Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lassen and Lava Beds Vacation

We did a lot of driving the last few days and it was well worth the time behind the wheel. Scoob and I usually get cranky with each other on trips, but not this time. And that was really nice. This marks the third trip (first road trip, and second trip involving family) together where we didn't get irritable. Does this mean we're finally hitting a groove?

Anyhow, since we drive I-5 so regularly, I decided we would take Hwy. 99 north from Sacramento to Chico for a change of scenery before switching to Hwy. 32. There were a couple of interesting things along the way, like the gorgeous lavender farm, and kitschy things too, like a strange spherical industrial tank that someone had painted a cute face on, but there had been no shoulder to pull off onto to take pictures.

We had a brief delay in Yuba City where I got to languish in the car in the Central Valley heat while Scoob went into Target to buy flashlights we would need later in our trip. Luckily I was able to find a patch of shade in the parking lot and I munched on fresh cherries and read a book while I waited. Apparently the Target was huge and Scoob had a difficult time finding what he needed, and stopped at Starbucks for iced drinks before coming back to the car. At which point he had his snacks and realized he forgot to get something while he was in Target, so off he went again.

All in all, we were there about an hour and a half. I just had to keep telling myself we were on vacation and not to get worked up. We had nowhere that we needed to be that day and dawdling at Target wasn't going to make us late for anything. And it worked! When I would start to get irritated I'd would just think that sitting in the car reading was not all that different from sitting on the patio reading and the point was I was on vacation and relaxing. I seriously need to have these talks with myself more often.

We made it Susanville intact Friday night and went to the family reunion in Westwood on Saturday. We pitched horseshoes (my cousin and I were eliminated in the first round, though I did get two ringers! A first!) and played bingo. We played cow pasture golf, thankfully, cow pie frisbee was off the line up this year. I don't remember a spitting contest, though that's usually a regular event, too. The younguns had sack races, a balloon toss, and a hula hoop contest, and, of course, there was lots of food.

The one thing really missing this year was music. Grandpa always loved to strum his guitar and other family members would either play or sing along with him. Once he had his stroke, music sort of shifted to a group of cousins who had a band and the sing along aspect sort of tapered off. This year there was no music at all. I don't know why there was no music, but for me, the fact that Grumpy's not with us anymore made it all the more noticeable.

My immediate family headed out to Reno Saturday night to see Chelsea Handler, gamble, and whatnot, while Scoob and I headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park. I thought it would be a good idea to enter that park from the south and drive Hwy. 89 through the park to the north side since we were going to continue north. We were about 20 miles from the park entrance when I saw a sign stating Hwy. 89 was closed through the park due to snow.

Apparently they've had a late winter up there and got snow just a few weeks ago and the road is blocked by a 15' wall of snow. This is one of those reasons calling ahead is always recommended. It would have been nice if our guidebook had included contact information so we could have called, or even a note that the main road through the park was closed seasonally.

So we flipped the car around and backtracked to Westwood, then took Hwy. 44 along the north side of the park. Tough we did get some good shots of Lake Almanor and Mount Lassen as we doubled back.

Lake Almanor
Lake Almanor

Mount Lassen over Lake Almanor
Mount Lassen over Lake Almanor

It was almost 4 p.m. by the time we reached the northern entrance to the park, so we decided to skip it and just explore the forest and wind our way north to Burney where I'd planned to spend the night.

Lassen National Forest, landscape in the Hat Creek fire area
The burned out area near Hat Creek in Lassen National Forest

Life finds a foothold in wildfire area
I liked this little plant that found a foothold in a fissure of this fire-blackened boulder.

Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea
I've seen this parasitic wildflower once before several years ago in Yosemite National Park.

Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea
This time I got pictures. It's called a Snow Plant or Sarcodes sanguinea.

Lassen National Forest, Hat Creek running clean and clear
This section of Hat Creek looked so clear and inviting.

Lassen National Forest, on the banks of Hat Creek

Lassen National Forest, small waterfall on Hat Creek

But since we were checking in earlier than anticipated, we decided to use the time to get closer to our next destination, Lava Beds National Monument, rather than sit in a hotel room. So off we went to Alturas. Alturas turned out to be even less inviting than Burney so we grabbed a snack and headed for Klamath Falls, OR. K-Falls is only 45–60 minutes from Lava Beds whereas Alturas is 90 minutes and we knew we'd be able to find more comfortable lodgings there.

For those who don't know, I'm Modoc (among other nationalities) on my dad's side and Lava Beds was part of the tribe's traditional lands. I won't get into a history lesson here suffice it to say several points within the monument are important for various reasons. I've always meant to make the time to come here and I'm glad I finally did.

Lava Beds National Monument entrance

Lava Beds National Monument, Devil's Homestead
This is a section of the monument called Devil's Homestead.

Lava Beds National Monument, Captain Jack's Stronghold
This is part of Captain Jack's Stronghold. I had to restrain myself from punctuating the Park Service sign, which reads Captain Jacks Stronghold.

Lava Beds National Monument, hiking Captain Jack's Stronghold
Scoob and me hiking in the Stronghold, where ±55 Modoc fighters held off aprrox. 600 U.S. Army troops for 5 months.

Lava Beds National Monument, finding life in unexpected places in the Lava Beds
Finding life in unexpected places.

Lava Beds National Monument, dragonfly
This little guy was an excellent subject and kept returning to pose on this perch.

Lava Beds National Monument, Big Painted Cave trail
On the trail to the Big Painted Cave. That's Scoob schlepping back to the car to get water. He says he figured it was easier to go back and get water than pack my heat exhausted body out of there. Now that there is trust—giving him the keys to the car and letting him leave me behind in this blasted land.

Lava Beds National Monument, Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
Indian paintbrush or Castilleja applegatei alongside the trail.

Lava Beds National Monument, purple salvia, Salvia Dorii, against black volcanic rocks
I think this is Salvia dorrii, but I thought it was striking with the black volcanic stones in the background.

Lava Beds National Monument, juniper skeleton
Juniper skeleton.

Lava Beds National Monument, crater leading to Big Painted Cave
Looking down into the crater where Big Painted Cave is located.

Lava Beds National Monument, narrow entrance to Big Painted Cave
That's the throat of the cave. Oh yeah, we went down there.

Lava Beds National Monument, icy floors inside Big Painted Cave
Inside Big Painted Cave. That's ice on the floor of the cave and it was cold in there.
A nice respite from the heat outside.

Lava Beds National Monument, exiting Big Painted Cave
Shimmying back out of the cave.

Lava Beds National Monument, climbing back out of the maw of Big Painted Cave
The maw leading out to the crater from the inside.

Before going to Big Painted Cave we went to Mushpot Cave which the Park Service has made much more user-friendly–installing stairs down into the cave, highlighting different lava tube formations with permanent lighting, and leveling and paving the cave floor with concrete. I wanted to try Mushpot first to make sure I could handle being underground in tight quarters before attempting an undeveloped cave.

After our adventures in spelunking we decided to go for a more standard hike to the top of Petroglyph Point. This is the location where, according to Modoc oral tradition, the land was created. Kamookumpts, the Creator, is said to be sleeping under this bluff.

Lava Beds National Monument, Petroglyph Bluff Trail
The trail up Petroglyph Bluff, or in my case Petrogrlyph Huff and Puff Bluff.
Scoob had no problem getting to the top except that he had to wait for me to catch my breath a few times.

Lava Beds National Monument, wind eroded volcanic rock at the top of Petroglyph Point
Beautiful wind eroded landscape at the top of Petroglyph Point.

Lava Beds National Monument, cliff swallows nesting at Petroglyph Point
Swallows were everywhere and we noticed the condominiums of nests in the crevasses.

Lava Beds National Monument, close up of nesting swallow at Petroglyph Point
Peeking out from an apartment.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point
After hiking to the top and finding no petroglyphs, we realized they were at the bottom.
Oh well, it was good exercise.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point
Nearly the entire side of the bluff had been carved with petroglyphs.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point

unobstructed view of Mount Shasta
Lovely views of Mount Shasta on the drive home.

It was a great trip and even Scoob had a good time. I never thought I would go into a cave, even though I've always kind of wanted to. And if Scoob hadn't been with me, I probably would have stopped at the throat of the cave instead of going in.

But of all the things we experienced on this trip, the strangest had to be our trip to the grocery store in Klamath Falls. There we were, strolling the aisles, replenishing our road food when a young Native woman approached me saying she'd been moved by the Holy Spirit and wanted my permission to pray for Scoob and me as a couple–more for him than me she said. Two questions came to mind—since when do you need permission to pray for someone? and if she wanted to pray for Scoob, why wasn't she asking him?

Since there's no such thing as having too many prayers said on your behalf, I consented and she, Scoob, and I had a little prayer circle going in the bakery section.

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