TBT – Lenore Lake Caves August 2013

Just a quick little TBT to what we were doing around this time of year in 2013.

Our family had gone on our yearly camping trip with my daughter’s preschool class. This time we stayed at Sun Lakes in Eastern Washington. Gorgeous lake (okay, technically a river), lovely weather, scenic drive, and a cool trip to the laser show at the Grand Coulee Dam.

That scenic drive, though. Highway 17 curves along a series of strange, shallow, mineral-rich lakes that connect to the Columbia river. Rising up on each side is the stunning Columbia plateau into which the Lenore Lake caves are set.

Scenic Hwy 17

On our way to the campground we saw signs for the caves and knew we had to make a stop at them on the drive back. Who doesn’t like a good roadside attraction that might be full of bats and snakes?!

The caves turned out to be a worthwhile pit stop, though lacking in any (visible) creepy creatures. A 1.5 mile hike runs up and along the edge of a crumbling rock cliff which has a number of shallow caves tucked into it. Before we started off on our climb we read a quick history of the area, which said that the caves were at one time used as shelter by native tribes during their summer food gathering expeditions – soot is even left behind on some of the cave ceilings from their fires.

Lenore Lake Caves

Lake Lenore Caves

The basalt outcroppings were incredibly cool. The way the rocks crack apart into huge, angular pieces creates a landscape we don’t get to see in the western part of our state. We found it a great opportunity to talk about geology to an interested 5 year old!

Honestly, the rocks themselves were really the highlight of the hike for us. Inside the caves they were clean and piled high – they must fall off the ceilings every winter when the ice that forms in the cracks expands. Along the trail they were weathered in different ways by wind and water and in some spots were covered by colorful lichen.

Lenore Lake Caves

Lenore Lake Caves

We were so glad we took the extra two hours on our way home to really explore this little gem of a hike (as an added bonus the extra exercise meant the kiddo slept the entire drive home)! If we’re planning on passing by this way on a future trip we’d definitely schedule a little time for some leg stretching here again.

Areas visited: Lenore Lake Caves

Species observed: Pet rocks, mostly.

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