One Big-ass Cave

One Big-ass Cave


It’s been one hot friggin’ week all around the Tacoma area, and it wasn’t any different in Sunriver, OR, where I took a few days to relax earlier this week. How did you beat the heat? Hit the water slides, the beach, grab a slushie? I decided to explore the lava river cave just outside Bend, OR. You’d think it being a lava cave, it wouldn’t be the best idea to escape the 95 degree temps, however, this mile-long cave stays a constant 42 degrees year-round. The second I hit the mouth of this baby it was already time to breakout the hooded sweatshirt.

Venturing the unknown, cold, dark cave, I wasn’t about to haul thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment with me to document the trip, and that’s where the good ‘ol point ‘n shoot came in. So, the shots aren’t anything to write home about, just something fun to look at. All of these shots are longer shots and handheld, so there have a unsteady look to them, but can give a cool effect at times.

After descending a giant stairway into the cave, darkness quickly takes over, and we are talking dark. There are no lights along the way at any point, just the light you carried with you. The ceiling of the cave was 50 feet or so high for the first half of the journey and the black rock walls soaked up the little light we had like a sponge, so if you weren’t within 10 feet of the lantern you couldn’t see a thing.

Through the 2-mile trip down and back we only saw a handful of people, so it wasn’t like you saw any other sources of light along the way. The cave starts out tall and wide, slowly tapering down and for most of the trip was about big enough to squeak a train through. Over the years, rain water and sediment gradually find it’s way into the cave, forming a sandy bottom to much of the cave floor. Infact, no one knows how far the cave really goes, as a “sand plug” blocks the very end from the years of sand getting washed into the cave.

As we continued down the cave it would fluctuate in size, sometimes just wide enough for a single person to fit though and having to duck. At one point you actually cross under highway 97, but you’d never know it as the cave is way underground.

The coolness of the cave went from refreshing to chilling after 30 minutes or so. Periodically you’d get hit by a drop of some kind of mystery liquid from above, it creeped me out, and was glad I had a hoody on. Oddly enough, we saw animal prints from time to time, and at the point I remember reading a sign at the mouth of the cave about the types of wildlife in the area. Included in that bunch were wolves and bears, great… just how I wanna go out, snagged by a bear in the darkness!

The picture below is my fav from the bunch due to the squiggly light trail of a flashlight after a six second exposure.

As we approached the end of the cave the walls and ceiling closed in on us. The picture below is of the last leg of the cave where you are completely hunched over to continue on, ultimately having to crawl if you wanted to reach the very end.

It was a fun experience and was a great break from the heat! If you want to learn a little more about the cave visit the wiki page here.