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June 13, 2014 at 3:18 PM

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Descending popular Ape Cave near Mount St. Helens


KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Hikers descend into the lower section of Ape Cave, a 2.5-mile lava tube near Cougar, in Cowlitz County. The popular summer spot near Mount St. Helens has seen a steady uptick in visitors since mid-May, and crowds are expected on weekends. Hikers are advised to dress warmly, wear sturdy shoes and bring a headlight with extra batteries. Lanterns are available for rent at the gift shop. Ape Cave is part of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It's named after a 1950s outdoor club called the Mount St. Helens Apes, who regularly explored the lava tubes in the area, according to the Washington Trails Association.

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

A hiker inside the lower section of Ape Cave, a 2.5 mile lava tube, walks past "the meatball" rock formation overhead.

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Hikers make their way through the lower section of Ape Cave, a 2.5 mile lava tube near Mount St. Helens.

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