Mother Earth’s Deep, Dark Secrets

24 10 2013

The weather was absolute crap for most of September. Or all of it. So J and I had to venture away from our normal hiking activities and get a bit more … creative.

So much rain, wind, fog, clouds, and cold nearly sent me over the edge – I was quite sick of Mother Nature’s shenanigans. Time to dig up a little dirt on the hussy and get even. That’s the mature way to handle the situation, right? I thought so, too.

J found a good secret for us to investigate, and we geared up. I donned my ninja gear: black pants, black sweat shirt, black gloves, and black beanie. (Ok, all the black was not actually intentional, but once it happened, I let it be. Ninja’s are just that sneaky, and who am I to argue with the ninjas?!) Flashlights and headlamps, water, snacks, and camera – here we go!

Off into the forest we went. It was opening weekend for deer, and massive canvas wall tents declared the presence of hunting parties all over the forest. I traded my black hat for neon orange as we parked the truck. Just in case. Not far into the trees, we found what all the gossip said we would find: a hole! And not just any hole, but an entrance. Indian Heaven Wilderness, between St Helens and Mt Adams, happens to have one of the largest collections of lava tubes in the US, if not the world!

And we were going to explore one.

Falls Creek Cave, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Preparing for my descent into the DARKNESS

We walked a little ways down a faint trail, then stopped short as we came through the trees. A large sinkhole gaped in front of us, the rocky ground sunk down with a few trees sprouted in the bottom. Moss, grass and ferns clung to the sides and – well, you can see for yourself in the image above.

A little research on the cave had told us the secret to entering: find the second collapsed “hole” and climb down. There will be a cave – scramble in. The climb down is a short one, then climb right back up to emerge into the third collapsed portion, where there is still quite a bit of ceiling…and the real entrance into the tubes. We followed these instructions and sure enough – they were right!

Falls Creek Cave entrance, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Through the first mini-cave. In we go!

Falls Creek Cave system, Indian Heaven WA

Out of the first “cave” and into the crazy-cool third collapse. Found the black entrance – time to go underground!

The ferns were my favorite. Headlamps switched on, we climbed down into the mouth of the earth.

Falls Creek Cave entrance, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Looking back at the way we came down – the last sunlight we’ll see for several hours!

In no time at all we had ventured out of the range of the few sunbeams that lit the entrance. With only the dim light of my headlamp (whose batteries I realized might need to be changed), I gazed in awe at the foreign sights around me.

The cave was much more enormous than I had imagined. The ceiling could be seen up above, but barely. Chunks of rock, hardened lava, littered the floor, making for a slow pace. The air was cool and damp and dark. So very dark.

I loved the texture of the walls as we scrambled along. Some places bore the horizontal stripes like in the shot above – from the slow scraping of the flowing lava perhaps? Other places were jagged, exposing layers beneath layers where sections had broke off. My favorite walls were the squiggly walls. Hardened lava-sicles and crazy designs – squiggles is really the best word I can think of. J’s theory is that they might have been formed by remelt – hardened rock remelted on the surface by a fresh flow. (Anyone else have any good theories?!)

lava tubes, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

WALL SQUIGGLES!

We explored on and on and on, the old lava tube winding around corners, narrowing here then widening there, changing texture, shape and size. Our world was reduced to just what we could see in the beam of our lamps, with no knowledge of where we might be, no clue how deep we might be.  At one point, we stopped, took a deep breath, and turned our headlamps off. The blackest black, the darkest dark, the most complete nothingness I’ve ever known. Scary doesn’t begin to describe my immediate reaction – frightening, heart-stopping, unbelievably terrifying – I switched my light back on before a full minute passed. I found J waving his hand in front of his face, amazed that he saw big fat nothing.

At one point, the upper half of the wall gave way to nothingness – no more wall. We climbed up and found a secondary tube – this is like a Tube of Wonders!! We continued on some more, and our new tunnel looped around to the original tunnel. We climbed down the wall to that original tunnel, crossed it, then climbed up the other side to another tunnel. This one actually petered out until it became too small for us to go any further. J got down and crawled a little ways further, but the lack of knee pads on the jagged floor had him turning back. Another day, perhaps.

The time came that we decided to make our return to the land of the living. We saw another side tunnel, but the wall would need to be scaled, possibly with ropes, and neither of us were feeling that ambitious. So we worked our way back down (or up?) the tunnel, back towards the entrance, towards our rebirth into the sunlight.

Falls Creek lava tubes, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

I see the light at the end of tunnel!!!

The rain was coming down as we emerged from the depths. A constant dripping had accompanied us throughout our underworld explorations, but we were oblivious to the weather up above. Once back at the truck, I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass reflection – wowzers! Several hours in the damp caves had done amazing things to my hair! Good thing J was more interested in recapping our adventure than noticing my ‘fro.

So we explored local lava tube caves and didn’t die. Nothing crept out of the darkness to eat us, and none of the caverns suddenly collapsed after thousands of years of … not collapsing. Therefore, I want to explore ALL OF THE CAVES!!

And TAKE THAT Mother Nature! I’ve told everybody about your secret!!

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One response

25 10 2013
Lucille Glasgow

Yipes! That even scared me! I had walked in one in Hawaii, but nothing like this. It was not dark. Mother Nature is truly diverse and wonderful. What wonders God had wrought. -Grandma

Give it to me straight -

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