LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT ROAD TRIP June 22-23, 2005
Eager to start my summer travels, I decided to do this road trip on short notice. It had been some 18 years since I have last visited this underused National Monument in Northeastern California.
Leaving in the late morning, Wednesday, I motored quickly north on Interstate 5. I was to shell out the highest amount (2.619/gal.) I have ever paid for gas. Luckily, I believe in fuel efficiency, and get the most out of each tank of fuel. Reaching Mt. Shasta City, I stopped at the ranger station to see what was new about climbing Mt. Shasta. It looked like all is well, there.
Getting a motel room in Weed, CA, I then headed north on I-5 to miss the exit for a short evening drive into the Klamath Mountains. Looking at my maps, I turned back to head south on old U.S. 99, a celebrated, old, historic highway. Passing through the small town of Gazelle, I headed west toward Callahan, enjoying the nice scenery. There were some vistas at unsigned Gazelle Mountain Pass (4,921'). Sights of cattle grazing peacefully under high hills and snowy peaks made for a pretty scene.
I had in mind a pristine mountain hillside that I had seen on a long-ago, peak climbing trip. This was one of my past regrets for not snapping a photo, then. My memory was hazy, and what seemed to be the once evenly forested hillside proved not to be. There had been mudslides, and perhaps some logging. Motoring north on Highway 3 to the town of Etna showed to myself that the hill south of Callahan must have been the verdant slope. I toured the historic old town, while here at Etna, and shot many photos. These are quiet, pleasant, and uncrowded, places to live, but not as spectacular as other mountain towns. The Scott and Marble Mountains are nice, but not anything like the far more rugged Wyoming Tetons, say, or the Idaho Sawtooth. The views were nice and green, though, with still snowy peaks in the distances.
Motoring back to Weed, I had a sandwich for dinner, and watched a movie, then the news, on cable.
I figured to return home, Thursday, since this national chain motel had peremptorily raised the rates from what was stated in their directory for this year. Just too expensive for what are mainly local mountains! But first, I headed northeast on U.S. 97, to get the views of Mt. Shasta's northern side, with its glaciers and ice fall.
Lava Beds National Monument is not too much further. I took CA 161 east along the Oregon border, then back south past a wildlife refuge. The monument ($10 entry fee) has self-pay facilities instead of staffed entrance stations.
I hiked Captain Jack's Stronghold, and visited the Canby Cross. Next was Black Crater, a short hike, then my bump for this trip, Schonchin Butte. The views came out hazy in my photos, but there were flower displays. This trail hike took some 20 minutes to the top. No lookout was on duty.
Coming to the main visitor center, I found the gravel road past Medicine Lake to CA 89 was still closed by snow. Disappointed, I went back north to a newer addition to the park, Petroglyph Point. Thousands of rock art carvings, made by ancient man, are located about this detached corner of the park. I recorded the better examples I could find.
To CA 139, I stopped at Tulelake, CA, to visit the museum ($3.00 for adults). Dwelling largely on World War II local history, some space was devoted to the 1940's internment camp for Japanese-Americans, sited nearby, to which many came from the Central Valley. The small town has some interesting buildings.
The drive back home was uneventful, with a stop to photograph historic Dunsmuir, and then the Turtle Bay Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA. I discovered the right I-5 exit, CA 44 west, this time, which quickly leads to the park area. I would like to hike the river trail here in another winter.
My total drive was a bit over 800 miles. I had hiked probably only 4 miles, with just a few hundred feet of gain, all together. I used some 500 MB worth of digital memory, with some 460 images. The weather was nice, requiring only one additional layer at night, with shorts fine, most of the time. There were clouds of mosquitoes about the refuge marshes, and I saw no ticks. I disbursed $27 for gas, enroute, although starting with nearly a full tank, and coming back with an empty tank. Maybe $12 for food and drink.
After a decade or two, it seems worthwhile to revisit parks and monuments. Due to some uncertainty, I doubt I'll see the Rocky Mountains National Parks this summer, and my hoped-for, ten big peaks to climb now looks better to do in another year. A bad scare about car problems just has me sitting on edge, figuring a few trips to the High Sierra, or other peaks relatively close by, may be enough for me, this season!
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