Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lava Beds National Monument, CA…

tule lake and the lava beds

Mammoth CraterIt was a short and scenic 13 mile drive over to the north entrance of the Lava Beds National Monument from our Tulelake Fairgrounds RV Campground. Along the drive we passed farmland that had been plowed and seeded with the irrigation going full tilt. Some pastures had the beautiful spring green color of new growth. In this area they mostly grow grains, potatoes, onions, sugar beets, and alfalfa. Much of the crops are grown in refuge land and by law, no more than 25 percent of the refuge croplands can be devoted to row crops as the waste grain is used as a food source by migrating waterfowl.

Modoc Indian Medicine StaffAs we passed through farmland and entered the Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge the road turned south along the foothills where we occasionally saw bucks in velvet and does grazing along the hillsides. The hills were still covered in amber colored grasses that appeared like waves as wind blew along the slopes. Ten minutes later we entered the Lava Beds where there is usually a ten dollar fee to enter the park but we once again were able to use our America the Beautiful Pass.

This 46,000 acre park is unique in its beauty and is a popular site for spelunkers (people who like to go in caves) at all skill levels. It is another geologic wonderland as there are numerous lava tube caves, extinct volcanoes, fumaroles, cinder cones,lava flows etc. There are several nice Sharon In Sentinel Cavehikes and diversions as well as more than 20 marked caves that you can enter. Before entering a cave you must check in at the Ranger station where they will let you check out hard hats or flashlights (we opted to get some flashlights).

We walked through two of the caves to get a feel for what it is like traveling as the lava once did in the lava tubes. The first cave was Mushpot Cave which is a great beginner cave with informative interpretative placards along the way giving us a Lavaciclesbetter understanding of what we were seeing. Most fascinating were the Lavacicles on the ceiling of Mushpot Cave. Next we entered into a cave named Lower Sentinel Cave, an underground lava tube, and hiked inside for about 1/4 mile whereupon we encountered splash of daylight as we ascended out of the cave named Upper Sentinel Cave.

Golden Eagle

Hiking in the lava tubes was a first experience for both of us and one we truly Hiking to Black Craterenjoyed. We learned that for more serious spelunking there were more challenging caves available where we would have had to crawl through small holes and shimmy across the ground on our bellies… Well let’s just say we didn’t need that experience on this trip.

We did,however, take several short open air hikes throughout the park including Captain Jack's Stronghold, Mammoth Crater rim, Black Crater, Petroglyph Point and others. The examples of volcanism were everywhere here and the history of the encounters Mount Shasta from the Lava Bedswith Modoc Indians was interesting as well.

Along the trails there was the blue grey color of the sage mixed in with green of the grasses and an occasional glimpse of the snow cover peak of Mount Shasta.  The purple desert sage was in full bloom all around the park offering quite a contrast to the black basalt and reddish Rhyolites of the lava remnants. We saw many western fence lizards that were moving quickly in front Western Meadowlarkof us as we walked along the trails. The Rock Wrens were constantly buzzing as we approached their homes and we were treated to sights of other interesting birds as we spotted  Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks Hammond’s Flycatchers, Northern Harriers and we even got great sightings of two Golden Eagles.

We spent a great two days hiking around Lava Beds National Monument! But alas it was time to head northward and we drove the short 58 mile journey into Oregon where we will stay at Collier Memorial State Park for five nights.The trip as you might expect was quick and uneventful…

Editors Note: While hiking amongst the lava fields the strap of my camera snagged onto a jagged rock and stripped my camera from my clutches… as a result some of my later photos are no longer crisp as the images are somewhat bleached out. My trusty point and shoot was 4 years old and I guess ready to be replaced… after all yesterday was my birthday so I guess I will be getting a new camera soon…

21 comments:

  1. Now THAT is a great way to get a new camera for your birthday! The old, "Whoops! My camera strap got caught" trick. I usually just drop them. :-) Wonderful descriptions....will be interested to hear what kind of new camera you get!

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    1. i know what i want but will settle for so much less...

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  2. We have been in a couple of caves, but I could NEVER be a spelunker. I was always looking for bats. They make me squirm!
    Great tour. We have never visited a lava park. My imagination would have been working overtime thinking about what used to be.

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    1. my mind was going overtime standing on the brink of craters and bubble pots...

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  3. Welcome to the sunny and COLD homeland on the east side of the Cascades. We are just across the Wood River Valley from you there at Collier. Frost this morning in your area I think, so hope you are warm and cozy. I am working this week all week so I won't be able to drop in for a visit but I did want to wish you a warm welcome. It is fun reading about my home territory from someone with fresh eyes.

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    1. yes a little but we had more frost at Tulelake Ca the other day... warmed up nice today! Heck we are almost neighbors! We are heading up to Crater Lake tomorrow.

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  4. Happy Birthday! I think sighting the Golden Eagles was a wonderful present. Once again you have been a great tour guide of this geologically unique area. You even gave me courage to try a beginner's cave someday. Welcome to Oregon!

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    1. and we saw two bald eagles today... wonderful...

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  5. I have my slr in to have the sensor cleaned and I keep hoping they will say its hopeless and then I can get a new camera body. Its been almost a week and haven't heard anything so my guess they are cleaning it. I feel naked without it and the point and shoot we have is great, its just not my beloved camera. Don't you just love the song of the meadow lark?

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    1. yes and the western meadowlark does sound different than the eastern one.

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  6. Happy Birthday John. Enjoy Oregon.

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  7. Saw lots and lots of meadowlarks where in Ks, NE and SD.

    There is no end of fascinating sights to see, isn't there?

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    1. lots of meadows there... hay meadows and corn meadows and...

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  8. Happy Birthday! and enjoy the new camera when you get it. I tried a similar trick in Sedona ... the P&S fell out of an unzipped pocket when we were climbing to the top of a rock at Airport Mesa. Oooops! Mui retrieved it from all the way at the bottom only to find that except for some superficial scratches, there was no damage. I had to wait many more years before replacing that first P&S.

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  9. Welcome to Oregon and Happy Birthday to you. Collier is a great park as is the logging museum across the road. Our boys used to like that place. Have a wonderful time at Crater Lake and don't forget your jacket haha!!

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  10. Looks like a wonderful hike. Always nice to get a new camera (new toy to play with), have fun.

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  11. I seem to go through too many cameras too soon. Last August I had to replace a one year old camera due to a bad lens. Then, dropped that camera in February and had to replace it. Now the camera I have appears to have gotten some moisture between the lens. Oh well, can't live without a camera.

    Happy Birthday.

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  12. I"ve never been here so thanks for the trip and information. Looks like a very interesting place. The pictures look fine to me but it's still a great excuse for a new camera. After all it is your birthday. Hope it was a Happy One!

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