Friday, June 13, 2014

Spelunking 101

We are not really cave goers.  There have been a few special underground visits, the most memorable of which have been on France, especially Pech Merle and Lascaux with their fabulous prehistoric paintings.  The caves at the Lava Beds are different.  They are not limestone caves, but lava tubes.  When the hot lava flowed from the Medecine Lake volcano, the cooling lava formed a crust on the surface, while hot lava still flowed underneath, leaving empty tubes where lava had been. The site is full of many different caves.  We chose two of the beginner caves.  
The visitor center lent us an additional lantern and pointed us to Sentinal cave which has an entrance as well as an exit.  The ceiling is high and the path is wide, bit we had to pick our way carefully through the rocks.  

At one point light poured through two holes in the ceiling.  We felt very proud of ourselves as we arrived at the exit.  The short walk back to our car was strewn with volcanic rock with hard bubbles in the surface.  Indian Paintbrush dotted the path among the scrubby grasses.
The second cave we chose was called Skull Cave because many skeletons had been found here.  It was also broad and high, but very deep.  We descended 74 steps within the cave in addition to 59 steps just to reach the entrance.  Deep in the cave ice had formed on the floor.  In the winter the heavy cold air drops into the cave, freezing water in the bottom.  

As we left we stopped at Devil's Homestead, a huge, impressive flow of black, volcanic rock which is barren as a moonscape.  

The blue dome of sky and broad plains made us feel like we were driving through a movie set for a western.

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