Seattle to Portland via Ape Cave

Seattle to Portland is not a long drive, so we planned a diversion to  Ape Cave, which is actually a lava tube under Mount Saint Helens.

It was a lovely change from the I-5 to drive through the winding two-lane road to Cougar, Washington and make our way uphill to the site.

We had lunch at a picnic table on one of the trails to the cave entrance.


The official recommendation is warm clothing and three sources of light. I carefully set out a hoodie this morning, but left it in the car when I went back for something after lunch. It is just above freezing in the cave, (6°C) and very breezy in the narrower parts of the passage. Caroline wore a sweater and still got cold. I’m glad we had all the lights we did. Our headlamps were all but useless, casting a dim glow. It might have been possible to walk by that light, but it wouldn’t have been easy. What worked best were the pair of tactical flashlights I picked up for the trip. I’d been second guessing the usefulness of such a narrow beam, but they were ideal, penetrating all the way to the next bend and revealing ceilings high overhead.

I’m calling this novel research, as parts of Bandits are set beneath a volcano. Right now, those scenes are in draft form, with the basic plot and dialog written. Walking through the lava tube gave me a much better understanding of what it would be like; it wasn’t as straight or as dry as I had imagined. I look forward to rewriting sections where I have Raven suffering from thirst. There’s water, but mostly in the form of drips; actually trying to drink the water would be frustrating. The footing varied from flat and gritty to jumbled rock. That’s perfect for my story.

Once we were done with that, we resumed our drive to Portland. When we got out of the car in the hotel, we were stunned. They’re in the middle of an extreme heat warning here, and the jeans and t-shirt that were so inadequate in the cave had us wilting in the parking lot.

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