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Ape Cave & Lava Canyon Suspension Bridge Hike

Meet: Gateway Transit Center, 1321 NE 99th Ave, Portland, OR
When: Oct 10, 2013
Time:  10 am
Hiking Distance:  4.7/1.1 (5.8 miles total)
Pace: slow/moderate
Difficulty:  difficult/moderate
Elevation Gain:  640/500 (1140 ft total)
Duration:  Correction:  Text today from the person who went with me last time says we left at 8am that day and got home between 4:00 and 4:30 so my estimate of 6 hours is revised to 8 to 8.5 hrs but I sure don't remember it that way but that's pretty common with me!

Bathrooms:  At both trailheads

 

I guarantee that this is a hike you will never forget!  Ape Cave is unlike almost any other hike you can imagine and has always been my most favorite of favorites.  I used to go annually but over the last few years I have had trouble finding people willing to go with me.  Now that I have discovered Meetups I hope that will change!

It is a difficult hike but not as difficult as some I've been on.  What makes it difficult is that you are having to find your way through about 11 piles of rock debris, known as "breakdowns" and you have to get over an 8 foot lava wall.  The lava wall is why I never do this hike alone.  Having 2 people makes this wall much easier, one boosts the other and the other offers a hand up.  Having 3 people makes it a cinch.

Here is a description of the cave that I found at Portlandhikers.org...

"Descend into the lava tube on two flights of stairs. Heading down the Lower Cave, you walk under 30-foot ceilings. The “railroad track” formations were created from the collapse of a small lava tube inside the larger one. The ‘Meatball’ is a blob of lava that dropped off the ceiling, floated down the running lava, and got stuck at a narrow section. Sand from the lahar that plugged the cave forms the floor at this point."

"To do the Upper Cave, go beyond the lower flight of stairs at the Lower Cave entrance. The first major feature here is a 90-foot wide ‘room.’ After this, you will cross three large rock piles or ceiling collapses, know as ‘breakdowns.’ Negotiate these carefully as not all the rocks are stable and many are sharp. Come to the first lava fall. This is a sheer eight-foot climb using footholds. There are a couple more rock piles and another lava fall. You will pass beneath the ‘skylight,’ with its walls coated with green moss and ferns waving at the opening. There are a couple more large breakdowns and another lava fall before you reach the second skylight, which has a ladder leading to the upper exit."
 
Because it is only 14 miles more to Lava Canyon, we are adding it to the trip, which has been my custom in the past. We will hike this short loop primarily because crossing the Lava Canyon Suspension Bridge is a must-have experience.  Here is a description of the bridge...

"The Lava Canyon Suspension Bridge is one of the true engineering marvels of Northwest trail construction. It's about 100 feet long and spans the Muddy River in the middle of Lava Canyon. The bridge was built in 1993, by Sahale, a firm that specializes in trail bridges and construction."

"The bridge has no stiffening members under the deck at all, so each board is free to move bound only by the two cables it hangs from. Each board sinks a couple of inches with each step, giving the bridge what some have called a "trampoline" feel."

What to bring...

Sturdy hiking shoes; you will spend a lot of time on uneven surfaces
Layers of clothing; it is always 42 degrees in the cave; day, night, summer or winter
Lights; at least 2 you REALLY don't want to be stuck in there without light
They recommend hard hats but I've never actually seen anybody with one.
Food and fluids; you aren't allowed to take foot into the cave but you will have worked up a good appetite by the time you get out.
Forest Pass; I have one.  A day pass costs $5 per vehicle if you don't have one.

What not to bring...

Watches or other items that will be scratched and ruined by the abrasive bits of lava.  I've ruined a watch and a pair of glasses in there.  Now I take neither.

Carpooling:  It is 67.8 miles from Gateway to Ape Cave and 14 from Ape Cave to Lava Canyon.  (163 miles total round trip) Looking at other meetups, I see that the suggested donation to the driver is .10 per mile.  Rounding it down to make it easier, a $15 contribution would be fair.  Trust me, this hike is worth it.  My preference will be to find someone else to ride with since my gas-hog camper van gets about 8.5 mpg on a good day.  Please use the comments section to arrange your ride or to offer a ride.

More info:

http://www.portlandhikersfieldguide.org/wiki/Ape_cave

http://www.portlandhikersfieldguide.org/wiki/Lava_Canyon_Loop_Hike

This hike is also posted in Multiple Outdoor Activities for Boomers (MOAB) so you can sign up for either one. Get on the wait list as I will adjust to 15 people between the 2 groups.

I strongly advise you to only sign up for hikes that meet your level of experience and health condition. I am an unpaid volunteer and as such assume no liability for your health and safety.

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  • Jerry G.

    Good rainy day to be in a cave.

    October 11, 2013

  • Severt L.

    Thank you everybody for providing such a memorable outing and special thanks to Pam and Luke for taking on sweep duties and being so good natured about it. Thanks to Ryan and Luke for driving (fast) and to JohnMichael for the tunes!

    October 11, 2013

  • Jerry G.

    Thanks, Severt. I just got an email from a friend about the largest noble firs in the PNW....if we can't get to bridge, maybe we could get to these firs. Here is the email: " Sorry I'm so late in getting back to you. Those huge noble firs are in the Goat Marsh Research Area not far from Ape Cave--up the road toward the Blue Lake Trailhead. I've never been there, but Darryl could tell you how to find them.
    He told me it wasn't a long hike to reach the grove."

    October 9, 2013

  • Severt L.

    Jerry, my cell phone number is[masked], please feel free to call or send a text. Luke, I don't know if I'm driving to Gateway or riding my bicycle but I'm pretty easy to recognize because I have long white hair. Don't worry, lots of people will be asking each other "are you here for the meetup" so as long as you on 99th either inside or outside the Tri-met parking structure, you will be found. If not, just call the number above! :) Generally, I have found that pre-arranging the carpooling never works but I've never seen it not work out where everybody gets to go.

    October 9, 2013

    • Jerry G.

      Thanks, Severt. I just got an email from a friend about the largest noble firs in the PNW....if we can't get to bridge, maybe we could get to these firs. Here is the email: " Sorry I'm so late in getting back to you. Those huge noble firs are in the Goat Marsh Research Area not far from Ape Cave--up the road toward the Blue Lake Trailhead. I've never been there, but Darryl could tell you how to find them.
      He told me it wasn't a long hike to reach the grove."

      October 9, 2013

  • Luke Y.

    What kind of car will you be in Severt? How will I know who is who? I drive a dark blue scion xB. Also, no has taken me up on a ride. Would it be possible to ride with someone else. The long drive will be more fun with people to talk to :)

    October 9, 2013

    • Severt L.

      After re-reading your message I see that you are a potential driver, not the person needing a ride. Got it! We will make sure that you have at least 1 person to ride with you, even if it is me!

      October 9, 2013

  • Jerry G.

    Severt -

    I don't think you've given out your cell phone. Would you be willing to do that? In case someone has a flat, gets stuck in bizarre traffic or for some reason needs to call you on the way to
    Gateway? Thanks!

    October 9, 2013

  • Gene M.

    I was excited about this hike, but I will have to wait for Severt's next spelunking excursion.
    I hope everybody has a great time, Gene

    October 8, 2013

  • Luke Y.

    Ok. So this time I will show up on time :) Stoked for this hike!

    October 7, 2013

    • Luke Y.

      Also, if anyone needs a ride, my vehicle has room.

      October 7, 2013

  • Severt L.

    Hey Jerry, glad to see you were able to get off the waitlist. The lady that drove us got there in 90 minutes but even with that, you are right, if I'd done the math that would still have only left 3 hrs for both the cave and the suspension bridge. Leave time is still 10 am. I have obligations in the mornings and can't leave the house until 9am.

    September 25, 2013

  • Jerry G.

    Are we still leaving at 10 or is it earlier now that you figured out it was an 8 hr+ trip? BTW, I agree; I wondered how one could have done it in 6 hours as the drive alone is more than 2 each way.

    September 25, 2013

  • Jim H.

    Really glad to hear you say you will schedule more Ape Cave hikes. Really wanted to go and registered immediately. Went to put it on my calendar and - oops - first day of wife's jury duty. One of us always has to be home on Tuesdays and Thurdays so I just gave back my spot. Please do schedule this outing again. Thanks

    September 25, 2013

    • Severt L.

      I'm guessing once a month as long as people are still interested.

      September 25, 2013

  • Severt L.

    For anybody who gets stuck on the waiting list and is unable to get unstuck, I wanted you to know that I will probably schedule this event once a month as long as the roads don't snow us out. I had no idea it would be a popular event or I wouldn't have double posted it with MOAB.

    September 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Always interested in hike I can include my dogs on... They've done up to 17 miles in a day on Mt Hood as well as backpacking Goat Rocks in the Cascades. I could never leave them behind.

    September 23, 2013

    • Severt L.

      That counts out Ape Cave because they allow no animals inside at all. You aren't the only person who has inquired about bringing dogs on the hikes so I'll make sure we get a dog friendly hike or two scheduled in the near future. Are you a member of the Portland Hiking Meetup Group? I saw they have a dog friendly hike scheduled for Friday.

      September 23, 2013

  • Kris

    I'd love to do this but need a weekend slot for the distance time and travel.

    September 19, 2013

  • Severt L.

    Please note the correction on projected duration. If the person I hiked this with is correct, then we won't be back to Gateway until 6-6:30pm. It still seems that I remember us getting back in 6 hrs rather than 8 but it's better to err on the safe side. Someone had mentioned to me just the other day that they needed to be back home by 4:30 or 5p so hopefully they catch this change

    September 19, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Even after doing both of these just last weekend, I'd love to go again. Thursday, however, is a no-go for me. Enjoy!

    September 19, 2013

  • Severt L.

    10 people have signed up for the hike in the other group that I posted this with so we are up to 13 attending. I'll need to reduce the cap here or we will end up with too large of a group. I'm thinking 15 is the largest manageable group and maybe an extra 2 for the inevitable no-shows.

    September 18, 2013

    • Ryan

      Yeah, sounds about normal.

      September 18, 2013

  • Ryan

    I can drive. My truck plays rock music after 1960.

    September 18, 2013

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