My blog about knitting, teaching, and being a mother to two energetic young boys.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oregon Caves

Our first stop after leaving our friends near Portland was the Oregon Caves National Monument. Wade & I had visited this spot after graduation in 1993 & were excited to share this national treasure with our boys.

The caves were just as awesome as we remember. The interior of the caves was around 44°F - cold enough to warrant wearing my newly knit leafling socks & wool hats. One couple opted out of the tour due to the cold - she was wearing a tank top & refused offers of coats & loaner warm gear. Oh well - live & learn.

We are really getting our money's worth from our National Parks Pass we purchased last year. The pass granted us entry (otherwise $8.50 per adult & $6.50 per child) - if you are traveling & considering visiting any of our nations fine parks, I highly recommend purchasing the pass.

The caves were created by the power of water acting upon marble. If I remember correctly, the caves were first discovered in the early 1800s. We learned that it takes approximately 1000 years for an inch of deposition on the stalagmites/stalactites. Before that fact was known, visitors to the caves would break off a piece of the formations to take home as a souvenir! It was a great lesson to the boys why we don't bring home every cool plant/rock/critter we encounter along our journey. Imagine if everyone had done that - nothing left for future visitors to experience! In one part of the cave you could see 'historic graffiti'. Visitors in the 1800s would use a pencil & write a brief note on the wall of the caves - a historic guest book if you will. Park officials tried to erase the writing with a pencil, but the writing was covered by Calcite & would not come off. Calcite is transparent in it's pure form, so provided a sort of window into visitors of the past. I'm glad this practice has ceased - although it was still pretty neat to see writing over 100 years old. We were wondering why handwriting from 'back in the day' is so neat?

The boys did very well on the 90 minute tour (the only way to have access to the cave) and the 526 steps (they counted...). Minimum height requirement is 42" - they both made it. :0) I think the height requirement is because you have to climb so many stairs. It is certainly an advantage to be short - less ducking while you're walking through the caves.
This is a creature called a "Fairy Bus" - the common name for this millipede. The name is due to the yellow spots near it's legs. The spots look like the lit windows of a bus/train as it travels in the night. A nifty fact about the Fairy Bus is it emits HCN (Hydrocyanic acid) which smells like cherries - apparently cherry trees contain this same chemical. This is a defensive mechanism for the millipede - if a bird eats it, the bird will die due to the poison. So warning coloration (the yellow spots) and the smell warn predators not to snack on the Fairy Bus.

We camped at a state campground surrounded by gorgeous trees. Tall trees mean less sunlight to permeate to the ground & resulted in a chilly morning - 34°F when we woke up! Brrrrrr - Again - the Leaflings came in handy. :0)

Next stop: Redwood National Park in California...


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