Exploring the Lava Beds National Monument

When exploring the Natural World you can easily get carried away.  At least I can, anytime I go outside I get distracted by a new kind of bumblebee, a bird or flower that I want to identify, or if I nearly step on a ladybug (my worst nightmare).

I love it when I travel to a different kind of climate and find a mixture of new and familiar species and specimens.  In the PNW we have the usual Douglas Fir trees, the Ponderosa Pines, and our lush terrain filled with all kinds of various shrubbery such as ferns, mosses, and lichen.  You can always seem to find these somewhere if you travel around the Western-End of America.

Recently, I took a road trip to the Lava Beds National Monument in beautiful Northern California.  It was such a unique experience for a wanna-be botanist/naturalist such as myself. I always look forward to finding new species of plants on my trips, however, with this trip, I had to get used to the idea of some different expectations.  At the Lava Beds, there is nothing but the porous and extremely abrasive lava rock that completely surrounds the areas where there was once an ancient lava flow. It looks like an entirely foreign place, somewhere that belongs on the moon or Mars.

There is little plant life with the exception of the wild (and the wonderfully smelling) sage bush.  However, in one of the lava flow caves called the “Golden Dome” there was this gorgeous, fluorescent fungus that grew on the rocks!  It was such an interesting sight to see so deep underground, it looked like gold sparkling in the darkness, even upon closer inspection it still looked like a mineral of some kind to me.

Upon the surface, the spring California sun was shining hot and brightly but in the caves, it was extremely cold, a jacket is a MUST when exploring the underworld. In all honesty it took me about 45 minutes before I begin to feel claustrophobic, relying on a flashlight as the only means of navigation and being under heavy lava rock just started to get to my psyche.  When I came back up to the surface it was a bit of a shock adjusting to the hot air again but other than that, it was an excellent excursion!

I was anticipating some kind of creatures such as bats but I didn’t see a single flying furry friend. Much to my surprise when I arrived back to the cabin where I was staying my brother found a bat crawling on a candlestick in his room! (Don’t worry, he was carefully let outside)  I guess they have their own ideas about where they want to hang.

Overall it was a spectacular adventure, it was only a short trip from Klamath Falls and there was a breathtaking view of Mount Shasta along the drive.  I cannot wait for more outdoor excursions this Spring and Summer!

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