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I came to the Lava Beds National Monument to see the caves and found so much more. The area is full of surprises, contradictions, and irony with a complicated history of war mixed in.

The geology of the lava tube caves was interesting but unexpectly it didn’t grab my interest. I felt an uneasyness as I ventured into the dark caves. And with my headlamp and a large flashlight both on, I couldn’t light up the cave to see the details of the rock. So I stopped visiting the caves and ventured out to see other sights I had heard about.

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This tree is living in about two feet of rock over a cave.  And it looks healthy!

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Pictographs- at a cave entrance.

After seeing the pictographs at the caves I made a trip to Petroglyph Rock. My desire was to learn more about the Modoc people. But the petroglyphs were only so-so at this site in my opinion and there was little explaination about the petroglyphs and Modocs. What surprised me was the rock formation of eroded tuff that the petroglyphs were carved into. It was outstanding. And it was full of bird nest. I marveled at the rock and imagined what it would be like to see the area in spring with the air full of birds.

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A portion of Petroglyph Rock.  The fence at the bottom is protecting the petroglyphs.

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Bird nests at Petroglyph Rock.

Native people lived in the area long before the white man. In the 1870s the Modoc War occurred. A sad event in history when the Modocs were being told to live on the Klamath Reservation with a tribe that did not respect them and in land that was foreign to them. The result of the war was the fatality of 53 U.S. soldiers, 17 civilians, 2 Warm Springs Scouts, 5 Modoc women and children, and 15 Modoc warriors, five of which were killed in battle and the Modocs fighting the war were moved to Oklahoma.

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The cross reads:  “Gen Canby USA was murdered here by the Modocs April 11, 1873”

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The area was impacted again by war during WWII. Many of the young men left the area to fight in the war and some lost their lives and are commemorated at the Tule Lake Fairground Museum. Their story is told next to that of the German and Italian prisoners of war that were sent to Tule Lake to work in the agricultural fields. And the story of Japanese Americans who were held in a large segregation (interment) camp at Tule Lake.

With my head absorbing the irony and contradictions of the wars, I drove back to camp listening to a classic rock station that was playing songs from the 70’s with themes of love and peace. On the way I passed through the Tule Lake NWR and a smile returned to my face. There were birds – lots of birds swimming in the lake among the vegetation turning fall colors of yellow and orange. I turned and drove the levee roads enjoying all the different birds I saw. They were all peacefully living together.

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White pelicans.

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A photo blind.  I found out about these blinds as I was leaving.  Next time I come I’ll spend some time sitting in one.

Not giving up of seeing more geology I drove to Glass Mountain. The mountain is south of the park and the drive is mostly through forest. And then the forest abruptly ends and – there is the lava flow. I walked through an area of an immense jumble of rock void of most vegetation and marveled at the power of the earth. We live on a seemingly peaceful land and below the earth’s crust is powerful magma that can erupt and drastically change our earth.

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Glass Mountain

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Glass Mountain

The Facts

  • Schonchin Butte is a nice walk. It has a ranger there during the summer months (including September) to explain anything you may be curious about. Pick a sunny day to climb the Butte and you can see Mt Shasta. Also look for the pack rat nests near the top of the butte at the base of the trees.
  • I stayed at the Lave Bed’s campground.  When I arrived on a Tuesday I was surprised that it was about 70% full.  The next nights it was only about half full.
  • AllTrails shows a different location for the trail head at Glass Mountain. Below is what I was given at the Lava Beds NM visitor center. I was told to drive to  the Lyons Peak Road at the bottom of the map and that is where I found the trailhead I walked. I don’t know were the trail went to. I walked for about 30 minutes and then it was time to turn around with my old dog.

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