While Brittany was content on continuing to cruise down the coast, Nick really wanted to check out Mt. St. Helens. and Ape Cave. So, we swung south east and headed to Castle Rock, Washington.
Castle Rock hosts the Mt. St. Helens visitor center, and gives you access to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The first day we drove up to the Observatory, it was pretty smoky from the nearby fires and we could barely make out the mountain. The Observatory had a couple of movies on the eruption, and we were able to hike a bit on one of the main trails heading into Mount Margaret Backcountry. From there, we waited out the smoke for a couple of days, checking on the web cam for visibility progress and headed back on up. Our second time up, the mountain was crystal clear and was quite a sight. We took the main hiking trail again, viewing the west side of the volcano and watching the sun set. On our way back down to our campsite, we stopped over at Coldwater Lake and took the kayaks out for a quick paddle.
From there, we headed south to Cougar, Washington to see some of the effects the eruption took over on that side. During our stay, Washington finally got some rain, which proved perfect weather for cave exploration. Ape Cave has two passages, the Upper Cave and the Lower Cave, equalling about 2 miles total. The Lower Cave was a easy .75 mile, while the Upper Cave required a bit more scrambling and was about a mile and 1/2 long. The cave is actually a lava tube, formed from the lava that flowed from the 1980's eruption.
A break in the rain came and we started to drive towards Lava Canyon Falls. On the way, we got sidetracked looking for dry camping spots on some pretty rough forest service roads. Our truck ended up driving over a screw and was slowly leaking air. Luckily, we had recently watched a Wynns video (Gone with the Wynns) where they also drove over a screw, thus reminding us to grab a pack of tire plugs, and we were prepared. We quickly fixed the issue, and were back on our way.
We really enjoyed the Lava Canyon trail, and seeing the effects the eruption had on the area. Large boulders were smooth and molded, with moss, trees and water flowing through them. The day was misty and foggy, and made us feel like we were in a Jurassic Park movie ( it also may be because we had just recently watched all 4 movies). We were about halfway through the hike, when it started to pour down rain. Finding some shelter under a tree, we attempted to wait it out and then just decided to make a run for it. Little did we know that right around the corner, was a long wooden suspension bridge. Now we really did feel like we were in Jurassic Park. The bridge was super slippery and was situated right over the falls. Nicks camera was already soaked, and I was afraid of ruining my phone, so all we have are memories of us running through this wonderland. Getting back to the car, we stripped off our wet clothes and noticed that Nicks camera was tweaking out, taking pictures with no prompts. We threw the camera under the car heater, and then in some rice back at the camper, and thankfully it started to work in the morning. The next morning was stormy as well, and alas, we had to be on our way. Heading towards Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast and hoping for a break in the rain!