South Shore's Outing to Ape Cave and White Salmon River Rafting
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- South Shore K-8
- Saturday, June 8, 2019
- Trip Types:
- Car Camping, Caving, Whitewater Rafting
- The South Shore overnight June 8th & 9th, 2019 trip is a visit to Mt St Helens and white-water rafting.
On the Saturday we will drive down to the south side of Mount St Helens and hike through an old lava tubes, which is a really cool experience and a very popular thing to do around St Helens.
First will visit the Trail of Two Forests where the kids can crawl through a cave formed by an ancient tree that was covered with lava and then burned out:
then we’ll go to the big and impressive Ape Caves (which many ICO groups have visited):
If time permits we’ll hike the Beacon Rock trail, but that will probably be too much for one day:
We'll camp at a state park near the town of White Salmon.
On Sunday morning we will go white water rafting on the White Salmon river
We'll be off the river about 1pm so we should be able to get back to Seattle by about 5pm (depending on traffic).
- We had a great weekend exploring the Ape Cave on Saturday and whitewater rafting on the White Salmon River on Sunday. It was a lot of driving, but worth it for a really fun two days.
Saturday morning, we left Seattle at 9am. It’s a long drive to the Ape Cave so about halfway there we stopped for a break at the Toutle River Rest Area near the town of Castle Rock. It was very nice by the standards of rest areas: clean, staffed by volunteers with coffee & cookies, and had a large green field next to it where the kids were able to stretch their legs and toss a frisbee around.
There are some picnic tables near the Ape Cave parking lot where we ate lunch before going to the Ape Cave. At the entrance to the Ape Cave there is a small interpretive area that was staffed with volunteer rangers who gave an introduction to the Ape Cave. The rangers also said they are open to do guided group activities at Ape Cave with advanced notice.
In the Ape Caves there are two routes you can go: the Upper Cave and the Lower Cave. The Upper Cave is the longer and more difficult route. We took the Lower Cave route which is ¾ of a mile to the turnaround point and was a good option for our group of middle school students. The cave is a big lava tube formed long ago (it has no connection to the 1980 eruption of St. Helens). The Ape Cave is really cool and totally worth visiting. It’s the kind of cave you could imagine being used in a Hollywood movie.
On the drive to our campground we passed a view point at the Cape Horn Lookout with a stunning view of the Columbia River Gorge that was worth a quick stop for photos:
We car-camped at Moss Creek Campground. It was a very nice little campground. We had reserved three campsites which was a good thing because the sites were a little small and it would have been hard to fit our whole group in just two campsites.
Dinner was tacos which works well for a big group and it is easy to accommodate everyone’s food preferences because everything is self-serve. After dinner the rest of the evening was spent around the campfire enjoying s'mores and telling ghost stories.
In the morning we woke up early and had a quick breakfast and packed up camp in a hurry so that we could get to our rafting company’s offices in White Salmon on time. Wet Planet is located north of the town of White Salmon about a half-hour drive from Moss Creek Campground.
Rafting on the White Salmon River was great. The river is very scenic and the rafting is very exciting. About halfway along the river the boats stop and there is a bridge where the river is deep and everyone who wants to can jump off the bridge, which was a lot of fun. It is a lot longer drive than going out to Leavenworth to raft the Wenatchee River, but well worth the extra driving. After the rafting we ate a quick lunch and drove back to Seattle. We got lucky on the drive and traffic was not bad. It was a great weekend!
----- Timeline -----
Saturday, June 8th
7:30am — Adults meet at Columbia City Bakery to discuss the plan for the weekend
8:30am — Meet the kids in front of South Shore School.
9:00am — Leave South Shore
11:00am — Break at Toutle River Rest Area
1:00pm — Arrive at the Ape Cave and have lunch. After lunch hike through the Ape Cave.
3:30pm — Leave Ape Cave for campground
6:30pm — Arrive Moss Creek Campground. Set up camp and make dinner. Rest of evening: Campfire, s’mores, and ghost stories.
Sunday, June 9th
6:45am — Wake up and eat breakfast
7:15am — Clean-up camp and pack up camping gear
8:15am — Leave camp for Wet Planet in While Salmon, WA to start white-water rafting.
8:30am — White-water rafting on White Salmon river with lunch at the end.
2:00pm — Load into vans to drive home.
6:30pm — Return to South Shore School.
- Normally you need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the Ape Cave trailhead, but it was National Get Outdoors Day and parking was free.
If it was not a free parking day it would have been $5 cash only if you didn't have a Forest Pass.
Don’t park at the first parking lot for the Ape Cave. That’s the overflow lot. Keep going to the main lot where the bathrooms are.
Near the Ape Cave is the Trail of Two Forests. If you have the time, this would be a good option to go to first before going to the Ape Cave:
Make sure you have a lot of flashlights and headlamps for the Ape Cave. The floor of the cave is uneven and rocky in places and you need to light your way to avoid tripping as you walk.
Bring paper road maps of Washington State (yes, they still exist and are available at any gas station). When driving to the Ape Cave and our campground at Moss Creek there were many areas where there was no cell service, so don’t count on your phones for navigation.
Firewood was $7 for one bundle at the Moss Creek Campground. One bundle was enough for a modest campfire that lasted all evening. However, if it is a cold night you’ll probably want to buy a second bundle if you want a roaring fire to warm up around.
Bring a set up jumper cables (rental vehicles are not supplied with them). Sunday morning, we had a van with a dead battery. Fortunately, we were able to borrow a set of jumper cables, but depending on where you camp you might not be so lucky.
The White Salmon River was not a free-flowing river until 2011 when its dam was removed. It is a good environmental education opportunity talking about the costs and benefits of dam removal (clean energy vs. salmon restoration). National Geographic has a video on this subject: