|The Chateau at Oregon Caves|
Pings, chimes, catchy tunes, and wonky noises – our days are filled with constant audible notifications. Vibrations from our phones, Facebook, email, and calendars alert us, interrupt concentration and prod us to do something or go somewhere. We are always in demand. There’s a cure for that.
Recently, Judy and I experienced several days of peace and quiet, time off the grid. For our annual getaway, the “birthday jaunt,” we visited Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.
This slice of tranquility sits in the Siskiyous southeast of Cave Junction at the top of a 45-minute, breath-catching, great-for-motorcycling road. As the ranger said, “It’s a commitment.” Not just a joy ride. Well, unless you’re actually on a motorcycle.
Wi-fi is not available to visitors. Cell phone service is spotty. A sign on the desk at the Chateau reads: "The worst cell phone service in the world delivers the best nature service in the world." Since we'd be using our phones for photography, we put them in Airplane mode. I even silenced mine so I wouldn’t hear the photo click.
Except when Ranger Hope Turner spoke, or someone our group asked questions, it was silent inside the cool caves, which have a constant 44 F temperature. To give us the full effect, she turned out all the lights at one point, and we were suspended in nothingness. No sound, no light. She told us about the cave insects. It was fascinating, and a bit creepy, to think of “life” going on, and thriving, in total darkness.
|Covered bridge on No Name Trail|
Judy and I did two surface hikes, the No Name and the Big Tree Loop trails. They took us through aromatic fir forests with groves of madrone, moss-covered rocks, fallen tree stumps, lacy ferns, and gurgling streams. Many folks were on the mountain, but we had the trails to ourselves. Nature’s sounds engulfed and delighted us -- the rush of the River Styx, the creeks, and the waterfalls. The birds’ calls and songs, and scampering noises of small animals on the forest floor surrounded us.
|On the Big Tree Loop Trail|
Deer families of three and four emerged at night, nibbling their way around the edges of areas that had a short time before been populated with park visitors.
In the Chateau, the spacious guest rooms have no televisions or telephones. We slept two nights under hand-made quilts and down comforters, our windows open to the fresh mountain air and the sound of the waterfall across the parking area.
We observed scenes that threw back to the early days of the 1930s when the Chateau was built. Travelers came and went or sat in period furniture in the grand lobby, reading, writing, or conversing over drinks. The sound of the baby grand piano brought back many memories as a young man played renditions of standards and show tunes during the afternoon.
|Coffee shop specialty|
Before departing we took a last walk for a short distance on the No Name Trail to capture some photos in a different light. Feeling renewed, we savored the view of the neighboring mountains and the sounds of nature that we’d been part of for our time at Oregon Caves. Then made our way down the twisty mountain road and back to civilization, our phones still silenced.
~ xoA ~