After visiting the Ape Caves we ate our lunch in the car before heading out to see more of what the Mount St. Helens region had to offer. Almost immediately next to the Ape Caves is a very short trail that is less of a trail and more of a quarter mile boardwalk loop through a small section of the forest.
Had it been just Laura and I, we would have gladly taken on some of the more challenging hikes. As it was, with three small kids, our options were limited, which was fine. This hike, named the Trail of Two Forests, was a short excursion that demonstrated how lava has affected the forest.
On display is a bunch of old growth, as well as new growth, but what is impressive is how the lava affected the landscape. It’s a beautiful area, and if you look closely you can see holes in the ground. Many of these are created by lava burning up trees or other vegetation and cooling down then creating an unstable platform for other growth. Along the path there are some signs that give information on the area and the natural formations we are seeing.
The highlight, however, was crawling through a tube that was cast by lava burning up fallen trees. The area is littered with small holes and pockets, but where a couple of large trees had fallen and were covered, perhaps by mudslides, the lava then later flowed in and burned the wood. The process turned the wall into stone leaving a chute large enough to crawl through.
August and I decided that this was something we absolutely had to do. I really wish we had a flashlight, because even though it was only 50 feet long and just a few feet under ground with a clear entrance and exit, it was dark and less than halfway through I was lost. Well, I would have been lost had there been more than one way to go. I wound up using the flash on my camera to see where I was going, as well as keep tabs on August.
Déla had no interest in going into the crawlspace, so she went with Laura and Ciaran around the corner to where the exit to the crawl was located. August managed to climb out quickly with no problems, but as a larger guy (just over 6 foot tall and a small weight problem) and a lack of coordination, I wasn’t maneuvering as easily as my 6 year old son. As I approached the exit, I heard my daughter yelling “Are you alright down there?!”
I was having trouble getting out of the crawl and onto the ladder, and it turns out we had gone through backwards. What I thought was the entrance was actually the exit. This makes much more sense, as entering the crawl via the ladder would have been much easier. Oh well. August and I had fun going through, and we all enjoyed looking at the landscape.