Today we explored the lava caves and tubes section of the monument. When we left this morning we didn’t bring lunch because thought “How long could it take to look at 4 caves?” Well, we only got two done before we had to head back to the RV for lunch. Then back out to check off the other two.
Our weather luck held up again. This morning it was bright and sunny. As we got back to the RV it started to rain with some thunder and lightning. After lunch I looked out and it seemed that the rain was not out over the area where the caves were. Sure enough we were back in the sun. Going back to the car I felt a few drops and as we did our internet stop it came down pretty hard.
I went a bit picture crazy today so it is another long post (in a long line of long posts). I also broke out my very powerful off camera flash. It can easily light up a large room or in this case a cave.
It is about 0.8 miles to caves. The trail is a Y with Dewdrop Cave at the junction, Indian Tunnel on one branch, Boy Scout Cave part way out the other branch and Beauty Cave at the end.
It is a nice paved path through the sharp lava, until you get into the caves.
We passed by lots of deep pits which I imagine are collapsed lava tubes.
And a long fissure.
Some people on one of the trail branches.
First up was Indian Tunnel. It is the “easiest” because there are stairs partway down, it is a massive tunnel so nobody is getting claustrophobic and there are enough collapsed roof section that it is never very dark.
The main tunnel is ahead of me. It goes for 800 feet until you can pop up through a small hole and take a surface route back. Behind me, the tunnel continues for a short way. To my left, a branch tunnel goes about 100 yards before it opens out into a large collapsed section where you can climb out. We did the main section first and then I checked out the other two.
Into the main tunnel. There was sort of a path to follow, more like some slightly more worn rocks. There was a lot of scrambling over and around the rocks floor of the tunnel.
Lots of massive skylights.
Looking back at the entrance
A photosphere. This one has a fuzzy spot but I didn’t notice it until after we were gone.
There were a few easy flat sections but there was always some climbing over the collapsed roof.
Jennie looking back down at me.
The little hole at the end.
The exit is the dark round shadow in front of Jennie, below.
Completing the loop on the surface.
Looking back down through some of the “skylights”.
Jennie almost lay down in this slot but the rocks were too sharp.
Back at the entrance I went down to first check out the tunnel directly behind the main one. It only went a short way. It was wide and empty and it seems that I forgot to take a picture. It must have been boring.
The one to the side had a narrower more intimidating entrance.
But once you got down a short, steep, rocky slope you could see to the end.
Jennie waited for me there.
The photosphere as I exited.
Backwards towards Dew Drop Cave.
A very colourful wall.
Dew Drop Cave starts on the left side of this collapsed section of lava.
The entrance was bigger than it looks but it was still tight.
Once you got through the opening there was a colourful room that you could stand up in but that was it.
Time to climb back up to Jennie.
Then home for lunch.
After lunch I went back by myself. Jennie knew exactly where I was going so knew where to send help if I didn’t come back. There were also still a fair number of people on the trail.
The thunderstorm I left behind at the campground.
The entrance to Boy Scout Cave. It is the little hole to the bottom left.
In this and the next cave there was zero light so I am also seeing the caves through these pictures. I had two LED flashlights but they gave off just enough light to not stumble on anything but never showed any detail.
Down I go.
This cave was really cold and everything was coated in ice. I had to be extra careful and always had a hand free to hold onto the wall or a rock.
A very slippery and icy floor.
All the rocks are coated in ice.
Thankfully the sharp ceiling was high enough that I didn’t hit my head.
At first I couldn’t figure out why the pictures looked cloudy and then I realized that it was my breath (that I couldn’t see).
It was a short but treacherous journey to the end.
The cave has two branches from the entrance. I took the right one which dead ends. The left one exits into another depression after a short way but the entrance looked way too narrow for me so I declined.
This is where it came out.
Beauty Cave was at the end of the trail. It was an easy one.
After a short scramble down some rocks it opened into a huge tunnel with a smooth flat floor.
In the dim LED light I almost didn’t see the one obstacle.
I would guess that the cave was about 100 yards long.
There were a few interesting icy patterns on the floor.
At the end.
The light at the beginning of the tunnel.
And up I go.
Then home to let Jennie know that I was all right.
A photosphere of the thunderstorms around me.
It is another very full night at the campground. We are moving on tomorrow so I am sure the vultures will be hovering for our site, as we leave.