Oregon Caves NM
Taken upon exiting the monument.
In Crescent City, California, we took a detour from the 101 and took Highway 199 to Cave Junction, Oregon, in order to visit Oregon Caves National Monument. Not only is Oregon Caves National Monument one of only a few National Parks in Oregon, they are also very rare caves in that they are made of marble. Only 5% of the world's caves are marble, most are limestone. As is the case with the majority of the trip, I underestimated the road and the amount of time that it would take to get to the monument from Cave Junction. The 20 miles on the map were very winding and a relatively slow 20 miles, so we finally got to the Visitor Center at 1:30pm. We also did not plan for the fact that you have to schedule a tour with a ranger or that it would be a busy day at the park. The first available tour was 2:30pm. We took it. In the mean time, we stamped the passport, got a Snickers and checked out the gift shop.
When it was finally our turn to go, the ranger gave us an introduction to the caves while we were outside. This
Apparently, this is the messiest tree on earth. Meet the Madrone. Not only does it shed its bark, it drops its flowers in the spring and leaves in the fall.
included warnings, obstacles, and even a practice cave walk, which consisted of spreading our feet wide apart, putting our hands on our knees, and bending over while walking. We also got the story of the first documented discovery of the cave, by Elijah Davidson and his dog, Bruno, in 1874. Davidson and Bruno were hunting a deer, when all of sudden, Bruno took off after a bear. Davidson followed, yelling at Bruno to come back, to no avail. They chased the bear over a ridge and down the side, when the bear disappeared into a hole in the side of the mountain. Bruno, of course, followed him right on in. Davidson, concerned for the safety of his best hunting dog, considered what he was about to do, then, lighting a match, plunged in after them. Davidson crawled on his hands and knees by the light of his match, looking for Bruno. He finally got so far in that he was down to his last match, having seen neither Bruno nor the bear. Deciding to turn around, he was soon immersed in total blackness. He could, however, feel a slight breeze and hear the sound of rushing water. He slowly made
Another National Monument sign. This one was actually posted on the cave.
his way towards the water, finding it, and crawling along in the stream, which was 44 degrees, until he eventually found his way out into the sunlight. There, waiting patiently for him, was Bruno. The next day he and Bruno found and killed the bear.
Our plunge into the caves was along a nice poured concrete path, consisting of 526 steps. We followed the stream into the caves from where it exits, going maybe 30 feet in and around a corner. At this point four people opted out, not being able to handle it. The ranger then locked the gate behind us, so nobody could get in without a guide. We were designated as "bear bait," in charge of bringing up the end of our group and making sure nobody got behind us. As we walked through the caves, periodically our ranger would shut off the lights and show us how absolutely pitch black it was inside. It was a 90 minute hike, going up 90 feet from our starting point and ending 220 feet below the surface of the ground. The tour took us through huge open rooms, into little narrow walkways, and down 400 foot long tunnels,
This is the entrance that the bear took years ago, leading Davidson to discover the extensive cave network underground.
all with very unique formations.
Our tour ended at around 4pm, which gave us plenty of time to get to Bandon at a reasonable time. Unfortunately, there is no direct route from the caves to Bandon, so it meant we either went back south through California and up the Oregon coast or we go north from the caves and then cut across back to Bandon. Not wanting to retrace our steps, we opted for the north route on Interstate 5, to Highway 42, then Highway 42S (if anyone is following on a map). We rolled into Bandon at around 9pm and, luckily, found a campsite at our first stop at Bullards State Park. We would recommend this park to anyone. We had a great site, that was HUGE, with nice hikes to the lighthouse.
The next morning (08/28) we found a coffee shop on the main street in Bandon. We did some blogging for everyone and then drove around the docks, watched the waves come crashing in against the rocky Oregon coast, and found the lighthouse. We had to stop in Bandon because my parents always said that they were going to retire there. Seeing as how the
The cave's entrance. There was actually a blast of cold air that you could feel as you stood outside.
temperature was in the low 40s with wind and ocean mist, something tells me that the retirement plans may change.
The rest of Thursday was spent driving up the Oregon coast on 101. We stopped at the Sea Lion Caves, which I remembered from a childhood trip with my family. Because it's summer, the sea lions weren't in the caves, but we did get to see a few out on the cliffs, where it's warmer. There were also a few swimming around in the water. The binoculars came in really handy for this. We also got a great view of the Heceta Head Lighthouse from the caves.
The only other thing that we did on our drive up the coast, besides enjoy the view, was stop at the Tillamook Cheese factory, in Tillamook, Oregon. In addition to the ice cream (cookies and cream for me, peaches and cream and pistachio pecan for Cody), we got to try the cheese after watching the factory workers cut the cheese…literally…and package it. We got there right before it closed, so had to do a quick tour, but still fun, if you are ever in the area. We made it to our
The very first portion of the cave. This is one spot we had to do our duck walk.
next destination, where it was raining and dark. Next time, on Traveling with Cody and Nickey, learn of our adventures at a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
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