Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Trip To Oregon Caves National Monument

Last August as we set out on the first day of a month-long vacation, we drove through Grant's Pass on the way to Crescent City and the Redwood Forest. We passed the turn-off for the Oregon Caves and momentarily thought about deviating from our set course. 

Not willing to give up time in the redwoods, I suggested we come back another time and explore the Oregon Caves when we didn't have a month full of plans hanging in the balance.

So this weekend, that is exactly what we did. I made reservations to stay in the Oregon Caves Chateau back in February and have been excitedly looking forward to our trip ever since.

Unfortunately, Robert had to work and was not able to come with us. 

The drive from Portland to The Oregon Caves was about six hours, including a 45 minute stop in Grant's Pass for lunch. After our amazing weekend, I have to say the travel time was totally worth it and I would happily do the drive again to repeat our wonderful experience.

When we arrived at our destination, we still had several hours before we could check into our hotel, so we went to the Visitor's Center and paid for a tour with a ranger. You can only enter the caves with a ranger-guide and tours last 90 minutes. I don't know what I was expecting in the cave, but this was definitely not it. The picture above was taken in the "Paradise Lost" room and was definitely the most outstanding display of cave formations that we saw on the tour. But there were many other fascinating things to see.

The ranger who led our tour was super knowledgeable and explained both the history and the science of the cave. Honestly, I could go on and on about the cave. I was astounded by it's beauty and other-worldliness.

One of the members of the tour offered to take our picture as we exited the cave. It was a cold day and had actually snowed two inches overnight. The 44 F of the cave interior was actually warmer that outside. 

There were two ways to get back to the Visitor's Center from the cave exit: The long way and the short way.

We took the long way. A 45-minute hike over the top of the cave to a cliff over looking the valley. Of course our view from the top was foggy, but still beautiful. Everything was so lush and made me think that while Oregonians probably had hundreds of words to describe rain, there certainly must be thousands to describe all the shades of green.

The Chateau was old and charming and to be honest, I'm not sure if I enjoyed it even better than the cave itself. The interior was stunning with wood beams and a massive marble stone fireplace. There were plenty of vintage touches like the original stereo, an old telephone switchboard, and even hall phone boxes with the receiver on the side and big bells on the front. 

There was a 1950's diner downstairs. Not a 1950's "style" diner. This was an authentic coffee shop that hasn't changed at all since it was built (except the kitchen equipment and soda machine). The view out the window was of a waterfall, but I don't think the boys noticed it much as they sipped their delicious milkshakes. (We got two for $6.50 each and split them. Ethan wasn't able to finish his.)

Another great thing about the Chateau was the lack of wifi, television, or even cell phone service. The downstairs was warm and welcoming. There was a large fireplace we all enjoyed reading in front of for at least an hour. A pianist played at the grand piano for several hours in the evening, and Ethan and Isaac had fun playing chess in the "library."

The building was so creaky and there was a radiator in our room that hissed when it warmed up. I didn't mention this to the younger boys, but Ethan overheard the desk clerk telling us about Elizabeth, the ghost who roams the chateau. (I asked about it when we were assigned our room, and the clerk explained in hushed tones that they were not allowed to talk about it unless the guest brought it up first.) Evidently, Elizabeth can be heard walking around the Chateau, and actually stays away from the room where she jumped to her death, 310. Sometimes she knocks over milkshake glasses in the coffee shop at night.

I have to say, I definitely heard foot steps and lot of creaking, strange noises. But they were most definitely the creaking of the radiator and the foot steps of the people in the room above us. 

The next day we hiked the Big Tree Trail to see Oregon's largest Douglas fir tree. It was 1.3 miles straight uphill and I was impressed with the boys stamina. Especially Ethan and Isaac who blazed the trail, running part of the way.

I should mention that everywhere we went, the boys Junior Ranger hats always got lots of comments. Everyone was super impressed with their badges, especially the rangers who read them the oath and gave them their badges for the Oregon Caves.

We looked at the tree for about 60 seconds, then ran back down the mountain. Jonah and I did more walking that running and found Ethan and Isaac waiting for us in front of the fire in the Chateau wondering, "what took you so long."

Isaac pleaded for us to move to the Chateau permanently and for Robert to become a ranger there. He didn't want to leave and either did I. I mused with the clerk at checkout that I didn't know how I was going to tell Robert about our trip without making him feel bad for having to miss it. We had such an amazing time.

When we finally got home and had had an hour to decompress, Isaac came to me with tears in his eyes saying he wanted to move and go back to the caves.

So the trip was a huge success and we all hope to return again.


Anna said...

Wow! I want to pack up and go right now. That sounds so fabulous. I wonder how long it would take me to get there from Springville?

I-Shüan Warr said...

Your trip sounds like a dream! I will have to take my family there someday too! Great descriptions of...everything!

Have you been to Carlsbad Caverns?

Afton said...

I've never been to the Carlsbad caverns. I bet they are equally awesome. I'm all about the National Parks now. I wish I could afford to stay in all the historic lodges too.