Day 18: Oregon Caves National Monument

We crossed the border into Oregon today, making this the 47th state I’ve visited. I was (and continue to be) worried that I waited so long to come here. I’ve only heard great things about the whole state and actually fear falling in love with it more that Colorado.

Just after we crossed the border we stumbled upon a roadside coffee stand and ordered lattes to go. Now that’s the way to start a visit in a state. Our plans today had completely been altered by the high-enough potential car burglaries and thefts and we hadn’t planned on being here this soon. With an extra day to kill, we decided to head to Oregon Caves NM. It had been on Zak’s wish list, but there wasn’t going to be enough time actually stop. Sounds crazy that we can’t fit everything in with almost 8 weeks on the road, but there is just so much this country has to offer.

When Zak mentioned the caves, my heart sunk a bit. I don’t like caves. I’ve been to a lot of caves and, although they’re natural marvels, I much prefer being above ground. Plus I think they are all so similar that I don’t really get anything new out of visiting different ones. When we pulled up I asked the ranger about the hiking trails and she gave me a few suggestions. That was it. I was sold. I opted out of the cave tour and did a hike on my own.

It was so strange being by myself on the trail. Strangely beautiful. Before I began I made sure I had a can of bear spray on my belt loop, 3 liters of water, lots of food, maps, and a first aid kit. I left the chalet (yes, this park has a chalet…and it’s gorgeous) and headed up a trailhead. Up is the best word to describe it. I knew there would be a bit of elevation gain, but I didn’t think it would all be in the first quarter mile. After some switchbacks, the trial leveled out a bit and there was a sign saying I was not at all on the trial I thought I was on. Oye. I used my mad map skillz to figure out exactly where I was, where I wanted to go, and what direction to head. I added about a mile to the hike and a few hundred feet in elevation gain, but I was able to go to an overlook that provided a view of mountains in the distance, perfect blue skies with fluffly clouds, and forest down the whole mountain. It was beautiful.

I found the right trail before long and kept on trecking upward. Hiking alone allowed me to really focus on what was going on around me. The birds were so noisily chirping and there were butterflies all around me. The breeze would rustle some leaves and I’d take note, making sure there wasn’t a bear nearby. The smells were so “naturey,” sweet and piney with whiffs of floral from the wildflowers that lay as carpet. For the first time on any hike, I felt I like I was in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Only so much less glamourous.

Eventually the trail started decenting and I knew I was making good time at the halfway mark. The name of the trail was “Big Tree Trail” and I came across a tree that seemed pretty large and was fenced in a bit. Turns out it is the biggest tree in Oregon by girth. I didn’t know there was more than one thing that’s girth is measured. I took some selfies with the tree and continued my way back toward the chalet. There was plenty of time before Zak and the girls would be done with their cave tour, so I took a little spur and found some Pacifc Manzanita trees. There were so neat, their bark sheds, revealing a pink trunk. I haven’t ever seen anything like them.

I ended the hike well before the cave tour returned to the chalet, so I didn’t have to worry them about where I was at all. I hiked 4.56 miles in an hour and a half with an elevation gain of 1,374 feet. I’m really proud of myself. Although, I would always much prefer hiking as a family, this was a great opportunity. And I didn’t have to learn about any cave formations.

We left the monument and hit two breweries, Wild River and The Haul. Dinner was the last (and this time I mean it) In-N-Out of the trip. Oregon is off to a great start and I am really excited to see what else it has to offer.

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2 thoughts on “Day 18: Oregon Caves National Monument

  1. Are those elk??? I love how you are on a trip where a herd of elk isn’t even remarkable in your post!

    1. Yes!! And they were just meandering around the entrance ramp to a highway. I was all, “Get away from the road, you elk!!! There have got to be better places to hang out!!!” They didn’t seem to care though.

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