Port Angeles, Washington
July 10, 2003
I have seen a number of lava tubes in other places, so I was surprised when I actually learned a few things. Plus, Chuck was so enthusiastic it was hard not to get excited about what he was showing us. Chuck said that the lava in his cave (he owns the whole darn thing) flowed 1000 year ago for about 2 years at around 1200 degrees F. Because lava flowed through for such a long period of time, the walls are very thick (20-70 feet) and the tube is very large.
Chuck spent 9 years exploring the cave and removing 17,000 lbs of cow bones (dumped after slaughter) before starting to give tours. Recently he spent 2 years removing a pile of rocks that were placed in a vent (hole to ground level) in order to make a part of the cave into a fallout shelter. He thought the project would take a month, but he spent the 2 years working on it because he had a feeling there was more cave behind the "wall" of stone. He was right! He found another 1.5 miles of lava tube, making his about 2 miles long and the 18th largest in the world. And the new section that he uncovered was filled with a lot of unique and rare features such as gold bacteria, "chocolate" flow, lava waterfalls, lava pearls.
In addition to the tube itself, there are also numerous side rooms, one just discovered by Chuck 3 weeks before my tour.
I thought it was really interesting that the cave is exactly how is was 1000 years ago. Any pieces that fell off ceiling happened 1000 years ago, upon cooling when shrinkage cracks formed in the tube walls. Also, there were six separate flows, seen in layers in some spots of the cave.
The prices of the cave tours include all needed equipment. Please wear tennis shoes or similar footwear (no sandals) and long sleeves and pants for the adventure tour. Reservations are recommended, especially during the summer.
The walking tour is just that, a walking tour. There is no crawling or climbing. It is great for all ages. Chuck could sense my adventurous spirit, and let me crawl through a small hole to a little room. He said that if I wanted to return for the adventure tour, he would subtract the price that I just paid for the walking tour from the price of the longer tour, so make sure to ask him if you want to play some more in the cave.
From journal Heavenly Hana (Maui)