Located in central Washington, the Lake Lenore Caves are a nice place to relax and catch some awesome views. Hiking up the path from the parking lot, the trails are well defined and easy to follow. Concrete stairs lead to the top of a section of basalt, and the trails splits at that point. The easier terrain to navigate leads to the right, while also offering a more direct route to the caves. The caves are very easy to find, as the trail leads right to them. They are not extremely expansive by any means, but the caves are large enough for a group to sit and eat lunch or find a cool spot to rest for a bit. Some more challenging landscapes are off to the left, and hikers should lead with caution when walking that path. From what I understand, there are signs posted at points to show some dangerous areas that are not recommended for hiking. Another thing hikers should keep in mind is to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, as pointed out by the Washington Trails Association.
Geologically this area was formed during the last ice age, during a time of immense flooding. Torrential waters raced through the area, and ripped away chunks of basalt creating many of the ravines that can be found in Washington state. Since then, the natural process of water getting into crevices in the basalt then repeatedly freezing and warming have hollowed out the caves. The caves also bear a bit of a social history also, as natives were known to utilize them close to 5,000 years ago. It is thought the caves were seasonal shelters, in which some of the natives would live and work there gathering plants, fish, and other supplies. Spring and Summer would have been the most active, but as the seasons changed the natives would return to the permanent villages. As mentioned on the website Only in Your State, some of the native petroglyphs can still be found along the walls.
Standing on the ridgeline, visitors can catch great views of Lake Lenore below which has a bit of an interesting story as well. As explained by Heather Carr on Insteading.com the lake was once thought to be uninhabitable. It was thought the geology of the area created an alkaline ph in the water that wouldn’t support life, so the military actually used it for a dumping ground at one point in time. In 1947 the War Assets Administration had to dispose of 10 tons of metallic sodium, and they couldn’t find anyone willing to risk transporting it. So the decision was made to drop the stuff into Lake Lenore, because the reaction would destroy the sodium. Once the metallic sodium reacted with water, it would explode and release sodium hydroxide, hydrogen gas, and a lot of heat.
Here is a link to a YouTube video showing the disposal: The Disposal of Sodium, 1947
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