First thing I planned on doing after arriving in Merrill was to visit the Lava Beds. So 2-3 days after I’d settled in Merrill, off I went. The park entrance I headed for is the Gillems Camp entrance (seasonal) as it was the shortest route from Merrill. It’s only 20 miles away from the town.
Stopped at the Tulelake overlook again but once again, didn’t see any wildlife. Wrong time of year maybe?
The road ‘T’s a short distance before the park entrance and I turned right. If I’d turned left, that would have sent me to Capt’n Jack’s Stronghold Historic Trail. I’ll do that some other day. I’ll be in Merrill a week or more so no hurry.
A short distance after making the turn is a NP style kiosk where you would pay if someone was there. It was shortly before 9 am so it was unoccupied and I continued to the Visitor Center around 8 miles on. The high desert topography is interesting so the trip through the area is interesting. Occasionally there are signs alongside the road with interesting facts so I’d stop and check them out.
Arriving at the center around 9:30 am, I just wandered around the parking lot for a while…the views are spectacular. Excellent views of the surrounding countryside. And look at all that lava down there…
and up there… It’s been long ago that this volcanic area was active so the trees, bushes, and grasses have taken over and dug in. Off in that direction is Tulelake. Looking almost due north. Each of the following pictures are after I turned a bit south before each shot. This is mostly a wilderness area. After that look around stroll, went into the center and got some info about the trails and the caves, showed them my NP senior pass so it didn’t cost the regular $15 for a visitors pass, answered their questions about my caving experiences over the last several years so they’d know I wouldn’t give the bats any diseases which got my ticket stamped and off I went to explore. Some big blocks of flint. Which is one reason the Modoc called this area home. Good trade item.
I can’t figure out which picture starts the Mushpot trail, so I’ll just dump this picture here. Heh. This cave is much larger than it looks in this picture…but there weren’t any other humans around to give you a sense of scale. It’s big though.
Gets dark too. One neat thing is that is nice and cool inside. Probably 68F, counteracted the surface temp of 75F nicely. And on the way out, turned around for another look. This is a shot up towards the surface level, and of the trail. Ahh, darn, the Natural Bridge trail was closed. Fell down last year. A couple cinder cones off in the distance. How would you like to hike across that? The soldiers that came here soon found out that their leather boots would be too cut up to use after a couple hours of hiking through this stuff. The Modocs used this entire area to their advantage. And speaking of the Modocs, next time we’ll visit the actual area in the lava beds where a couple hundred Modoc Indians held off the entire US Army for months.
And that’s the end of the visit to the Lava Beds NP. There is a loop where you can visit several more caves but it was afternoon around 2 pm by the time I finished the short loop shown above and I was tuckered out, it was getting hot, and I was finished with climbing up and down ladders and on and over rocks for the day. Also, you had to wait for a NP guide to take you around. Maybe on my next visit?
Thanks for reading!