None of our small family gathering have any experience caving, so there’s some trepidation as we start toward the “cave loop” at Lava Beds National Monument with headlamps in our pockets.
As it turns out the first “easy” cave we hit is the longest one – a full kilometer underground. The brochure seems to indicate that you can exit at the end of the 1 km, but this isn’t stated explicitly. Too late to ask now!
Not too far in there is a hole that lets some light in and bolsters our spirits. After that, though, it goes completely black. We turn our lights off to experience the full darkness.
After that Ann and Danielle both have to fight back some panic. Of course Danielle’s instinct is rush ahead toward the hoped-for exit, and Ann’s is to stick close together. We’re all thankful to find Danielle waiting for us, once more in the light of day. Whew! We celebrate our success and question the need for any more time underground.
We check out the entrances of a few of the other caves, and Ryan and I explore the shorter Sunlight cave. These caves are smaller, and have interesting textures where subsequent flows re-melted the walls and ceilings.
To finish off the loop Ryan, Dad and I enter the Golden Dome cave. This one has a new feature – intersections! We go left at the first one, and at the second one we decide to turn around. But just for fun we turn our lights off first. Are we looking in the same direction when we turn back on? It’s dizzying, but we make our way back successfully.
We return to camp for some relaxation, but then decide to hike to one final cave, the biggest of all.
Skull cave was formed by three separate lava flows, and has the feel of a giant railway tunnel. Animal and human bones were once found inside, which seems appropriate somehow. At the end it turns downward into a chamber with an ice floor.
That seems like a full day of exploration, but there are lots more caves, trails, and historical sites at this park. We’re all impressed.