For Memorial Day weekend, I went with Bruce to Lava Beds National Monument up near the Oregon border. I’d been wanting to go there for a really long time so it was nice to finally make it happen. The first stop in the park was to the visitors center where we bought hardhats, rented flashlights, & got a couple maps. Right behind the visitors center is the introductory cave. It’s short but it gives you information about the caves and it’s the only one with a lit walkway. I was excited to learn that I would be entering the Twilight Zone multiple times that day. (I recently watched the original Twilight Zone series on Netflix & was a little obsessed with it)
Some of the caves were closed in order to protect the bats inside, and there are caves of different difficulty levels (most difficult require crawling), so we didn’t go into every cave. But even so, there was still enough to keep us busy exploring.
Most of the caves contained volcanic rock like above; small to large chunks of it. My favorite cave was “Valentine Cave” because it is what you would think a lava tube to be. It had smooth walls and the ground looked the same as it would have looked when the lava was still hot…you could clearly see how the lava cooled. It was massive, there were multiple pathways that weaved together into larger chambers with the ceiling rising and falling. I went into this one alone but there were other people around so I felt confident to go pretty far to where the pathway got smaller and I had to hunch over to proceed. Once I reached the point that I could no longer see any light from other flashlights, or hear any sound besides the water dripping off the ceiling…I started to get scared so I had to turn around. I looked toward the chamber that the path opened up into and my imagination became too active so I went back to the couple that I had passed earlier…I hadn’t been away from them for too long but it was a relief to hear their voices and see the light from their flashlights again.
Not the best photo but this is the point that I stopped, and you can see how the lava dried to form the pathway…pretty neat.
We were staying in the town of Burney, so the morning that we left we stopped at a cave that was in that area as well. This one was similar to “Valentine Cave” but a lot shorter & there was an exit on the other end of it. I went in this one alone as well and was glad to have the chance to complete it and in a way make up for not making it to the end of the other one.
All in all, a fun national park that I think gets overlooked more than it should. Caving is a lot of fun and this was a great place to do it…volcano country is beautiful! I will have to go back to try out the more difficult caves & to conquer the one that got the best of me.