Cascade Grotto Cavers:
Garrett C., Josh F., Hester M., Rosemary M., Dave M., Jon M., Danny M., Aaron S., Mark S., Paul S., Jon W., Chris W., and Cele W.
Oregon Grotto Cavers:
Matthew F., Kim L., Chris M., Paul R., Ken S., Ruth S., Brett R., and Aletha
It all started when Aaron of the Cascade Grotto told Hester that he would lead a caving trip to Lake Cave, a lava tube near Mt. St. Helens. Hester sent out a trip announcement for January 29th over the Cascade Grotto e-mail list, not knowing that road to Lake Cave was closed due to the current volcano activity. Kim had recently been caving in the area and knew the closure situation, so when he got the e-mail he quickly sent out a response explaining the closure situation and that a Lake Cave trip might require a 2 mile walk. He also volunteered to lead an alternate trip to a few caves in the Christmas Canyon area, which has not been affected by the volcano closures. Hester accepted his offer, and the trip was on.
Over the next few weeks, more and more people signed up for the trip. In the end, about 25 cavers planned to go – some from the Cascade Grotto and some from the Oregon Grotto.
The morning of the 29th soon arrived – a wet, drizzly day. I hitched a ride with Chris and Kim and we arrived at Jack’s a few minutes before 10 a.m. We went inside the restaurant and found about 16 cavers sitting on one side of the room finishing up breakfast. Over the next few minutes a few more cavers trickled in. A total of 21 cavers showed up. We did some quick introductions, but I wasn’t confident that I would remember very many of the names. When you meet this many people at once, it’s hard to keep the names straight.
Perseverance Cave Entrance
We soon found ourselves at the parking area putting on our caving gear. After a few minutes, most everyone had their gear on, and Kim suggested that one group go ahead and start up to the caves. About 15 people headed up the trail, while the rest of us waited for the last few people to gear up. After the first group was out of hearing range, Kim commented, “I had an ulterior motive – the first group will knock all the water off the bushes.” Everyone chuckled, and we started out following the first group.
Our first stop was Scroll Canyon Caves. This group of four small caves offers a variety of lava tube features: scrolls, flow marks, breakdown, walking passage, crawlways, and today, even a bat! We stayed away from the bat once we noticed it, trying not to disturb it’s winter nap.
Perseverance Cave Entrance
When everyone had enjoyed exploring at least one of the caves, we headed on toward Christmas Canyon cave. Last January we had observed a waterfall shooting out of Christmas Canyon Cave, plunging into Christmas Canyon itself. This was the first and only time that the cave had ever been observed shooting water (that we know of), so we wanted to check on it again today to see if we might be lucky enough to see it again.
The cave was dry when we arrived. Apparently it requires a quick snow melt and a downpour in order to raise the water enough to flow out of the entrance. Several people ventured inside the cave, crawled about 120 feet, and exited through the first big tree mold. This is a very interesting cave as it is an erosional cave and is actually under the lava flow. I marked the cave on the GPS and started to follow the rest of the group toward Dogwood Cave. Winter isn’t the best time to visit Christmas Canyon Cave, and it would wait for another, dryer day.
As we walked past one of the tree mold exits of Christmas Canyon Cave, Aaron Staves appeared in the bottom. He threw his pack out and began trying to scale the tree mold as there was no rope available. “Did you see my niece in there?” Paul asked, as Aaron reached the top of the flow. “Yes, there was someone behind me,” Aaron answered. We waited a few minutes, but Paul’s niece Aletha didn’t appear.
“We shouldn’t have anyone in there alone,” Kim said. I volunteered to go into the cave and look for her while Kim stayed at the tree mold exit and Paul, Aaron, and Ken waited at the main entrance. I hurriedly put on my knee pads, gloves, and helmet and slid into the cave. A dirt floor and 3 foot high, dark passage welcomed me. I remembered from the map that this was a fairly complicated cave, with several thousand (2,344) feet of passage (mostly crawlways) – probably an easy cave to get lost in. I crawled a few yards and yelled, “Yo!” I thought I heard something, so I continued on. “Yo!” I yelled again. “What?” came the answer and I saw a light ahead of me. “Who is that?” I asked. “It’s Aletha.”
It turned out that she had just been exploring the cave, not realizing that most everyone else had headed on to the next cave. We crawled back to the main entrance and exited the cave.
While I took off my gear, someone noticed an abandoned backpack nearby. “Who’s pack is this?” I took a closer look and remembered it was Jon Mcginnis’. I had just watched him put his pack on back at Scroll Canyon Caves. So is he still in Christmas Canyon Cave, or did he decide to leave his pack here and head on to the next cave without it? Nobody knew. We agreed that Kim, Paul, Aletha, and I would head on to Dogwood Cave while Aaron and Ken waited near Christmas Canyon cave in case Jon was underground and might return to the surface and wonder where everyone was. I would soon return and let Aaron and Ken know if Jon had gone on to Dogwood Cave or not.
We arrived at Dogwood to find most of the other cavers inside. Kim went inside and soon returned with Jon. He had left his pack, thinking he would pick it up on the way back to the car. Jon and I headed back to Christmas Canyon cave, where we met Aaron and Ken, and Jon picked up his pack.
Once again, we headed up the flow to Dogwood Cave. I had brought my new high-powered flash unit with me, so I went inside to try it out with my camera. This cave would have the biggest passages of any we would visit today, so I thought it would be a good place to test the flash. It worked well, but I really need to spend a day in a cave just learning how to use it with my camera to get the best results.
Our next and final stop was Perseverance Cave. This is a recently discovered cave, and was named by Bill Holmes because of the fact that he “persevered” in convincing his partner Mark Q. to crawl in and check out the cave. Mark had thought the cave didn’t go, but Bill insisted and finally convinced him to squeeze in and take a better look, and it turned out to be a nice sized cave! It really is a little entrance, followed by about a 50 foot crawl. After this it opens up at a T intersection, with nice walking passage headed both directions. The cave soon squeezes back down to hands-and-knees and crawlways, but there are many colorful lava stalactites, stalagmites, and helictites. At one point, there are some blood red mineral deposits on the floor that make for some interesting pictures. Very cool.
After Perseverance Cave, I think most everyone was starting to get worn out. We headed back to the cars and arrived safely with everyone intact. We all had a great day of caving, even though it was hard to keep track of all the people and names. It was nice to meet and get to know some of the Cascade Grotto members. Let’s do it again sometime soon!
For pictures of this trip, please visit: