Posted by: GeekHiker | September 28, 2007

Oregon Trip Day 10: Oregon Caves and a Slower Pace

This morning started out with what I could have sworn was someone right outside our window. Standing next to some very large pipes. Whaling away on them for all he or she was worth with a big-ass pipe wrench.

Not exactly a sound that yields a restful slumber.

For thirty minutes this went on, various clangs and bangs, making it impossible to sleep in. Later we were to learn that this noise was, in fact, the sound of the Chateau’s original steam heat system warming up for the morning.

This fact, however, is of very little comfort when you’re lying in a warm bed trying to sleep in whilst on vacation.

Finally, about 6:30, the noise faded.

“You’re awake, I assume?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah” replied JaG.

Outside the window I could hear the water from the creek that comes out of the cave. It’s routed into a small trout pool just below our window and seemed to sound much louder than it had the previous night.

“Do you think it’s raining?”

“Nah.” JaG sleepily replied.

I got up, went over to the window, pulled aside the drapes.

“Er, you should take a look at this.”

JaG hopped out of her bed and came over.

Outside, it was pouring down rain. The normally smooth top of the trout pond was leaping with droplets, rain was cascading off of one of the eaves next to the window.

We headed back to our respective beds, jumping under the warm blankets.

“I’m so glad we’re not camping this morning.”

“Oh, yeah.”

I’ve never been so happy not to wake up in a tent in all my life, I swear.

An hour later, dressed, showered, and having downed a couple of Clif Bars (saving ourselves for a larger lunch later), we headed through the rain from the Chateau to the Chalet to buy tickets for the first morning’s cave tour. (NPS has a cool virtual tour here.)

The walk was about 40 feet across the road. I could handle that.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Chateau

The Chateau from the Chalet on a rainy morning

Inside, we paid for our tickets, took note of the fact that the cave, which is about 44 degrees year-round, was actually warmer than the outside temperature (42), and headed outside to meet our tour guide.

For the next two hours, we tromped through Oregon Caves, learning fascinating facts, seeing structures like this:

Day 10 - Oregon Caves

Some of the amazing structures in Oregon Caves, in a room called “Paradise Lost”

There’s quite a lot to the caves, including rocks that fluoresce when under black light, and others that glow when you hold a flashlight behind them. The tour also teaches you cool new words like flowstone, cave bacon and moonmilk.

Sometimes you’re crouched over walking through a small corridor, other times you’re in an enormous room. It’s quiet and dark and there’s dripping water everywhere, just like any good cave should be. And you wander through trying desperately not to touch anything since the oils on your hands can do damage to the rock.

In fact, they’re trying now to restore things to the way they were before the cave was discovered. Trying so hard, in fact, that the next day a group of volunteers would be coming through the cave with tweezers to pick out the lint.

Think they’re kidding? Last year they pulled out two pounds of lint!

Some things, however, can’t be restored. Such as graffiti that was done back in the late 1800’s on the flowstone: the cave has already covered it with a thin layer of new rock, so it can’t be removed.

Two hours later, we emerged from the dark into… the gray. Still drizzling a little bit, JaG and I took the long way back to the Chateau down the Cliff Trail.

Day 10 - Trail Above the Caves

Along the Cliff Trail

It was at this point that she admitted to me that she thought the cave guide was pretty cute. I would proceed to razz her about this for the remainder of the trip, especially after we found out how young the kid was. 🙂 (Don’t worry, JaG can give as good as she gets, and did so multiple times on the trip! 😀 )

Returning to the Chateau, we headed downstairs to the coffee shop for a lunch of burgers and fries. I have to say that I love the coffee shop: the low counters, simple all-American staples menu. It’s very Americana.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Chateau Coffee Shop

The Coffee Shop at the Oregon Caves Chateau

Bellies full, we headed back out into the chill for a quick hike along the No Name Trail. This trail heads down-canyon from the Chateau through the pine forests.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Trail Bridge

New bridge crossing the creek on the No Name Trail

Eventually, it reaches a small creek with a couple of tumbling waterfalls.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Trail Cascade

Cascade along the No Name Trail

The trail comes back up along the creek, affording a view of the back of the hotel, giving an idea of how big the building actually is.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Chateau Through Trees

Coming up along the No Name Trail the Chateau appears in the trees

The Chateau itself is an amazing architectural wonder, built back in 1934. With limited building area the architect, Gust Liam, built the building right across the creek in the middle of the canyon. It’s built of local materials and the siding is tree bark, giving the building a shaggy appearance that fits right into the forest.

From the entrance drive the building appears to be two stories tall, whereas from the canyon, its full six-story height reveals itself.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Chateau Back

The full height of the Oregon Caves Chateau from the trail below

Arriving back at the Chateau, we headed back to the coffee shop for, well, a mid afternoon snack. Selecting a scoop of ice cream each, the waitress “convinced” us to upgrade them to full-fledged hot fudge sundaes. She was then nice enough not to charge us for them. Gotta love it.

The rest of the day, we’d already decided, was just for relaxing, mainly in the lobby:

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Chateau View

Looking out the center picture-window in the Chateau lobby

Since our dinner reservation wasn’t until 6:30, we spent the next hour or two playing UNO. It’s a neat thing about being at a place with no TV’s, no phones, no internet: you return to simpler forms of fun.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Chateau Lobby

Getting ready to play cards at the main table

At dinner, we managed to snag a window seat, looking over the canyon as the sun set. Being my last real night “on vacation” I partook of the steak, something I almost never have. Desert, in the form of two slices of something called “chocolate thunder”, we took to-go.

In the lobby, a roaring fire was going in the fireplace. There hadn’t been one there last night: the wood building requires a sprinkler system on the roof to be run for several minutes to be run. During our stay, they were re-roofing, so they couldn’t run the sprinklers, but no one can stop the rain so, thankfully, we got a fire.

I filled out postcards while JaG read. The only other noise was the crackling of the fire in the fireplace and the creaking floors as people walked in the hallways above.

Day 10 - Oregon Caves Chateau Writing Desk

One of the writing desks in the lobby, a perfect place to fill out postcards

(I didn’t get enough photos of the Chateau, but this site has an excellent photo-tour of the building.)

When it came time for desert, Leo the amazing front desk clerk ran downstairs to the kitchen to fetch us hot water and a basketful of tea, no charge.

Just as a quick side note – I have to say the staff at the Chateau is wonderful. It’s not a very large staff, and they obviously have a family vibe between them. They’re all friendly and helpful, and it creates a wonderful homey vibe missing from the larger historical hotels.

We rounded out the evening with glasses of hard cider, playing cards with a couple from Portland who were nice enough to let us join their game.

I could get used to this…



  1. Thanks for the travelogue! The pictures with the fall colors are incredible. I decided to stay at the chateau too!

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