Exploring above, and below

My hearty crew went up to the unique land that is the Modoc plateau to refresh our caving skills prior to leading the Adventure Outings caving trip in two weeks. This place is full of human and geologic history, the entire place radiates a sense of ~Magic~.

The ~magic~ begins with the drive up! The landscape changes dramatically as we drive up to the high-altitude desert of the Modoc plateau. As we leave Chico, we begin to drive through the mountainous regions that separate us from Modoc land. We pass some big names on our way up: Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, Castle Crags, and Weed - the last place (probably not, but it seems like it) to get gas in California. We also grab some frozen veggies that I forgot in the freezer back home.

Mt. Shasta (Credit: Lava Beds National Monument)

Mt. Dome (Credit: Lava Beds National Monument)

We drive down Stateline road between California and Oregon to drop in on the Lava Beds National Park through the north entrance.

Lava Beds National Monument location is circled in red (Credit: Klamath Network National Parks)

At the campsite, we were some of the only people there as this is a remote area of California. We’re surrounded by old volcanoes and features that remind us this is a place of action and adventure.

As an avid backpacker, it’s a treat to be able to bring ANYTHING you want with you, this means a ton of SNACKS! And a super comfy, way too heavy sleeping bag. A warm sleeping bag is key! Since we were in the desert, the temperature is polar from day (70’s) to night (20’s).

The next morning we get started on some caves I like to do on trips, and others I would like to try out before the trip. First, we stopped by the Lava Beds National Monument Visitors Center to pick up our caving permit ($20). We then visited an ice cave, hiked through lava fields, crawled through tubes, and hiked a cinder cone.

Spot the caver
Destination: top of that butte
The view is a beaut (Credit: Brandon Downs)

What is unique about this kind of adventure is that you can do it at night!! After eating dinner, we went out to do a few more caves and star gaze.

The next morning, we concluded our trip by attempting the longest and most challenging cave in the park, the Catacombs. We grabbed extra batteries, put our helmets and knee pads on and headed down. This cave is the most difficult because it requires crawling and pushing yourself through openings that are as wide as two feet. This is my favorite cave because it always pushes me, humbles me, and surprises me! It seems like I notice a new feature or a new room every time. Not to mention the false endings and the unique surprise at the end!

Catacombs cave (Credit: Kenneth Ingham, Lava Beds National Monument)

This cave is a maze. You could easily get lost if you don’t know how to navigate with a map and compass below ground. Maps can be purchased at the Visitor Center.

If you would also like to have the Modoc Experience, join me October 26-28th in exploring above and below ground. Sign up in the Adventure Outings office, everyone is welcome, but do note this might not be for you if you’re claustrophobic.