Mountains, lava flows, caves and lakes
This is a great view…I would love to walk to work and see this as Ranger Craig does everyday on his way up the path to Schonchin Butte Fire Outlook, it is a good walk as well, 500 feet up and several switchbacks, something tells me the ranger doesn’t need to go work out in the evenings. He is the fire scout and his wife, Wendy, a park ranger as well, tells me he only gets paid if they spot a fire, other than that it is voluntary…my faith in humanity went up a bit that day:) Mt. Shasta by the way, from the NE side where there is still snow, the southern slopes are almost bare.
We left Likely, California and headed East to the South Warner Wilderness Area to Mill Creek Campground hoping the one spot we could fit Moaning Myrtle (our 35 foot trailer) into was available..we gambled and lost, only other trailer there…a friggin’ pop-up was in that spot..sigh..out of the 10 spots he took that one..oh well, that campground, waterfall and lake will have to wait for another trip. We turned around and headed North on the #US 395 to Alturas and West on #299, and North on the #139 towards the Lava Beds National Monument, not exactly as planned but hey, what the heck, we roll with the flow. An hour and half later we pulled into Tionesta, California, population 23, on a good week and rolled down the road to the Eagles Nest RV Park. It had come highly recommended by several friends and we could see why as we pulled forward onto a nice long grassy sight..real grass…couldn’t wait to touch down with a bare foot. The host Craig and his wife Barb are sweethearts. He sat with us, gave us a map to the area with some of his favorite sites and a wealth of information as well as an offer for free helmets to wear into the caves…don’t forget them he said..one bump on sharp lava and you’ll know why.
So off we went in the afternoon for a quick tour and climbed Schonchin Butte in the late day, in the shade of the Northern side. It is a large cinder cone with the rangers station perched on the top…I was nearly beat up the path by an octogenerian with walking canes…sigh…need to get more exercise;) What an immense landscape…the lava flows are astounding. To the North you can see Tule Lake and the Klammath Wildlife Refuge, to the West Mt. Shasta and everywhere lava flows and cinder cones. I vowed to return fairly early in the morning to get the sun from the East onto the Mt. Shasta.
We hiked up in the morning to an incredible view and another chat with ranger Craig about the area, his favorite sights and caves to see and different road conditions in the area. The path up is beautiful. Old Junipers dot the landscape covered with moss, new bird songs came from the trees..
We spent longer talking to the ranger than we anticipated, always the case when conversation is good, we had to say goodbye and head back to the visitor center where Mike unpacked his solar scope and showed the incoming and outgoing visitors views of the sun. There was some great prominence detail to see.
We’d like to thank the staff at Lava Beds National Monument for letting us set up the solar scope at their Visitor Center. It was a lot of fun.
After a few hours we packed up and headed out to Glass Mountain.It is a 30 mile drive from the visitor center. It is a nearly treeless lava flow, a steep-sided rhyolite and dacite obsidian flow with chunks of obsidian the size of dump-trucks! The most recent eruption was less than a 1000 years ago. It was mind boggling. As you walked on the paths it sounded as if you were walking on glass as it crunched under foot. The pieces were incredibly sharp. I read that the Modoc Indians traded this obsidian as far away as central California..arrows, spear tips..as sharp as a scalpel!
This was stunning, not only due to it’s incredible beauty but it’s surroundings as well. You drive through miles of forest and watch it change as you go up in elevation, almost 2500 feet. There were Ponderosa’s and Jeffrey pines to Lodgepole and finally a forest of Spruce…There are many paths through the glass flow as it is called and well worth hiking to look at some of the amazing patterns and shapes.
There is an excellent blog about the mountain-from”Volcano Cafe”about the Medicine Lake Volcano, it’s enormous size and how it happened. Everywhere you look are lava flows, ancient and newer and the growth of the forest around it and life starting to grow on it in many places gives you an idea of how long each flow has been there.
When we arrived in Tionesta we were not sure just how long we wanted to stay but the Eagles Nest RV park had an excellent weekly rate of $100 so we took them up on that, as well as amazing internet connection. Then fastest we have seen so far..getting very spoiled;)
We planned out our next few days, and took some time in the evening to set up the telescope to look at the new moon. The conditions were not the best as we were at the base of Timber Mountain and the cold air that settled on us did not provide the best seeing and the moon was quite low on the horizon, but it was fairly dark and the Milky Way came out quite nicely through the trees.
The only problem with Tionesta was a lack of supplies. There are two RV Parks and a closed general store. Driving back and forth to the Park used up the gasoline so we went North to Klammath Falls to refuel. This is farming country. The lake was drained to provide farmland to settlers and now as far as the eye can see are potatoes and alfalfa.
Later we did find gas in Tule Lake once you got off the main road into town, a strange little place I might add. We were warned by the RV park not to buy meat at the market there..it sits around awhile they said..0_0..The market had an aisle of frozen foods, one for cleaning supplies and the rest of it was alcohol..beer and almost an entire aisle of vodka…well, it is potato country but it seemed sad. A testament to the lifestyle there perhaps.
On the way back to Tionesta we took the side road towards Tule Lake and Petroglyph point as it is quite near the road.
These beautiful markings were done by the Modoc Indians ancestors and could be over 10,000 years old. They paddled up to the cliffs and carved these symbols here. No one knows what they mean but you can imagine what they might have meant and what a sacred area this was to them. As we arrived a dozen raven flew about overhead riding the air currents, an aerial ballet. There are hundreds of nests along the cliffs as well. This is one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the United States. The history here with the Madoc Indians was a brutal one as they tried to fight for their land. I found the monuments to the fallen cavalry soldiers sad…they did lose their lives, trying to eradicate the Modocs..not sure they deserve a monument..Only the Modocs do.
Tule Lake is a major migratory waterway. It was full of life. There are several routes to drive around it and it is well worth the trip. I saw Ibis for the first time and huge flocks of migrating ducks as well as White Pelicans. In February the ranger told me they had counted over 800 Bald Eagles…Mike knows where I want to come back to in February;) There are quite a few blinds placed around the lakes that I would love to use one day.
Our last day here we saved for cave exploring. There are hundreds of these lava tube caves in the area. We gathered up our flashlights, multiple ones, and the hard hats Craig and Barb loaned us and headed off to the visitor center. They have wonderful maps there and a lit cave to get the feel of what it might be like. Mike was a bit worried about how claustrophobic he might feel as some of the cave openings are very small and in places you have to crawl..or “duck walk” as they call it, I got the duck walk thing after the 2nd cave…a small entrance and a very steep ladder down, the cold air rushes up at you as if someone opened the freezer door.
We explored quite a few of the caves on a loop near the visitor center. We only ran into a few other people, and realized our lights were not very satisfactory. A lantern that spreads light around you would be superior to a small light circle provided by a flashlight. It was fascinating, and very eerie being in such a dark place..the crawling through entrances while dragging my camera and tripod were not the easiest thing to do. Plus I was experimenting with shots as the Canon 6D has no flash..all in all the photos turned out better than I expected with just flashlights for ambient light. I used the HDR backlight control and the Handheld night scene to bracket several shots at different exposures.
While the small narrow lava tubes were fascinating, I loved the flow patterns on some of the floors, the cave that took my breath away was Skull Cave..you could have flown a helicopter into it. Mike standing to the far right gives it some scale. The bottom of the cave is covered with ice and there are icicles hanging from the ceiling..we are talking chilly down there!
The colours were fantastic, from red to orange and green. The three caves in this area I found the most spiritual as well. Just before the entrance to the Skull Cave there is a three-quarter mile trail to Symbol Bridge and the Big Painted Cave. As you walk along the collapsed lava tube parts of it still intact you can imagine the significance this area had to the Modoc Indians. The pictographs on the walls were beautiful…Mike is sure one is a UFO;) They are thought to be symbols made during spiritual journeys.
The Ranger at the fire station told us of a private cave run by the Modocs that they still use for ceremonies. He said several times a year there were Ranger led tours with the Indigenous Modocs and if we ever had a chance to go on one it was the most fantastic thing he had seen..on the list with that bird migration for February!
With sadness we packed and prepared to head to Medicine Lake, only a short 25 mile drive but the small park there captured my heart and to camp among the pines was something I truly wanted to do for a few days. The week we spent at The Eagles Nest RV Park was wonderful, and it felt good to stay put for that amount of time. Mike got to play with Beattie, Barb’s large cat (black panther our boys said looking out the screen door..very very dangerous!;)..) as well as feed her goats..and the neighbors horse as well;)
Medicine Lake Volcano is a beautiful park with several campgrounds serving tenters to larger RV’s. The road up there was not a picnic, paved but very bumpy and we know how our cats feel about bumpy roads…there is a whole lot of complaining going on where we experience these conditions…We had scouted it out on our trip up to Glass Mountain so knew right where we wanted to be. It was quite quiet, now that school was back in a fellow camper told us, otherwise a zoo he remarked. We settled in and I have to admit it was wonderful, no noise, no traffic, pines rustling in the wind…but that is another story..I’ll leave with sunrise on Medicine Lake and there will be more to come so stay tuned..:)