Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Down Under

Lava Beds National Monument, filled with everything from cinder cones to natural strongholds to lava tubes and collapsed caves. Okay, lets see, a cinder cone is essentially the remnant of a volcano, and is made up of rock and volcanic ash. For the most part, it is difficult for plant life to grow on these, and the only one open for walking on in the park is also the youngest, only 850 years old. It is about 700 feet tall, with a fire look out on the top of it.
Now on to the natural stronghold… It has two trails in it, the outer loop, which goes around the rim, and the inner loop, which takes you right through the heart of Captain Jacks Stronghold. And yes, it is historically significant. A band of about 350 Modoc Indian, men, women and children, held off up to 600 U.S. Army troops, for nearly six months. The stronghold is full of hiding spots, and to try and take a horse through would be insane. The ground is uneven, jumbles rock in places, with hidden caves in it. In the end, they were forced to flee when the army brought in cannons. They slipped out to the south in the middle of the night, and only in the middle of the next morning, did the U.S. Army realize the fort was empty.
Lava tubes are underground rivers of lava. And no worries, these are extremely stable, the park ranger that we talked to has never heard of anyone seeing a rock fall from the ceiling. They range in difficulty from the small, lighted, Mush Pot Cave, to Catacombs, with ceilings of less then a foot in some places. I did not go into Catacombs. We ended up doing most of the developed caves, so I’ll just tell you about my two favorites, Golden Dome and Sunshine caves. Golden Dome is named for a golden bacteria that grows in the back half of the cave, and seems to almost glow when you shine a light on it. The only difficult part is finding your way out, it’s a figure eight. There is a little rock pile set up to mark your position, this also one where you have to crawl or duck walk, depending on your route. If you have a group, make sure you go with people who will want to do the same amount of “exploring” as you do. I went with Elliot, and was not terribly happy. And it is dark in these, so always have your own flashlight. There is also Headache Rock in the entrance to Golden dome, wear a helmet. Always wear a helmet.
Sunshine cave has some of the same golden bacteria, although there is less of it, so it seems almost more tasteful to me. There are one or two skylights in this one also, but you may want to avoid letting your eyes ajust, because when you go back into the cave, if feels darker then before, no matter how bright you light is. I personally would recommend a headlamp, so that you never have to aim your light, just turn your head.

Overall, this was one of my favorite national parks, even if I do get a bit nervous in really deep caves. If you ever make it out to this part of northern California, it is well worth a visit.
 A cave entrance, some are easier than others...
 It gets kind of dark down there, so you'll want your own little light.
 I always thought it was a relief to come out without getting lost. (Yes, I've felt very lost.)
 Elliot's going back in.
See, total darkness, except for the two little lights! But really, once you get used to it, it isn't too bad.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Crater Lake!!

The last night at Natural Bridge we packed up ahead of time and set our alarms. We left around 6:30 for Crater Lake, the roads were deserted, and we were in the snow by 7:30.

The road up to the top is cleared year round, but the road around the crater rim is only opened now part way for driving, and after that several miles more for hiking or biking. We stopped at the lodge, and a couple other overlooks to look around. Elliot and Alice had fun in the snow tunnels under the eaves of the buildings.

We kept going and parked at the end of the driveable road. Is the snow deep enough for you? The yearly average snowfall is 43 feet!

Elliot and I rode a mile or two further, and Annie and Alice walked.

The snow is solid and we were able to ride on it, at least downhill, so we hiked up a bit and rode back down.

The views at the top were spectacular. It would be a great stop if a person is anywhere close. There is a posh lodge at the top, and there is a campground a couple miles back down the mountain. (The campground is currently closed with snow).

Wizard Island is a cinder cone within the lake, and has it's own little crater on top, but no lake within...

On our way back down, we stopped for Annie Falls!

Another geologic feature are the pinnacles or spires in the river canyons below crater lake.  The original mountain, Mt Mazama, formed various river canyon down the side of it.  When the large eruption happened, hundreds of feet of ash filled the canyons.  After the major eruption, steam and minerals flowed up through the ash (think hot springs), and cemented together vertical tubes.  Over time the softer ash eroded and left the standing pinnacles.  There are more pinnacles in another part of the park, but the road is still closed for snow.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Natural Bridge Campground

We arrived at Natural Bridge Campground relatively early, around two p.m. The spot we chose is sunny, and right by the river. It’s a larger clearing, with a picnic table, fire ring, and not much else. The river itself is a good sized, fast flowing river. The water is a cloudy green blue. In some spots on both sides, there are patcehs of basalt, a black, porous volcanic rock. There are also fist sized chunks of pumice, and yes, they float.
We, (My dad, mom, and I) took a walk down to the natural bridge this morning, and the trail was actually rather steep on the other side of the water. For the most part it’s in the woods, but you can see the river from afar the whole time. In one spot that we walked past, there were two waterfalls, about five to eight feet tall. They were nearly on top of each other, and surrounded on both sides by more smooth basalt. The bridge itself was underwater, from seasonal flooding, but it was still really cool to see the water rushing into a hole in the riverbank, and than shoot back out into the river about two hundred feet down river. We read that it takes about 35 seconds to get from one end to the other, if you move at the same speed as the water. In theory, most people can hold their breath for that long, but the water might simply push the air out of your lungs, and what if you got stuck? You can also go for about three minutes without oxygen before your heart stops, but still, you might get stuck. I personally do not plan to go through any two hundred foot long lava tubes filled with water. I would not recommend it to anyone else either.

A cool spot right by the natural bridge.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pacific Northwest creepy crawlies

So we have been seeing a fair share bugs and slugs in the moist weather along the coast in northern California and into Oregon.

Near Oregon Caves national monument, this little guy was rearing up in the middle of the road. Did he find a drop of beer, and he's having a drink?

Nearby was this snail racing across the road. I may have read a sign that he's a something something 'side traveling' snail.

Right at our campsite, there were many of these big green slugs. I kept having to block out my instinct that I'm starving and that these should be collected and hoarded for boiling up, or sliding down raw!

These happy little guys were near Oregon Caves National Monument; we found a great little campsite along a creek. From the main caves road from Cave Junction up to the caves, turn left onto forest road 4611, go a mile or so up forest road 4611. Look on the right, just past a large rockfall area on the left. Can be seen from the road, but is set back pretty well and is shady and flat and very close to the creek. May be a minor ground clearance issue right at the entry from the road, for longer RVs.

And there's a more open larger campsite area, go further up the road, about another mile. On the right past a large gravel pile, (or large widened area of the road where gravel would be stored). Should be room for any size camper, with full sun or shade choices.

Back at the Pacific coast, in Trinidad, CA, is another great spot, if you have a soft spot for soft creatures... We camped for three days at Cher-Ae Heights casino, on the skinny coast road about a mile south of Trinidad. Great location, Only $20 for up to 3 nights, and several beaches and the town within biking or walking distance.

Climbing down one of the steep trails to the ocean, you'll see these big banana slugs. Again, please resist your urge to plop them in your mouth!

In Trinidad is a nice marine laboratory with free self guided tours; Humboldt State University Marine Laboratory. There are saltwater tanks with area fish, and a couple of tide pool tanks where you can get your hands on urchins, anemones and sea cucumbers.

The laboratory also has a wall on the history of whaling in Trinidad, which was established in the early 1900's as a whaling station.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Elk Prairie to Patrick Creek

After a few nights at the casino, we packed up and drove into the tiny town of Trinidad for the morning. There was a marine research lab managed by some college that was open to the public, so we took a little tour of that. Then we stopped at the library (which had super fast internet!) for a bit, and then we were off up the coast a bit more.

We ended up at Elk Prairie Campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The campground is in the woods, right by a big field that elk seem to hang out in, which was pretty cool! My mom and I took a little ride through the woods towards the coast, but we didn't make it all the way, too many big hills! After we got all set up, my dad started installing a new-to-us inverter that he picked up when we were at the casino.

The next day, we hung around the house in the morning, and took a little hike around the prairie in the afternoon. We also moved over to a different spot in the campground, which was a lot shadier than our other spot. It was also pretty cloudy, so we had to the run the generator, for the first time in a really long time!

The next morning, we packed up and drove north! We stopped in Crescent City for lunch, and got some groceries. Then, we started heading east, away from the coast, and ended up at Patrick Creek Campground, in the National Forest. (I'm happy that we're heading east, the weather along the coast is kinda gloomy, and I'm excited to get back to the desert!)

In the morning, my parents and I took a little bike ride up one of the little forest roads, that was very pretty. Then, we packed up and headed into Oregon!