Monday, March 27, 2006

3/27/06 Oregon Caves National Monument

We planned Oregon Caves National Monument as one of our stops during our return trip from Seattle and Portland. Oregon Caves is not open during the winter season. More exactly, the cave tours are not open during winters, so if you visit them, it sort of defeats the purpose. Anyways, it just so happened that Oregon Caves started opening 3/25 that year, so we were out of luck visiting it earlier anyways.

I don't recall when or where was the last time I visited a cave formation, but it was somewhere in Taiwan during my adolescent years when I was growing up there. Being a newbie to national parks, I have not been to Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Cave, or Wind Cave. Therefore, this was easily the best stop of our 2006 Spring Break trip. Having bought an annual National Park pass ($40 at the time) at the onset of our road trip, this stop was definitely a steal in my mind.

So the way the story goes is that in 1874, local man Elijah Davidson and his dog Bruno were hunting a bear when the dog chased the bear into the cave. Elijah followed and went in looking for his dog. Realizing he was now totally in the dark and lost, Elijah was bright enough to follow the running water to find his way back. Word soon spread, and it later became a popular attraction for people around the area. Due to increased vandalism, the National Park Service soon took over and protected the place in order to let future generations still see the beauty and enchantment of the place.

Oregon Caves National Monument是2006春假回程的時候跑的景點。北上的時候,我們是開海岸的公路上去,所以理論北上的時候去參觀比較合理。不過,Oregon Caves冬天是關的,而且那一年剛好是3/25才開始開放參觀。因此,我們行程規劃上,在南下回程Interstate 5路上特地繞過去。事後證實,這個決定相當明智,因為Oregon Caves National Monument這一個景點停得太值得了。

Oregon Caves 位於一座古老針葉林的山上。從Caves Junction一路開過來,從起初旁邊光禿禿的,變成兩旁樹木林立,相信第一次來的許多遊客都會覺得莫名奇妙。到了visitor center,得參加ranger帶的tour才能進去,不能任意自己參觀。我們的ranger是個菜鳥ranger,才接工作三個禮拜,不過該解說的資料也算有交待。踏進洞穴之後,我才真的是嘆為觀止。沒想到一個不起眼的山上,居然裡面真的別有洞天。

距離上看鐘乳石的洞穴確實有一陣子了。而美國的那幾個最有名的洞穴的公國又還沒去過,因此看到這些景,心裡其實已經相當滿足。Oregon Caves裡面大部份除了有個步道之外,還有裝燈,因此可見度相當高。有些地方得上上下下窄窄的樓梯比較可能有點挑戰,剩下的tour其實還算簡單。裡面除了典型的soda straw,stalactite,stalagmite,以及column的結構外,公園裡還有一些奇特的構造和生態。其一,洞穴多處的壁上有磷,因此ranger將燈關掉後,磷光能讓遊客們不至於在完全的黑暗之中。其二,壁上也有許多黏液,古早的印地安人會將其刮下,做為療傷的藥。起初科學家當作荒謬之談,但經更仔細的研究,發現是某種細菌分泌出來天然的抗生素。今天市面上許多藥膏多多少少都含有這些成份呢~~~

上面這張叫Spitting Rock。原因是因為長期水一直在滴,將石頭上面刻得凹成一個碗狀。當水落下來碰到石頭時,光滑的表面會將水再從旁射出去。如果不仔細看,還會以為石頭本身在吐水~~ 本人沒辦法拍下那個畫面,因此看起來像個很普通的石頭~~

Tour的終點站,也是最美的地方之一,在上面這張,叫Paradise Lost。好幾公尺高的drapery formation,網友說像水母,也有人說像是降落傘。Ranger帶我們到這兒的時候,將全部的燈關掉,叫我們靜靜地聽著那些在滴落的水珠,並好好體會這洞穴該有的原始感覺。

Official Website:
Oregon Caves National Monument

(Oversized stamp of Oregon Caves National Monument)

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