If you’ve ever been in a cave underground, you may know that it’s not only dark, but it can be pretty cold. Before fridges came around, their year-round temperatures were extremely useful in helping to preserve food. Located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest by the
Guler Ice Caves, these lava tubes used to naturally refrigerate cheese, and now make for a one-of-a-kind adventure.
The Cheese Caves can be found down a long, dirt road near Trout Lake, by an A-frame building where the main cheese-making operation used to happen. You can enter the caves by way of the south entrance, where there's a ladder descending to a pile of debris and rocks.
Inside, the lava tube is huge. It measures nearly 2,060 feet long with a flat floor, high ceiling, and there are scattered piles of fallen rocks everywhere. It remains a relatively cold 42-degree temperature year round, so be sure to bring an extra jacket.
Towards the north end of the cave, these wooden remnants can still be seen. After it was made, workers of the Guler Cheese Company would bring cheese down here for natural refrigeration. They produced blue cheese in particular, since it was during a time around World War II when French blue cheese was no longer being imported into the U.S.
It's not a far walk from the entrance to reach the main cave area. You'll come across these steps, which lead up into the main house. They were originally wooden, but likely deteriorated over time and were eventually replaced with a metal version.
Here's a closeup of the broken down racks. They used to hold hundreds of wheels of delicious cheese, but now lie collapsed in several pieces across the cave floor.
The Guler Cheese Company aged their blue cheese here up until the 1950s. Even though the company is long gone, the wooden racks and remains that are left are a great reminder of the important history this cave once had.
Even before cheese, this cave was used to store potatoes and apples for early settlers. Nowadays, it serves as one of the most interesting sites to see in the entire Pacific Northwest! While planning your trip out here, be sure to wear sturdy shoes, bring along a headlamp or high-powered flashlight, and check out the Guler Ice Caves that are also nearby.
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