Monday, April 1, 2013

38 x 38 - Take the Kids to the Oregon Caves

Imagine for a moment the world has been invaded by aliens. Right now, somewhere in the world, there are thousands of alien pods waiting to wake up and take over the world. Think of what those pods look like. I bet they're dark and cavernous. Barely any light breaks through but there is just enough to "showcase" dark, menacing, slimy-looking pods. I'm guessing the pods are hanging from above and there's water dripping somewhere in the background and there's some standing water on the floor. You probably imagine holding your breath so you don't disturb those aliens. It might look something like this:

or this....

And as you get up close, the pod itself might look something like this...

It's probably dark, cold, and moist, with a terrifying echo.

I'm here to tell you there's a place just like that (minus the creepy aliens).....welcome to the  Oregon Caves National Monument! Friday, my sis and I took the kids to the monument and had a great time! Let me share with you a few of the most interesting things about our tour:

The road to the monument is full of twists and turns and switchbacks. . . just look at the map of the last 3 miles of the trip! Not good if one of your kids is prone to car-sickness AND your sister drives like a racecar driver.

The scenery up to the monument is beautiful. Lots of green moss, big beautiful trees, and a few waterfalls. 

When you plan your trip, the National Park Service warns you that the tour is moderately strenuous. I wasn't 100% sure what that meant but in laymen's (aka chubby person's) terms it means that if you want to see the caves, you'll need to be able to climb over 20 flights of stairs, walk up a hill (and back down), and stoop and twist while walking. I can tell you I was breathing hard at times but there wasn't a time I thought I couldn't do it. 

You will climb up stairs that look like this:

And go back down (you could also wait for everyone else to come down but if you've made it this far, just go up the darn steps!):

And before you even get to the caves, you'll have to climb a trail that looks like this:

Walk on stairs that look like this:

and this:

and then you'll come to the entrance of the caves:

Now, another thing to MUST go on a tour with a guide if you enter the cave. It's the rules. I hate this rule. Tour guides are boring. UNLESS! you get this guy:

This guy (above) is Chas Davis and he's made me reconsider my 20-year boycott on the tour guide. Entertaining, funny, and educational. He's a master of tour guidery! I think he's a mind-reader - he knew I loved history, he knew great kids stories for the little ones, and knew exactly the most interesting scientific things. I walked away thinking I was glad I took a tour! He's been there since 1981 so chances are if you go, you could get him to (I wonder if you can request a tour guide??) As a matter of fact, he was so entertaining the kids stayed up right next to him the whole way (or maybe they were afraid they'd get lost - at any rate, they liked him). 

Here's a few things I learned from Chas - 

The Caves were declared a monument in 1909 by President Taft, who by the way was so large that he wouldn't have been able to tour the caves.

The difference between a national monument and a national park?? A national monument can be declared by a president, while a national park must be declared by congress. Who knew??

The caves were "discovered" by Elijah Davidson who was bear hunting in 1874. His dog ran off into the caves. Being a great dog-owner, he went into find him and returned 2 hours later (with his dog, yay)!
No dog here but can you imagine going in here without a way!

Some of the work done in and around the caves were done by the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1934 to 1941. The CCC was a work relief program for young men that Franklin Delano Roosevelt established in 1933. It was a time when people desperatly needed jobs to feed their families.  Of the CCC, FDR once said, "We are clearly enhancing the value of our natural resources and second, we are relieving an appreciable amount of actual distress."

The concrete walkway we are standing on could have been built by the CCC.
Back before we knew better, cave-goers would take souveniers. Look at this picture, see where one is broke off on the upper left....that's where someone broke off a piece to keep. 

Looks like a picture of the inside of something disgusting! 
Early cave-goers would also leave their mark. Look at this photo closely and you can see the writing. This was a class of geology students from University of Oregon in 1884 who signed their names. 
Eventually you will not be able to see these signatures as they're slowly being covered up by the formation

Chas told us stories that enthralled the kids. Like the story of how this "Skier" found himself upside down in a snowbank....(you'll just have to use your imagination). 

 Anyway, I really do suggest watching for Chas and hoping you get on his tour!

Oh, another random as I wrote this blog, I wanted to "link" to the official website so I went to google to search and found something creepy....this article about the velociraptor spider that was discovered at the Oregon Caves.

Now, I can honestly say, we didn't see any critters and no spiders. However! I took hundreds of pictures in the caves and hoped they would turn out. It's dark and you can't see what your taking a picture of. Today, when I went through my pictures I found this:

There's a big gnarly spider!!

Ok enough's a few more photos from our trip:

If you go, let me know how your trip was!

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