#37 in the Central Book, May 29, 2010; Forest: Easy — 1 mile loop, 100 feet elevation gain; Cave: Easy — 2.2 miles round trip, 200 feet elevation loss
I have no tracks map for these two hikes; one was beyond the reach of human geolocation technology, and for the other my phone died. Spelunking on this day were Becky, Margaret, Ben, Will and Lucy (in the Kelty).
The theme for this weekend was volcanoes; the Newberry volcano system specifically. The Lava Cast Forest is the remains of an eruption, and is a great opportunity to learn about the more violent and spectacular parts of geology. The scenery is stark, but not lifeless; small, incredibly determined shrubs manage to find a foothold in the rocks, and scampering chipmunks are all around. Plus the very rare but spectacularly plumed hominid primate; take pictures if you see any.
We were also treated to a performance by a passing street juggler:
After lunch and naps, we braved the cave. Some of us had been inside before, so we knew what to wear (bring a winter-warmth layer), and where to rent a lantern (you can get one for $2 or so at the trail head booth). The trail descends into the cave through a 20-foot high opening, and the light level quickly drops to zero, so your trip with either be long and scary or short and unsatisfactory if you don’t bring some sort of illumination.
The entrance has some stairways over the rougher parts of the collapse, but soon you’re walking on packed damp sand, volcanic ash that has been washed out of the rock above by 12,000 years of water flow. The lava tube wends its way gently downhill, gradually becoming smaller and tighter until adults have to stoop to continue. At this point we turned back, but some of the other spelunkers told us it keeps going until you can’t even crawl any further. Claustrophobes need not apply.
Notes: Open May through October. Great for kids, no dogs. The cave is cold, dress warmly even in the heat of summer. Be sure to check out the great visitor’s center at the Lava Forest.