Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds NM 2014 047

Winning friends and influencing people.

If you don’t like heights, then you probably wouldn’t want to start a journey on a road with drop offs on the side of the road.  That’s Oregon highway 66 that runs from Ashland to Klamath Falls.  But, that’s what we did because it’s still a beautiful drive once you get over the drop offs.  It’s not too bad for the driver, but the poor passenger is looking into the “Depths of Hell”.  Well, not really, it’s too wonderful of a drive to be called that.  Robert’s mother, the first time his parents drove that route, informed his father that they would not be driving that way again.  But, hey, it’s only until you reach the top of the mountains…

We then took Oregon 39 to Merrill (Named after Robert whose middle name is Merrill and if you believe that, wanna buy a bridge?) and then followed the signs – not that we needed them since we’ve been there before.  Arriving a around 1:30, we set up camp, had lunch, and then didn’t do much of anything for the rest of the day EXCEPT meet and greet.  We ended the day with a campfire.  Life was good.

The night before, people told us, it got down to almost freezing.  Never fear! we have our trusty furnace.  And at 0500 when Robert got up to turn it on, it fired right up and within a few seconds it started warming the camper.  Since it was a new furnace, there was some manufacturing residue and a minute or so later, the smoke detector started squawking.  At 0500.  How to win friends and influence people!  Robert disabled the culprit and peace and quiet returned to the campground.

Oddly enough, the campground was REALLY busy.  Perry from Brookings, was with a group of 8th graders – all 50 of them.  Perry’s duty was to keep the thundering hoard fed and having spent many years in the military, we were impressed by the setup.  We didn’t get to try his cooking skills, but the chow line proved the kids loved it!

Perry’s group weren’t the only game in town; there was a 4th grade class of 30 or so, what looked like a college biology class, and a couple more large groups.  Despite the exuberance of children, the camp, was silent at 2200 – quiet time.  In fact, we’ve found that a national parks, the quiet rule is well observed; only once during our tour at Bryce Canyon were we forced to call park Rangers when a group came in a 0230 and were not quiet about setting up.  Turned out they were not only in the wrong campground, they were in the WRONG PARK – by some 500 miles!

Day 2

The first thing we did was move to a new campsite to get more shade and what we thought was leveler ground.  We didn’t set the camper up, but headed out to explore.  Our first stop was Captain Jacks Stronghold.  Turns out Captain Jack was the white man’s name for Kintpuash, a Modoc warrior.  The Modocs occupied the area south of Klamath Falls, Oregon, building their homes along the shores of Tule Lake.  The white man in his infinite ego and stupidity, decided that he knew how to run things better than the indigenous peoples.  So they bundled the Modocs up and shipped them off north to live with other tribes – some of whom, didn’t get along with the Modocs.  So, as can be expected, a band of Modocs “broke reservation” and went home – about 60 families.  The white man couldn’t have that, so the sent in the Army to force them out.  They got their butts kicked.  Sixty men held off 600 fully trained, fully armed, troops.

So, the Army cut them off from their water supply and forced them to surrender.  The Army then shipped them off to Kansas (you know – where Toto lived).  The tribe almost completely died out and their culture lost to the ages.  Another brilliant move by so-called intelligent people.

Our next stop was Gillems Camp.  Once used as a fort base in the Modoc wars, the camp went on to more constructive use when the CCC came in and built what is today Lava Beds National Monument.  Many of the houses and buildings constructed by the CCC are still in use today.  The camp site next to ours has one of the original picnic tables built by the CCC.

(We had some folks we knew from our hosting adventure to Bryce Canyon that called Roosevelt a “socialist” because of some of the programs he developed to get the country out of a recession that had brought the country to it’s knees.  First, we doubt that the person making the claim [like most Americans who fear something they have no knowledge of] understood what the situation was like – they weren’t even born yet.  Masses of Americans were unemployed, many starving.  So, what was our then President supposed to do?  Let the “market” adjust and people continue to starve?  This country was headed towards anarchy and if something wasn’t done, we’d be in a whole different world today.  So, Roosevelt developed the CCC, put millions of Americans to work, saved the nation and created a park system that we could not possibly afford to do today.  Social Security was another program to come from that era.  The funny thing is that today some call it socialism or an “entitlement program”.  Sorry, folks, it was and supposedly still is a “forced saving system” [it is NOT an entitlement, since it’s our own money] because to often people would work hard all their lives and just barely getting by.  It is our money that runs the system, our money that is being returned to us.  The ONLY reason it has so much trouble is that the politicians rob Peter to pay Paul – starting with Lyndon Johnson to support the Vietnam War.  Stop spending the money on other things and the system, run correctly would right itself.  We’ll get off our soapbox now.)

Next on the agenda was Fleener Chimneys – some spectacular lava producing machines.  These flues didn’t exude lava, it shot it into the air and raining lava formed the flows.  Similar things are going on today in Hawaii.  The huge, impressive flow that greets visitors at the North Entrance are the result.  Wow!  How fun would that have been to watch.  From a distance.

Because we are just starting our adventure, we opted not to push things and do too much, and returned to camp.  Having done a fair amount of hiking, we decided to set up camp; something one should never do tired.  It lead to a simple (Robert calls it “moronic”) mistake: he backed into a rock with the door open.  Needless to say, car doors and 400 pound rocks are like paper and scissors – guess who won?  The damage is not bad enough to stop us and our insurance company knows we won’t be pursuing it until we return.  Robert was furious with himself.

Day 3

We started off the morning with a trip to Black Crater and the Thomas-Wright Battlefield.

The Thomas-Wright Battlefield is a perfect example of the arrogance of the white man.  The Modoc warriors occupied two areas close to each other.  Soldiers from Gillems Camp, couldn’t find one of the Modoc’s camps.  So, they TOOK A LUNCH BREAK in the middle of the battlefield and posting only a few scouts.  The Modocs in the other position attack the soldiers and killed most of them.  Poor leadership and a commander that didn’t command much respect, lead to the fiasco for the troops.

We returned to the campground for breakfast and a short nap for Robert (these old guys just can’t keep up).  And then departed for a misnamed cave.  The cave, before it became part of the park, had an ice skating “rink” run by a family named Merrill.  People would come for the exploration of the park and for the entertainment.  In the 1990’s the ice in the cave began to melt and is now completely gone; caused by a change in GLOBAL CLIMATE conditions.

Delving into the cave was fascinating!  The cave has only so much allowed for visitation and goes on for much more than you can see.  We saw no critters, but are somewhat glad we didn’t.  It seems there is some sort of bat mold that has decimated many of the colonies on the east coast.  It came over from Europe – a result of the globalization of mankind.  Having so many people and so much travel has shrunk the world and spread disease.  And, as usual, it’s the other critters in the world that suffer from our over population, which will only get worse.  Frankly, neither one of us have much hope for the future since the major problem is way too many people.  But we like to ignore that, don’t we?

A short day today, we wanted to not only pace ourselves, but get a post up for folks.

We are having a ball!  Tomorrow a slight deviation from the plan; we’re going over to Cedarville, CA and then take the route that goes by Pyramid Lake to Fallon, NV.  We might stay overnight in Fallon at an RV place.  We’re getting pretty stinky.