My days exploring Redwood National & State Park were rapidly coming to an end and before I knew it, it was time to start heading for home. On the way, I decided to make a short side trip (anything to put the inevitable off a little bit longer) and pay a visit to Oregon Caves National Monument.
Elijah Davidson, a hunter, is credited with first entering the caves in the Autumn of 1874 (though it is likely that the Native Americans knew of the caves existence) after he entered the caves in search of his hunting dog, Bruno, who had taken off chasing an animal.
There are a couple of different tour options to choose from when exploring Oregon Caves National Monument: a general cave tour, an off-trail cave tours (offered summers only), a candlelight cave tour (Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer), and during October, a haunted candlelight tour. Since I did have to make my way home and three of the tour options were not available (something to save for another day), I opted to take the 90 minute general cave tour (my only option if I was going to see the caves on this trip). The cave tour lasts 90 minutes, covering a half of a mile and more than 500 stairs. If visitors find themselves uncomfortable, they do have the option of leaving the cave early (approximately half way through the tour).
As you make your way through the tour led by a ranger with the National Park Service, you will see a myriad of flowstone deposits. These sheetlike deposits of calcite are formed when water flows down the wall or along the floors of caves. Stalagmites and stalactites are readily found in the cave, as are soda straws, columns (occurs when a stalagmite and a stalactite join together), draperies, and cave bacon.
As you make your way through the cave, you will come across a spot where there is a group of signatures preserved forever. The “cave graffiti” was left in 1883 by Oregon’s first state geologist Thomas Condon and a group of his students when they signed a stalagmite in pencil. Now before you get outraged at the damage that this caused, be aware that in 1883, times were way different than they are now (as if you needed to be told that) and people thought that stalagmites built up over a period of maybe a dozen years, and no more than 100 years. They didn’t know that it took millions of years of steadily dripping calcium-laden water for a stalagmite to form.
Until the next adventure…