Volcanic Oddysey: Second Stop Lava Beds

The second stop on our volcanic legacy tour was Lava Beds National Monument in Tule Lake, Calif. From our Lassen base in Chester, Calif., we decided to stay at higher elevations with fewer steep grades, so we took highway 36 east and highway 139 north from Susanville. It was brutal on the nerves, very narrow with a steep drop-off instead of a shoulder, until about halfway to the Oregon border. At least traffic was light.

Our first day at the monument, we decided to use the east entrance at Petroglyph Point, which was a lucky decision. We had no idea there was a WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument there, which includes a Japanese Segregation Center and Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The camp housed Japanese Americans during the war, and then German prisoners of war. Luckily, we saw a group of people there on our way to see the petroglyphs, so we stopped to explore. An elderly man who was a child during that time was there with his family, so we listened to personal recollections along with the National Park Service Ranger’s interpretations. Do click on the links above for tour dates and other valuable trip planning information.

Visitors walk across compound to tour the jail, where some of the Japanese were held.

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After exploring Petroglyph Point, we drove straight to the Lava Beds Visitor Center, explored it then walked down a short path to a few shaded and secluded picnic tables, where we enjoyed our peanut butter, pretzels and apple slices. There is also a nice picnic area at the Chimneys, near the northern entrance gate. Here’s the park map.

The next day we drove the cave loop, walked miles of narrow trails and tramped down into several caves. For future reference, besides water, a collapsible trekking pole and a pair of gloves would be nice to have. Skull Cave had icy-cold rails, more so than in the Merrill Ice Cave. Some fellow spelunkers wore jackets, but if one kept moving, the chill didn’t penetrate much.

Faint petroglyph images are sometimes difficult to see.

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We want to go back someday, possibly later in fall when the waterfowl migrate, and hike the area of Captain Jack’s Stronghold, take the wildlife route… and walk or bicycle some trails out of Klamath Falls, where we enjoyed a brewery in the old town. Beers were good, but not better than our faves from farther north in the juniper-dotted grasslands…Deschutes, we’ll be on our way soon!

Where we stayed and played with our food

Just across the border, we stayed in Merrill, Ore. With AllStays, we found the Wild Goose Lodge and RV Park. There were a few, tight spaces behind the lodge and cabins, but we planned to be gone all day touring so we didn’t care. A couple RVs looked parked for the long-term, but we felt safe and secure. Check in was easy, and the people friendly and welcoming. Although we weren’t sure our big rig would fit inside the gate and into a space, it did. We managed to get out as well, no problems.

outdoor table with plates of food, one with a big burger and one with fish and chips. both have a glass of beer sitting next to them.
Klamath Brewing has some great brews, bean burgers and fish and chips.
pelican statues, one decorated in quilt blocks and one decorated in military grey like a bomb with a U.S. flag at the base.
Visit the Pelicans on Parade at the Klamath Falls South Portal Visitor Center, 205 Riverside Drive.

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