Monday, July 18, 2016

Spelunking is Rewarding by Paty Jager

Heading into the cave with some sunlight from the entrance
After moving to SE Oregon we had several locals ask if we’d been to Malheur Cave. We told them no and asked where it was. They gave us directions because most maps don’t show the cave and there aren’t any signs. The property is privately owned by the Masons. They only use it once a year and allow those who can find the cave permission to enter.
walking in the cave with lights

Walking through the eight foot high entrance, the first thing you smell is rodents. They live under the rocks off to the sides in the cave where daylight penetrates. As the light dims and darkness covers you like throwing a blanket over your head, the smell of rodent vanishes. Musty air fills your lungs and you fumble for the switch on your flashlight.

Why would anyone want to go into this cave? It’s large. The ceiling is 15-20 feet over your head. The walls are a good 40 feet apart. It is a large cavern with silver spidery lines on the ceiling and walls. The trail deeper into the cave is uneven and at times littered with rocks. But the reason people walk the half to three-quarters of a mile (depending on the time of year) is to see the lake. It is smooth, clear, and around 50 degrees all year round.

If you know me, after my first visit to the cave I had to research. I discovered the cave was first used by the Paiutes. Some bands wintered in the controlled climate of the cave. There is also a story that the Paiutes learned the Bannocks planned to raid them. The Bannocks outnumbered the Paiutes. Using their knowledge of the cave and its hidden water source, the Paiutes stored food, bedding, and wood in the cave and then barricaded the front with rocks. When the Bannocks arrived they couldn’t get to the Paiutes. Thinking they could wait them out, they soon gave up and went back to their territory. If you'd like to see some traditional Paiute baskets and cradleboards and learn how they are made check here.

kayaking on the lake in the cave
Because of this rock barricade it was years before a Whiteman discovered the cave.

Each time we take guest to see the cave, I come back with another idea for a story. It was my first trip to the cave that inspired a scene in my new release, Brody: Letters of Fate.

Historical western filled with steamy romance and the rawness of a growing country.

A letter from a grandfather he’s never met has Brody Yates escorted across the country to work on a ranch rather than entering prison. But his arrival in Oregon proves prison may have been the lesser of two evils. A revenge driven criminal, the high desert, and his grandfather’s beautiful ward may prove more dangerous than anything he’s faced on the New York docks.

Lilah Wells is committed to helping others: the judge who’d taken her in years ago, the neighboring children, and the ranch residents, which now includes the judge’s handsome wayward grandson. And it all gets more complicated when her heart starts ruling her actions.

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In case you were wondering about the silver spidery lines in the ceiling and walls…during my research I discovered it is called cave slime and is made from the minerals present in the dirt and rocks lining the cave.
Have you ever been in a cave?

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has garnered a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters.

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 photos by Paty Jager


Agnes Alexander said...

Interesting, but caves give me the hebbie-jebbies. I don't like being underground and don't plan to until my time on earth is up. Would make a good story, though.

Andrea Downing said...

Paty, I think I'd be heading out as soon as I knew it was owned by the Masons. they probably do one of their weirdo ceremonies down there. Creepy!