May 10, 2014

Lava Beds National Monument

In the extreme northern part of CA is a very interesting national monument.  Thename implies something more along the lines of the El Malpais  lava beds of NM, so I almost blew past this spectacular spot.  I got into the Park late one evening to find a very crowded campground. In fact, I got the last space, good thing I was in the truck camper - I don't believe our 21ft trailer would have fit with room for the truck also.  There was a bus-load of college kids there with their geology teacher doing a field trip.

So, what I thought was going to be just another rumble through lava beds turned out to be a totally different experience.  Yes many, many lava tube caves!  About 20 of which are open to the public.

The first "recommended" cave was the Mushpot, because it is the only one that is lighted.  Yes, that's right all the rest you're own your own and you'd better have at least two sources of light.  It's pitch black in there once you get a few tens of yards from any opening.  So, can you tell why it's named Mushpot by looking at
the formation at the entrance to the cave.

It was nice to have the first one lighted, to give one a feel for what's to come, although the rest were "rough" paths, no nice smooth trails.

Coming out of Mushpot, I was shocked that it was snowing fairly heavily.  I had walked the mile up from the campground and did bring a wind breaker.  Right outside on the path was a big hunk of local obsidian.

By the time I walked another half mile to the entrance of the next cave the snow was starting to build up a bit.  But nice to be in the caves where it was much warmer, and protection from the wet snow.

This one was recommended because you enter one end, go about 3/4mile underground, then pop out at the "Upper Entrance",

The trip through got pretty tight in places, many you have to duck down pretty far, but none where so low as to force a crawl.  Interestingly in the four caves I did, I never saw another person.  I did cut my headlight off a couple of times, pretty spooky in there, plenty black.  It would be impossible to crawl out, some of the "holes" were down rather than ahead!

The exit point is marked by an opening to the light and a lava arch.

The most interesting cave was this one, named for the golden color of the growths on the ceilings.

The entry was very steep and tight.  You have to duck your head way down while descending the ladder. 

There were a couple of fellows coming out as I went in, we exchanged pictures.

As I got farther in, the golden color became more apparent.  Pretty neat place.