During the Central Oregon Roadtrip, KP and I headed to the Fort Rock, Oregon area. According to Bill Sullivan, there are several “mysteries” nearby, including lava tube caves, a wandering forest of Ponderosa Pines and a giant crack in the ground. I figured, we’re probably not coming this way again for a while, might as well see one of them and Derrick Cave seemed like the obvious choice.
Unfortunately, all I’d managed to do was skim the section of the book that talked about the Derrick Cave hike. I knew it was a cave formed by cooling lava that at one time had been a nuclear fallout bunker for Central Oregon. I retained a surprising amount of information, considering I’d blanked out on the warning: The shortest route [to Derrick Cave] is rough and poorly signed.
No sh*t. And whatever route we took wasn’t much better. It was probably 20 miles from Fort Rock to Derrick Cave, but it took us hours to get there. And as we’re driving through BLM ranch lands with loose cows, boulder strewn desert washout “roads” and barbwire scraps, I’m thinking… we’re going to die out here. How long before I go Donner Party on KP? 3 hours — tops. Tension was high.
I should tell you that I drive a Honda Civic with about 4 inches of clearance. We decided we made a wrong turn as we pulled up on a (garbage dump/ranch?) and had to actually backtrack several miles, but somehow made a few right turns and found an unmarked parking lot that looked about right on the gazetteer. Mind you, the BLM had put up signs back 15 miles for “Derrick Cave” when we were still on a paved, named road — but nothing at the actual parking lot.
Once we parked the car at the unmarked lot, we walked about 1/2 a mile to where the trail dead ended into a series of game trails. We didn’t see the caves until we scrambled over the rock pile perpendicular to the trail. No signs.
The cave was pretty cool — kind of two caves really. KP and I were walking down the longer one when a bunch of loud people crammed up the cave behind us. WTF? We’re in the middle of nowhere — and these people are coming up right here…?
Walking out of the caves I felt a little bit better. These jokers had some super sweet off-road vehicles, and my little civic was there first. Small victories.