Oregon Caves National Monument

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Arriving at Oregon Caves

It was a road trip up the Redwood Highway with my two daughters, then ages 8 and 10, that inspired a side-trip to the Oregon Caves National Monument. I wanted to show them the wonders of the great trees as I had seen them in my own childhood. Many fond memories of camping trips with my family fueled my enthusiasm for this budget-friendly and eco-friendly means of travel. My father loved the trees, mountains and streams; he was an ecologist before the term was invented. But, this is about the cave. I've always been fascinated by caves and caving.

The AAA Guidebook described this destination as an interesting feature worth exploring. Since this was back in 1979, I cannot recall exactly where we spent the night, as there is no camping allowed within the boundaries of the national monument itself. I do know that we would not have stayed at "The Chateau at Oregon Caves" in nearby Cave Junction, OR. That would have been over-budget.

It was probably about 11:a.m. when we pulled in to the parking lot. Being mid-summer, it was quite warm outside. The parking lot was at the bottom of the hill from the cave and gift shop...probably about a city block long. We walked up the hill, and purchased our tickets for the cave tour, and then walked around outside, browsed the gift shop, and so forth, waiting for our group's number to be called.

Oregon Caves and Cave Junction

show route and directions
A markerOregon Caves National Monument -
Oregon Caves National Monument, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
[get directions]

Oregon Caves

B markerCave Junction, Oregon -
Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
[get directions]

The nearby town of Cave Junction

C markerGrayback Campground -
8241 Oregon 46, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
[get directions]

Grayback Campground is about a 45 minute drive from Oregon Caves (due to low-speed-limit winding mountain roads)

D markerThe Chateau at Oregon Caves -
20000 Caves Highway, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
[get directions]

The Chateau at the Oregon Caves is a rustic lodge near the caves.

Ready, Set, Tour!

As I said, it was quite warm outside, and my youngest was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. Walking up the hill had almost made me wish for shorts instead of jeans and a sweatshirt. My eldest had a sweater and long pants, or maybe shorts--I don't really recall.

I had asked the little one on leaving the car, "Do you want to bring your sweatshirt?" "Nah, I'll be fine." was her answer. Always one to travel light, and to 'run hot,' I acceded to her wishes. There was no need for flashlights, as the Ranger tour guides carry them, and the cave is wired for lighting as well, So, I had with me only my "fanny pack" with essentials.

Our number was called: "Group # so-and-so, your tour begins in 10 minutes." At this point, we moved to the gathering point at the entrance. Now, you must realize, that as you descend below the surface of the earth, the temperature drops, and keeps dropping the deeper you go. (Up to a point--when it starts getting warmer--but you have to be very much deeper than a cave tour to get that warmth.)

On an average, temperatures inside caves range from about 44 degrees Fahrenheit to about 55 degrees on the same scale. As we stood at the entrance, we could feel a chill breeze exiting the cave.

This difference in temperatures is exactly the same phenomenon that causes wind on a global scale. Since hot air rises, and cold air falls, the rising hot air will be replaced by the lower-lying cool air mass rushing in to replace the rising hot air. This is wind.

A Last-Minute "Emergency" Purchase

With barely 5 minutes left to our tour group's departure, the young one decided that yes, indeed, she was feeling chilly. Great! Too late to hike back to the car to fetch her sweatshirt. Nothing to do but rush into the gift shop and purchase a new sweatshirt for her. It was a very nice, heavy sweatshirt with hood, printed with the Oregon Caves logo.

It cost $24.00. That was a fairly inflated price for a sweatshirt back in 1979, but what could I do? I paid with travelers cheques, as I did not have enough cash. She put it on, and we hurried back out just in time to re-join our group just as the ranger was unlocking the entrance gate to the cave. Whew!

I was doing a bit of grumbling at my daughter, chiding her for refusing to take her sweatshirt from the car, etc, etc. I was overheard by another lady in the tour group, who had obviously been on the tour before. She spoke up and said, "You know, at the ranger's office, they rent jackets for 25 cents."

WHAT???!!! Well, why did no one say anything before?? Why did that lady not say something before? Naturally, the gift shop was happy to make a sale, and was not going to volunteer such information! But, why did the rangers not post a sign? I was furious.


Well, the tour started, we followed the ranger through the approximately hour-and-a-half long hike, declining to escape at the proffered "chicken exit" about 15 minutes in...and we fully enjoyed the experience.

I've got an affinity for caves and caving, and wonder if some spelunker was not in my ancestry somewhere.

The cave was discovered in about 1874 by one Elijah Davidson, whose story appears here.


You'll Never Live It Down...

We successfully completed the tour, finished our camping trip heading back down the Redwood Highway (a.k.a. U.S. Hwy 101) toward home.

As for my dear, dear daughter, who now has children of her own, she'll never live this down, (as with her grandmother's 'forever' story of the pink paint).  The Oregon Caves trip has come to be known as "The 25-cent rent-a-coat incident."

© 2010 Liz Elias

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Comments 12 comments

gwennies pen 6 years ago

It is always funnier when one looks back at an incident than when going through the frustrations of it. I just like your reference to the grandmother's 'forever' story about the 'incident'? :) Thanks for the idea of the caves, as I live in southern WA...a place to check out, and a great tip of where to rent a coat.;)

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, gwennie--

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Did you check out the "pink paint" link? I looked at it, and realized I must've written this hub while tired, and so I've fixed it so it is more clear that the reference is to another hub.

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Nice adventure and report! Thank you Ma'am!

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Thanks, Micky Dee--glad you enjoyed!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Great review and funny story!! We have lava caves about 15 miles south of our home in Central Oregon (along Highway 97). My son did the same thing - no, I'm fine - but he froze inside the caves. No gift shop there, so we saved what in today's dollars probably would have been $50! ;-)

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, steph--

Thanks for stopping by! Kids! You gotta love 'em.

Sa`ge profile image

Sa`ge 6 years ago from Barefoot Island

This was a great tour and you made it so personal. that personal touch is so what made so great. :D aloha :D

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Thank you, Sa'ge. I'm glad you enjoyed this tale. It was a fun and interesting cave tour, in spite of the rent-a-coat snafu. ;-)

LindaJM profile image

LindaJM 6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

Glad to hear you had a memorable visit to the caves! I live just south of there, in Happy Camp, California... and I used to live near you in East County (I was in Pittsburg, CA 1995-1999). I couldn't help looking at your article because I wrote one about Oregon Caves (and the Bigfoot sighting) at Squidoo. Oregon Caves is a lovely place, above ground and under. I'm following you now; I like your hubs!

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Thanks, LindaJM

Thanks for stopping by and the follow. Glad you liked this hub. I see you moved away from East County 4 years before we moved out here. We 'escaped' from SF and its cold summers. LOL ... small world, eh?

PhoenixV profile image

PhoenixV 6 years ago from USA

I really like Oregon. I had the chance to drive up the coast and it was beautiful. Great Hub!

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Thanks, PhoenixV! Glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, Oregon is very beautiful and green.

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