Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lava Beds National Monument

I'd never heard of Lava Beds National Monument until I was studying the map a few weeks ago. It was only a wee bit off route and I wanted to go, mostly to get my passport stamped and "check it off". It was only an hour down there from Klamath Falls so we went down there this morning, turns out it was really interesting!
One of the really cool things at Lava Beds is they have tons of Lava Tube caves that you can explore on your own! They have trails through them and you can bring your own caving gear (or just a flashlight) and check them out! Most parks with caves you have to go on a Ranger tour, so this was something special.
When we arrived we were asked if we'd been in any other caves east of the Rockies and were shown a map, if we'd been in a cave in a shaded state we had to stop at the Visitor Center to be "decontaminated". White Nose Syndrome is a disease that is killing bats and it's spores travel on humans who wear the same shoes or bring the same clothing into caves. Since we'd been to Wind Cave, we had to get cleaned before we could go in the caves! Once at the visitor center we surrendered our shoes and our phones - we think those are the only things we had on today that we'd had on at Wind Cave! The ranger wiped them both down with Lysol-type wipes and returned them to us cleaner than than they'd ever been!
Once we cleaned we headed for the easiest cave, Mushpot. It's right by the visitor center and it's lighted. It was a lot like the cave tours I've done before, only it was volcanic so looked different inside. After Mushpot we drove out the cave loop to Sentinel Cave. Sentinel Cave is one of the only ones you can do as a loop. We walked the road down to Lower Sentinel Cave then walked about a 1/4 mile on a trail to the cave entrance, then walked up the cave! It was soooo cool! The path in the cave was a jumble of rocks and it was dark! No natural light at al, just the light from my headlamp! The trail was easy to follow, there weren't any branches or anything to confuse us, just a straight walk to the other side. In a few places there were steps and some railing around a big pit, but otherwise it was volcanic rocks and dark!
The cave walk didn't take long, it was probably a mile tops. So when we got done we went over to Schonchin Butte, which is the only cinder cone you can climb. It's 1.4 miles round trip. At the top you could see everything! The landscape out there is so arid and dry, lots of sagebrush, volcanic rock and dust. Beyond Lava Beds it's all farmland! It looks at bit like Kansas.
After our hike to Schonchin Butte it was time to head back to Klamath Falls so I could drive out to Crater Lake. The other night we were trying to work out the details of going to Crater Lake and I managed to get a reservation to camp 2 nights but when I went to make Mom and Dad's reservation they were full. They are staying at a casino tonight and will come in tomorrow!
It was about an hour to drive to Crater Lake and when I got here I got my site, figured out where to go to buy my boat tickets for tomorrow, and drove to the rim looking for cell phone signal to text Mom and Dad. There is not cell signal to be had, I couldn't get a connection anywhere! BUT, the lake is amazing!!!!! (Pictures in tomorrow's post!) We are planning to drive around tomorrow so I didn't spend a lot of time at the rim!
After I came back to the campground I did some cooking - made dinner and a salad to eat for lunch then next few days - that was fun because I've never really cooked in the RV! Clean up was the hardest part! After dinner I walked around the campground, continuing my quest for signal and finding none. I walked over to the camp store, where I met a family from Fairfax! She is a secretary at an FCPS High School! Small world!

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