For breakfast we decided to try a new bakery that I spotted when we passed by it on the bus yesterday: A Slice of Eden. We walked in to find a small but interesting selection of pastries: sticky buns, little pizzas with ham and spinach that might make a good trail snack, doughnuts and some cookies. They also had bagels and breakfast sandwiches. We selected a plain bagel with veggie cream cheese and a sticky bun, and the usual coffee and tea.
Although it was a cloudy, cold (54° feels cold when you’re accustomed to 90°!) blustery morning, we were dressed for the weather and took our breakfast down to the gazebo at the waterfront. As we ate we watched the cruisers come ashore in their tenders, which look like little orange bugs scuttling back and forth in the water.
The verdict: good bagel (nice texture both inside and of the crust, good density and size—not too big), excellent veggie cream cheese with chunks of carrot, red pepper, and red onion; sticky bun: tasty, excellent nuts, a little too buttery and we both prefer a drier, firmer dough but it was still enjoyable.
After finishing and sitting to relax and watch the cruisers for a few minutes, we began walking back to our room when we noticed some tents being set up. It was an art show. The vendors were selling handmade pots, seaglass jewelry and mosaics, and photographs. Two of our favorites were a pair of women selling “alphabet photos”—they’ve taken photos of various natural objects and architectural elements that look like letters and they will create a word or name of your choosing by bringing together selected letters from their catalog; and a man selling large-format photos printed on aluminum. The colors of these were absolutely vibrant and the aluminum panels gave them an unbroken glossy sheen like a perfectly clear, clean sheet of glass.
On our way back to our room we also stopped at Morning Glory, our favorite bakery from other years that came under new ownership as of last year and seemed to have gone downhill. Unfortunately, it didn’t look much better today. We stopped by around 9:30, just an hour and a half after they opened, and they only had about 6 different items in the case (at least sticky buns were among them). We saw no sign of the danishes or croissants they used to serve. We’ll probably give them another try earlier one morning, but signs so far aren’t good.
Our search for the legendary Great Cave
Our plan for the day, now that skies were brightening, was to take an Island Explorer bus to the Precipice parking area and attempt to find at least some indication of the route to the Great Cave. Our bus driver, Stan, gave us a brief education on how the bus system works, and he was happy to drop us off at the Precipice even though it isn’t an official stop. We were soon climbing the initial large slab, taking our first few steps toward the cave.
Guided by two blog posts that describe the location of the cave, we followed the Precipice Trail through open woods until we reached the first set of rungs set into a large boulder—a spot called the “turn around” because it’s meant as a filter to weed out the people who will probably not be able to complete the hike and thus turn around at this point. (There is another way around, though; if you’re attentive to your surroundings you can find it.)
One description we had printed out indicated that the talus slope we were looking for was just a short distance beyond the turn around, and if I’d been alone I might have hiked up the wrong slope. Fortunately Rich was pretty sure he knew the talus slope we were looking for (a big, obvious one) and he was right. To reach it, though, there were more rungs that the blog owner had neglected to mention: a long handrail and right after it, a set of four “guide-rungs” embedded deeply into—nearly touching—a steeply sloping rock.
Once on the talus slope, we could see quite easily where we should keep going straight up (and I mean UP) to reach the cave and where the official Precipice Trail veers off to the right. We identified what we thought was the “opening in the trees” referred to in the blog post, and kept heading toward it. The talus slope really does funnel you into the right location if you just keep climbing steadily upward.
Almost immediately after the official trail veers right, the boulders become smaller and a bit easier to traverse. Soon we were at the edge of the woods, and I began to notice signs here and there of disturbed dirt and vegetation. We spotted a very clear dirt treadway, just a few yards long but clearly part of a trail, set perpendicularly to our path and lined with a few old logs. A great sign!!!
From this point, the old trail was easy to follow to the cave. A set of stone steps in the middle helped us up some of the steepest parts, which unfortunately in some spots have only the dirt/mud underfoot for traction and a few small trees to hold onto for balance. There’s no doubt, the trail is steep and challenging, but when the Great Cave came into view, what a payoff!
It was such a pleasure and a privilege to see this feature that’s been gone from the maps and from most human memory for decades. We are beyond grateful to the blog owners who gave us enough pieces of information to find our way here. (Thank you, J.R. and Matt!) I recorded some coordinates along the way that should help future travelers find the cave, and give them encouragement along the way that they’re in the right spot. Rich took some excellent photos (difficult to do in such a dark spot) that will also help future seekers.
As usual, the way back down was far more daunting and physically challenging than the climb up. Before we reached the top of the talus slope I was already feeling jelly legs. Still, the hardest part of the climb back down was probably dealing with the hordes of sometimes obnoxiously loud people going in the other direction.
We may have unintentionally led a young man astray as we were coming down from the cave. He kept heading up toward it, away from the official trail, and Rich had to ask “Hey, are you looking for the Great Cave?” We thought that he, too, might have seen the blog posts. His response indicated that he obviously had no idea about the cave, but once he heard about it wanted to try. He was hiking with three other good-ole-boy southern friends who were variously excited or pissed about his desire to look for the cave before returning to their intended hike. We have no idea whether he actually found the cave or his friends finished the official trail and left him there to fend for himself.
We made it back down mostly without incident, save a few scraped knees and shins and tons of weight lost through sweating, and caught the Island Explorer bus almost immediately. We were more than ready by this point to return to our room and get cleaned up for supper at Rogue Café, the new incarnation of Town Hill Bistro.
Dinner at Rogue Café
The café was fantastic. They were completely booked for the evening by the time we arrived, so I’m really glad we had gotten reservations early in the morning. We started with small baking powder biscuits that Rich has been craving for a long time (I need to learn how to make these) and soft warm white bread. For appetizers Rich had a tomato, basil and fennel soup that was awesome, and I had a cheese plate of Humboldt Fog with olive oil crackers, apricots, apples and plums, almonds, and microgreens. Then our large plates were gnocchi with mushrooms (adorable little mushrooms in small clusters!), arugula and applewood smoked bacon; and chicken makhani—thighs in an Indian spice sauce with basmati rice and a charred purple carrot. YUM! Rich said they were the best chicken thighs he’s ever had, and he makes some really excellent thighs! Both meals came with lemony green beans, too.
For dessert, I was beyond thrilled to see that Town Hill’s lavender crème brûlée is still on the menu! It’s one of my absolute favorite desserts. I was in the restroom when the server brought the dessert menus. Rich said he knew what I would be getting, and of course he was right.