Panther Creek Cave

There’s nothing quite as disconcerting as not being able to see. Think about it.

You’re a kid and you’re goofing around with your siblings on the family room floor. Your dauntless six-year-old-self is standing ground like a champ, wailing on the others with pillows that send them to the floor in a flurry of defeat. You’re invincible. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you notice a faint movement. It all happens so fast and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your older, bigger brother sneaks around your blindside and jumps on you from the couch with a big, black comforter in his hands. He knocks you over and covers you with the blanket, wrapping you up tight in it, cementing you to the ground by sitting on you in triumph. You have been bested.

Under the blanket however, things aren’t all fun and games. You open your eyes and the smile disappears from your face. It’s dark, you can’t see, you can’t move your hands, and worst of all, your brother will not get off. You’re terrified. You get hysterical. You start thrashing around like a hooked fish, but to no avail. Eventually after minutes of this, you are forced to give up and accept your fate. You’re going to die down there under the blanket, in the dark, alone, tormented by eternal carpet burn.

Ok, over dramatization, I know. But now maybe you understand my first point.


Columbia River via Highway 12

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to go caving with Puget Sound Outdoors on a weekend trip to the Panther Creek Cave. This cave is near the Oregon border, not too far from the Columbia River Gorge, and according to the Internet, it’s the world’s 34th longest lava tube. Pretty legendary, I know. To put it simply; I was stoked.

But nothing could prepare me for the experience of actually being inside the cave. Up until that day, my knowledge of caves was rather scantily-based upon Indiana Jones movies, and let me tell you, those caves are not real. Now, I know that caves are cold, clammy, wet, dark, and often very difficult to traverse, but nevertheless, the whole experience was a blast.


Walter pondering the perils of the cave

If I were to look back on the trip, I’d be able to point out many moments as favorites, but there’s one that stands out in particular. After being underground for a few hours or so, we’d decided to take a snack break. We had come from a narrower portion into a very spacious, tall chamber that caused even our Pop Tart wrappers to echo off the walls and carry along the tunnel. The 4% of me that wanted to be a geologist was doing backflips in my mind.


Galen pensively considering the philosophy of lava tubes

The best moment was yet to come, however. Eventually the banter died down and the group became silent. Then, someone spoke up saying, “Let’s turn off our headlamps”, and the group unanimously agreed. The next couple minutes were some of the most interesting minutes I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I’ve never not been able to see my hand in front of my face before. The only contact I had with the cave, and with my group, were my feet touching the rocky floor. Truly indescribable, really.


Cave babes one and all

So, in case you were curious, I would highly, highly, highly recommend checking out a cave. Whether it be through PSO or not, caving makes for some great experiences, stories, and sights… or not.

Happy trails,

Colton Born

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About Colton Born

Allo! My name is Colton Born, I'm a Freshman here at the University, and I hail from the fertile, forested, and frozen lands of Central Minnesota. I really dig nature and am a passionate outdoorsman. Whenever I'm free, you'll find me pounding a trail, cruising with my bike, slaying the pow, appreciating a tree, floating a creek... yeah, I like being outside. My content here is focused on capturing the outdoor culture at UPS as well as documenting all of the exciting ways students can get off campus and into something challenging, beautiful, and epic in the outdoors. If you have any recommendations for potential trips, or just wanna talk, feel free to email me:! Happy trails!