Getting Deep in Volcano Country – The Guler Ice Caves
The Pacific Northwest is volcano country. We’re constantly reminded of this by the presence of mountains like Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and, of course, Mount Saint Helens. Their peaks, with attendant craters, some still steaming, are always on the horizon even if the clouds sometimes hide them. However, not all the volcanic history is above ground. The mountains are full of lava tubes and many are easily accessible and ready for exploring. The Ape Caves of Mount Saint Helens are well known and there’s a National Park Service unit built around the lava tube in Central Oregon. The Guler Ice Caves, however, are much more obscure like Mount Adams, their source
Similar to the others, the Guler Ice Caves are a partially collapsed lava tube. This means there’s an interesting entrance and lots of rubble on the floor of the cave. What makes them special is that the water that leaks into the caves freezes in winter forming ice stalactites and stalagmites. Cool, huh? (See what I did there?)
The only problem with going on Black Friday (aka, #OptOutside day) is that although there’s snow above ground it hasn’t been cold enough long enough to form the ice in the caves. Instead of being cold and sparkly it was just cold and wet.
The caves are still a great place to visit. It’s free-form caving and perfect for junior speleologists. We saw a couple of bats and more spiders than I ever need to see again. <shudder> (Always take into consideration white nose syndrome if you’re visiting caves. Gear used in another cave can inadvertantly contaminate a new cave.)
The Guler Ice Caves aren’t hard to get to once you know where they are, but they’re not convenient so the site is pretty empty much of the year. The Washington State Atkisson Sno-Park (permit required) is nearby so even when the snow is heavy (and presumably the caves are full of ice) it’s accessible.
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