On New Business

 

On New Business....

My doctor's visit today went well and I am glad to report that I have lost right at 15 pounds. The plan, two shakes a day, a snack & a sensibly fatty meal continues to pay off. But, instead of 30 days to start, I have decided to extend this initial phase to 60 days. You see, my wife has decided to join me on this journey. I think she may love bacon more than me. Not really, but maybe.

It's getting to be that time of year again, where I start looking towards the opening of the season, reconcile my bucket list for the year and compare notes with my brother and Steve. As a club, we've mulled around a few ideas too - there are always going to be caves to go back to or those that have been back-burnered for whatever reason. In the neighborhood of certainty, we are going back to Deadhorse and its neighbors, but a new plan is hatching and it's rather ambitious for us. And as a result, I am setting some an additional goal for myself to ensure we can pull it off without one of us needed to use a rescue beacon: I want to be trained in rappelling, ascending and belaying.

My Brother and I posing for the camera in Deadhorse Cave. Photo by Collin Hamilton

The Gifford Pinchot still holds secrets, and I want them all. The cones and peaks surrounded by broken jumbles of frozen lava far off the nearest trail, are sure to be no different than the rest of the field, even if they are more remote. In fact, these pristine patches of 'no man's land' can be so removed from polite society that the occasional stray mushroom hunter is said to be swallowed up by the cracks in the ground. I wonder what we will find out there...

It's been brought to my attention that some of the area we cover and terms that I use are not a part of colloquial language and as such, a primmer is needed for the casual read. So before I go into detailing any plans, we may or may not have, please read the following:

The Indian Heaven Volcanic Field, located between Mt St Helens and Mt Adams, is a true wonderland for any person enamored with pondering the whyfors of lava flows, volcanoes and plate tectonics. It's become a never ending source of awe and head scratching for me as I've looked for fun things to do with my family & friends. I've probably learned more about and become more familiar with the area than any other swath of backwoods.

In the late Pleistocene, some seven-hundred thousand years ago, series of north trending volcanic eruptions began in a low point in the bedrock between two parallel fault systems that run the course of the midsection of the Cascade Mountains. This low point, or 'syncline', would set a stage for a series of vents, cinder cones cones and flows that are responsible for the way we see much of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest today.  

While a full two million years younger that the more familiar Boring Volcanic Filed covering the Willamette Valley to the south west, Indian Heaven Volcanic Field shares may of the same features; both shot up in and filled the syncline of a fault graben after forcing their way through both the Cascades (as they existed then) and the Columbia River Basalt Group, laid down more than fifteen million years prior. As anyone who's ever scanned the horizon while eating a corn dog in Bigg's Junction can attest to, that's a lot of rock. Fueled by the subducting remnants of the Farallon Plate below the westward advancing North American Plate, the types of eruptive material and their sources are also very similar.

At least forty flows of mixed types have been teased out of and identified in the Indian Heaven Field alone. Ranging from fissure vents & cinder cones bellowing ash and scoria, to bulging shield volcanoes that oozed mafic* lakes of rock, these two volcanic system have added much to the character & rugged reputation of Oregon & Washington's wild places. Some of the features, such as Big Lava Bed, are among the youngest geologic additions to the Cascades, having ended its eruptive period only about six thousand years ago, while others are old & eroded by cycles of glaciation, and a few wear the flat top and steep sides characteristic of having erupted under such a glacier. Some vents & cones erupted only once once and others several times over thousands of years. But not all of them hide lava tubes or any caves for that matter. It's those runny, mafic lava flows born of effusive eruptions** that, in general, start the trail of a good cave hunt. And Indian Heaven is full of them. And huckleberries. I love huckleberries. 

OK, got all that? Uh huh. Moving on...

Check back in a few days!

 

*mafic lavas are those that are high in iron and magnesium, but poor in silica, making it very runny. I use this term often. It's a great 25¢ word. 

** Effusive eruptions are volcanic events characterized by steady flows of mafic lava that run away from their source like braided rivers of molten rock - because that's what they are.

*** The preceding words are a record of my personal journey and are not intended to replace or circumvent any recommend guidance provided by your health care provider. Before starting any life changing endeavor, such as a diet and/or exercise regimen, please start by having an honest conversation with your doctor. Links and references to products and services are unaffiliated - I don't make a dime from this blog. Don't be stupid - always be over prepared and never hike or cave alone. Oh and please don't ask for cave locations. Believe me, if I can find them, so can you. ***

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