Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lava Beds National Monument

On the Fourth of July we drove to California's Lava Beds National Monument. This was a very cool place, and I wished I had ditched my travel pillow to make room in my luggage for heavy pants for the lava tubes. I have been to a lot of limestone caves, and crawling around in them means becoming extraordinarily dirty. My friends warned me to bring clothes that I could get dirty, but they did not warn me about the rocks being sharp. The dirt was negligible compared to limestone caves, but since I was wearing lightweight summer pants, I felt uncomfortable climbing around very much. I don't like cutting up my legs.

I steered my friend away from the lava tube cave loop, where he normally goes exploring, and we went to see pictographs at Symbol Bridge, which had some good pictographs and also a welcome spot where cold air blew out of the ground. We looked in Big Painted Cave too, but as far as we could tell, this cave was not painted by Native Americans, only by mineral deposits and guano.

We went to the bottom of Skull Cave, which is a massive ice cave, and you can see the ice at the bottom. I was impressed with the size of this cave, formed not by thousands of years of water erosion, but by a volcanic eruption. I never once needed to bend over.

At that point I was running out of steam. I had been constantly on the move for a week, and my right knee was giving out, and I was falling asleep in the car. We stopped at the edge of the park to see petroglyphs, and then we headed to R.'s house, where we did not go out to see Fourth of July fireworks, but instead purchased salads at a grocery store, ate in, drank wine, and watched "Babylon 5" episodes on DVD.

Petroglyphs are a curious thing to me. We believe they may have had great spiritual significance, but they often remind me of teenagers who get drunk and paint bridges. Some are artistic, and others look to be on the lines of "Tony + Lisa."

On Saturday we breakfasted in Klamath Falls and drove back to Portland. R. was very kind to drive me such a long distance. Our Portland friends cooked us a wonderful dinner and bought us marionberry pie, which was so good that I had a second piece, when normally I only accept dessert to be polite.

In the evening we rounded up my friends' son, and we all went to Oaks Park, a little grouping of carnival rides. My favorite part was racing the other grown-ups down the super slide. The children's roller coaster was actually scary because it felt like we were going to fall out, and it banged us around quite a bit.

Sunday was Powell's City of Books, and then I flew back to Chicago. My car was still there, I got home fine on the spare, and I ordered a new tire in Iowa City.



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