Mt. Shasta to Klamath Falls

Monday, 15 July 2013 15:30
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shasleadWherein I go from never having attended a Datsun Roadster get-together before to attending my second one in three months.


Mount Shasta is a pretty little town, dominated from almost any viewpoint by (you guessed it) Mount Shasta. Shasta itself is an active volcano  , one of several in the general vicinity, and it looms large on the horizon. As they have for the past 28 years, the Datsun Roadster owners of the northwest held their annual meet-up here in the shadow of the volcano.

I've now attended both the Solvang, CA and Shasta, CA roadster events, and the main difference seemed to be that the Shasta one is a bit more laid back. There were about half as many cars here, and fewer of them were pristinely restored and trailered-in examples. Everybody drove in, although by the looks of some of the cars maybe everybody shouldn't have. Nevertheless, there were about 45 cars in attendance, and the events included a couple hour fun run, a poker run, an awards banquet, and of course the show 'n shine event on Saturday. I met a lot of great people and got to see quite a few really nice cars. It's always a little weird to see more than a couple of these in one place, but weird in a good way.

Shasta makes a better-than-average backdrop So that's what I look like from behind... A little confusion on the poker run Visiting Canadians helping out the local economy
A nice assortment Kids showed up and left in those seats. Totally safe. Experienced co-pilots are hard to find The whole gang

After the Datsun festivities concluded, I spent one more night in Shasta, then headed out for points southeast-ishy and north, with the intention being to stop for the night in Klamath Falls, with sightseeing/hiking stops along the way at Burney Falls, CA and at the Lava Beds National Monument. (It's a National Monument instead of a National Park because in the early 1870s, the US Army spent an inordinate amount of money and manpower trying to oust the last of the Modoc indians  from their homelands here, so it's the site of a battlefield.)

Driving through the countryside, you can see that the local landscape and geology is almost completely dominated by the surrounding volcanoes. The terrain around the mountains is relatively flat, as it's largely composed of old lava flows. Cuts made through the hills for the roadway show cross sections of what's underneath, and it's all basalt and compressed ash. It's an interesting change of pace from the normal sedimentary rocks and formations you see most places, and in geologic terms, it's all pretty fresh and new.

Burney Falls is the result of some of that volcanic geology, and it's spectacular. Water seeps into the relatively porous basalt until it comes up against the impermeable layer of old riverbeds, then runs downhill underground until it gets to an area where it reaches the surface, and voila, waterfall. The whole area is covered in basalt, and there were a lot of big talus slopes like the quartzite one I saw at the Bristlecone park. The basalt tends to break up into bigger chunks as it's more porous, but the basic concept is the same; ice breaks up the big sheets of basalt farther up the slope into little pieces, then those little pieces slide down and form the talus slope.

The falls. Note the water coming out of the porous rock face. More falls The water was remarkably blue A tremendously exciting basaltic lava talus slope

OK, enough geology. I'm sure you're all napping by now. How about...more geology!

My next stop was the Lava Beds National Monument. It was a bit of a rough drive in from the south, as the road in was not paticularly well kept, but it turned out that it was well worth the trip. This was probably one of the coolest things I've done on the trip so far. Here's the deal:

About 30,000 years ago, Mammoth Crater started pushing out lava. A lot of it, about a cubic mile or so. This area probably looked a lot like the lava fields in Hawaii look now, but bigger. All the classic features and formations are here--cinder cones, chimneys, lava beds, craters, and last but not least--lava tubes . A lava tube is a natural conduit that's formed where lava flows beneath the surface of a lava bed. The outside of the tube is cooled and hardened, but lava still flows through the inside until there's no more lava. Then the remaining lava in the tube flows out, leaving a long, hollow tunnel. There's over 400 of these tunnels and 'caves' at Lava Beds.

This is probably the least supervised national park I've ever been to, which is a good thing. Basically, you stop at the vistor center, they screen you to ask if you've been caving anyplace else recently (so you don't transmit foreign diseases to the local bats), then hand you a map of where the tubes/caves are, and wish you luck. You can borrow a flashlight if you want, but that's about it; you're on your own after that.

I was already equipped with a light, so I went off in search of my first lava tube. Sure enough, I found a hole in the desert floor with a US Park Service ladder going down into it, and squeezed down into it. Once you were down there, the tube itself was more than tall enough to walk upright in (although there are more difficult tubes and caves that require some crawling). This particular tube was "Golden Dome", so named for the hydrophobic bacteria that line the surface of some of the chambers, giving them a golden hue. It was about a half mile underground hike to the end and back, and it was a really weird thing to be hiking under the desert in a nice, cool cave. At one point deep inside, I turned my light off to see what it was like, and that was probably both the darkest and most quiet place I've ever been in my life. Completely pitch black and dead silent.

The entrance to one of the tubes Inside the tube Some obstructions, but nothing too bad Some neat formations on the tube roof
This is why they call this one "Golden Dome" The light at the end of the tunnel Some caving tips A different tube
In some tubes, the ceilings had collapsed in spots Another ceiling collapse South rim of Black Crater. Potential Star Trek set, too. People have asked to have me in the pics sometimes...
This cooled off about 7,000 years ago More Black Crater North end of one of the lava beds West slope of one of the cinder cones. Not a talus slope, btw.

After exploring several more lava tubes, I started making my way farther north. I stopped at Black Crater, which is the "freshest" of the craters that flowed lava, as well as the site of one of the Modoc's last stands. The lava rock looked like it had just cooled yesterday, and I was once again in another Jules Verne moonscape. California is full of some pretty weird features. 

Klamath Falls was only about another 30 minutes north, and I found my lodging there for the night, a room in a horse barn. This was actually pretty darn close to camping, as there was no bathroom, no air conditioning, plenty of bugs, and animals everywhere. However, it was a real bed for $15, and all I needed was a place to crash, so it was exactly as advertised. Plus I got to hang out with the horses and the dogs for a while, which was fun. Next stop: Myrtle Point, OR.

My roommate in Klamath Falls A smaller, quieter roommate

Also: Since Saturday marked my first full month on the road for this trip, I thought I'd run down some quick statistics:

  • States visited: Three (NV, AZ, and CA)
  • Miles travelled: 3,994
  • Gallons of gas used: 169
  • Average MPG: 23.7
  • Car repairs: One, $19.70

At this rate, I'll get home some time next year, having covered over 20,000 miles...


#1 SJMike 2013-07-16 05:57
1600 in the poker run picture reminded me of the one I sold to you, had more fun in that car then almost anything else I've owned except the XKE
#2 laceytrynn 2013-07-16 08:28
That pic with the datsun and the carseats... brings out all my protective urges!

The lava tubes looked so cool, very similar to ones we went thru in HI; we also turned off the lights and sat still and experienced the darkest, quietest place we'd ever been.

And I guess there really are falls at Klamath Falls!
#3 admin 2013-07-16 08:49
And I guess there really are falls at Klamath Falls!
Actually, that was Burney Falls. I still never saw any falls in Klamath Falls. Interesting KF trivia, though: All of the buildings downtown are geothermally heated, and they've got a geothermal snow melt system under all the downtown sidewalks.
#4 danabart 2013-07-16 13:24
I'm not sure who's requesting that you be included in a photo but I have to admit, in that shot of you against the lava rock you look a lot tougher than you used to. Something about getting out from behind a desk I suppose. I like the other picture of you too, bottom-right!

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