress appropriately i.e. wear a thick jacket (preferably rain resistant), solid shoes (hiking boots is recommended) and a hat and gloves if you get easily cold like me. The caves are a chilly 7 degrees celcius year round and there’s water on the floor and water dripping from the ceiling.
- The caves are paved and lit so you don’t need a flaslight. But you will be climbing uneven stairs, a steep spiral staircase and an even steeper ladder so you have to be fit for such adventures.
- You also have to be able to bend down and walk under low ceilings. I’m 1,86 (6 feet 1) and I was walking around hunched a good portion of the time. If your knees or back are bad it may be a bit of a challenge to do the cave walk.
- Bring a camera with a night function or preferably an SLR with a fast lens. The cave is artfully lit but the lighting is dim. If you take pictures with a small camera on regular flash setting your pictures will look like crap. A night setting or better yet a fast lens will give you better photos.
- Don’t under any circumstances bring a tripod. Not only will they not allow it but you’ll find it’s impossible to put it anywhere and you’ll be blocking and obstructing the other people in your group.