Morgen and I got up super duper early to drive from Klamath Falls to Cave Junction for our 11:00 tour of Oregon Caves National Monument. The drive was lovely, through mountainous forests and sweeping valleys, past farmers’ signs selling “Cron!” We ran into Moro along the way, still questing to find Chubblet, who was still nowhere to be found. She promised to meet up with us later in Crescent City once she found him!
So Morgen and I motored over to the visitor center, and the moment we arrived, we were treated to a sudden and shocking surprise: I was not allowed inside the cave because of a horrible fungus called white-nose syndrome that has killed millions of bats all across the country! Even though I always make sure I scrub myself very well after I’ve gone in a cave, the rangers said, without question: no camera bags, no animals.
That left us on the outside looking in! We wouldn’t get to see the grand Paradise Lost Room, or the Ghost Room, where an old guide would hide and jump out to scare the guests! We wouldn’t get to see where the Oregon Cavemen would host their get-togethers, dressed in furs and sporting clubs, to bring attention to these caves! Instead, we peered in through the Carbide Hole, where Elijah Davidson, in 1874, chased his dog, Bruno, who had also chased a bear. By the time Mr. Davidson got into the cave, his match went out!
As his matches ran out, one by one, Mr. Davidson found himself in deep, damp, darkness all alone, except for an invisible bear! And what happened to poor Bruno?! There was only one thing to do at this point: follow the sound of running water! So he got down into the underground stream flowing through the cave and followed the current until at last he got out and found Bruno waiting for him, unhurt and happy to see that his master had arrived!
Walter Burch opened up the caves for tourism in 1887, and twenty years later, poet Joaquin Miller visited the caves and gave them the national attention they needed for President Taft to declare the caves a national monument in 1909! A long survey and road construction followed until 1934, when the Civilian Conservation Corps started work on the rustic alpine buildings that now comprise the Oregon Caves National Historic District!
There were ladies in period attire strolling about the old Chateau and enjoying tea, but as lunchtime rolled around, we were looking for something more substantial to ease our disappointment. So, we sat down in the empty Chateau Cafe, where our quirky waiter, Seth, regaled us with stories of the Chateau and gave us some huge Italian sodas, the more genuine kind, he said, because they had ice cream! That definitely helped ease the blow!
After lunch, we headed back into Cave Junction, where Morgen bought a rug from a street vendor on the verge of dropping everything and moving to Ecuador to prospect for gold. We stopped by a bank where the teller compared her to Mandy Moore (Mandy Morgen?), and then we continued south. It was a strange feeling as we twisted and turned down the mountainous roads back into California. Only eight more landmarks remained in a grand adventure:
8: Camp Lincoln, where Company G, 2nd Regiment, Infantry, California Volunteers kept the “peace” among the miners, loggers, and native tribes of the area.
7: The Crescent City Plank and Turnpike Road, which connected the gold camps between Crescent City and Jacksonville, Oregon.
6: Brother Jonathan Cemetery, a memorial to those lost when the Pacific Mail steamer Brother Jonathan ran aground on July 30, 1865.
5: Site of the major Tolowa village of Meslteltun at Pebble Beach.
4: Pieces of the S.S. Emilio, the first American vessel sunk by a Japanese submarine off the California coast, which washed ashore here in the early 1940s.
And then the sun set over Crescent City, as off in the distance, I glimpsed what would be my final landmark, barely accessible at low tide. It was windy and cold, and I couldn’t help but wonder: what if I reach the final landmark and George is there? What if I reach the final landmark and George isn’t there?
We’ll find out tomorrow!