Road Trip 2010 Day 4: Lava Beds National Monument & Crater Lake

by Kara on August 1, 2010

Entrance to Sentinel Cava, Lava Beds National Monument, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

We got up this morning and were probably on the road by 7:30. We just took granola bars with us for breakfast. Before heading to Lava Beds National Monument, we went to the Shell station in Merrill for gas. Stephen and I were confused when he started pumping gas and a girl came out and acted like she wanted to pump it for him. I haven’t seen a full service gas station in probably 20 years.

After filling up, we headed back down to Lava Beds. The entry fee for the national parks seems to be $10 for 7 days. Many of the California State Parks are $20 for a single day, so national parks are a bargain.

We went first to Mushpot Cave, which is the “introductory” cave. It has lights and interpretive signs. The cave is short, only 770 feet (235 meters), and there are some spots where it is necessary to duck to avoid bashing your head. Stephen got some really neat pictures in there.

Next was Sentinel Cave, which is one of the few caves (at least of the developed ones) that has two entrances. We started at the upper entrance, and weren’t able to see or hear anyone else in there. In all the caves except Mushpot, you rely on whatever light source you are carrying, and it is otherwise pitch black in there. Stephen got some incredible shots in there as well. He used long exposures and we waved around flashlights while the shutter was open to “paint” the area with light. The cave was warmer than I expected, except for one area that was a bit cooler. It appeared that most people were walking through one way, then walking back to their cars on the surface. We decided the most expedient way to get to our car was to turn around around and walk back through the 3,280 foot (1000 meter) cave. It was much quicker in that direction since we weren’t stopping to take pictures.

Our last stop was Skull Cave, which was only 580 feet (177 meters) long. For me, it’s main distinction was freezing cold railings on stairs down to a lower level. I think Stephen got some good pictures at the mouth of the cave, though.

After that, we finally headed into Oregon. We had made all our own meals up to that point, but in Klamath Falls, we went through the drive-through at Taco Bell. When we got to the window to pay for and pick up our food, we found that the lady in the car in front of us had already paid for our food. I had heard that people do that on occasion, but that’s the first time I’ve had it happen to me. Our meal was $12.89, so it wasn’t that cheap. We rarely go through a drive-through, but the next time we do, you know what we will be doing. That woman certainly brightened our day.

We continued on to Union Creek to check into our cabin. As promised when I called, the executive cabin was very nice. Of course it had a kitchen, but I was especially thrilled to see it had a washing machine, so I could wash my pants made filthy by our Cinder Cone hike.

Crater Lake, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

We then backtracked to Crater Lake to scout photography locations for the next day. We found a couple likely spots, then waited around for sunset. I found that if we parked in a certain spot at a particular view pullout, I got Internet access, so I managed to get days two and three days of my travelogue posted.

We finally headed back to the cabin and I started a load of laundry. Then we went to bed, knowing we had to be up at 4:55 am to get into Crater Lake for the sunrise picture. That would be the one thing that would be nice about staying in the lodge – we wouldn’t have had to get up quite so early.

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