2011Closer 2 Home travel blog

the Lava Beds National Monument visitor center

our campsite

a quiet and tranquil campground

we took the Cave Loop to get a feel for the park





the caves are lava tubes buried in the ground

Indian paintbrush

there is a wide variety of high desert foliage here


one of the more colorful plants



more paintbrush



an explanation of the geology

more information







all this lava flowed from Medicine Mountain




hundreds of these caves have been discovered in the valley

a fascinating natural bridge





Mount Shasta on the horizon

these rock formations are the oldest in the park


they are combatting a bat disease here

this is called The Devil's Homestead






Mount Shasta from Tule Lake

the Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge











the long road south

farm country most of the way



we were slowed down by a number of construction zones

passing Mt. Lassen



traffic was light most of the way until we got close to...


south of Redding we picked up good ol' Highway 99

the original north/south road through the Central Valley

it hasn't changed much

nearing Auburn

this route let us bypass Sacramento at the rush hour


Today we had a long drive but we wanted to see the lava beds first, so we broke camp early and took a ride through the park’s Cave Loop. These caves are not tunneled into the sides of hills, but are tubes in the lava floor of the valley. They are entered through holes in the ground, and some of the more accessible ones have parking spaces and metal stairways that take you down to the cave level. They are mostly not deep, but some of them have places where you have to crawl and wear a hard hat. There are said to be some 700 discovered and explored caves in the park.

The beds in Lava Beds National Monument were created by eruptions from Medicine Mountain, a relatively low but massive member of the Cascade Range. These were mostly non-violent flows of lava that spread out over the gentle slopes of the mountain. Medicine Lake now lies in the crater of the volcano, and Lava Beds National Monument lies on the north slope. The volcano is dormant, but future eruptions are expected as the plates that underlie the Cascade Range continue to move against each other.

From the Cave Loop we headed north through the park and then west to the highway and south. Our route took us past Tule Lake and several overlooks to it’s Wildlife Refuge. These wetlands are in such contrast to the arid nature of the lava beds, and they give a special beauty to this high desert plateau. The elevation here is almost a mile above sea level, but there are snow capped peaks towering even higher in the distance. One of them is Mt. Shasta, and from this viewpoint Shasta is magnificent.

We took a series of roads south and west as we headed for Redding, the midpoint on today’s drive. Our ultimate destination was the town of Placerville 360 miles away, or more specifically the Red Hawk Casino a few miles west of Placerville. The casino is on Miwok tribal lands, and our friends Jim and Denece Adams live on the reservation and have been instrumental in the development of the casino. I used to work with Jim and Denece at PG&E, and they are long time friends.

The drive down the Central Valley can be long tedious, but south of Redding we left I-5 and took the more rural Highway 99. 99 is the old original valley highway, and it is slower than the interstate but a more direct route to where we were going. It also had the advantage of letting us avoid going through Sacramento, which can be a traffic nightmare at the evening rush hour. We passed two bad accidents, one on I-5 and the other on Highway 99, but fortunately we were involved in neither of them and we got past them with a minimum of trouble.

We arrived at Red Hawk before 6:00 and had a great reunion with Jim and Denece, and with Jim’s son Butch and daughter Brenda. I met Jim when the kids were tots, and I’ve known them for 40 years. We had a great visit, with dinner at the casino’s fine buffet. Jim retired from PG&E at the same time I did, and he just turned 70 last week, but he and Denece are the adopted parents to three children eight and under, and are foster parents at the present time to another little boy. The kids are children born to tribal members who have drug addictions, and Jim and Denece have taken in many of these kids over the years. Some they keep only until their own parents can recover and take them back, but three they have adopted themselves.

They give these kids the love and affection they need, and the children are as good as can be. The oldest is Anna. They adopted Anna as an infant and she is now eight. She is bright and precocious, and it is obvious she adores her mom and dad. Typical of Jim’s attitude toward children, when people tell him how lucky the kids are to have him, he shrugs it off and says it is he who has been blessed. With an attitude like that it’s no wonder so many kids here squeal 'Daddy!' when they see him, and run to him and give him a hug.

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