We had a neighbor at the campground who was on a bicycle. We chatted a bit the next morning and found that he was on a trip to South America. He had started with is sons, but the had quit a couple days previous so he was continuing on his own. He planned to be in Sacramento it four days. I can't imagine spending so much time on the road alone on a bike. He said that this wasn't the first trip like that he had been on. Pretty amazing. We gave him our number and told him if he ended up in Nevada City and needed a place to stay to give us a call.
This was going to be our last day on the road. We decided to take some time to check out the Lava Beds and then scoot on home. There were several caves available for exploring, we decided on two to check out and headed out. It was still a bit early, 9:00, and we had our first cave to ourselves. There were metal stairs leading down to the lava tube and it continued on for quite a ways. It came to the surface in several spots, and split and rejoined again and again.
It was nice to be able to wander and explore on our own, and for once the Kevlar pants and hard boots were good clothes to wear walking along the jagged, hardened lava.
After a ways, we had seen enough. It was pretty cool, but it was all the same. The next time the tunnel surfaced, we exited. Not where were we? The cave seemed to head mostly north, but how could we really tell? We saw a road nearby, and the road we had been on was a loop. It seemed like our bike must be parked in the opposite direction from that road, it must be the other side of the loop. We took off in the assumed correct direction though the sagebrush and lava rocks. We didn't get far before doubt set in. It would not be a good thing to go traipsing off and get lost. We didn't look for landmarks before we descended. Thinking that we should err on the side of caution we headed back to the road. It turned out that our first gut feelings had been correct and we had been heading the right way after all, but was weird how disorienting the landscape was. Part of the history of the Lava Beds is the Modoc War
, where Captain Jack of the Modoc tribe and over 150 Modoc people hid from the Army in the beds for most of six months. It was easy to see how knowledge of this land would be a huge advantage.
Returning to the bikes we figured one cave was enough. It was interesting, but a bit dull after a while. Riding out to see Captain Jacks Stronghold, an area where they had set up standpoint of defense, we stopped to check out "Black Crater" It didn't seem so much a crater, as a bumpy hill.
It turns out the crater is a Spatter Cone, where thick blobs of lava are thrown out of a vent and they form a cone where they land.
Arriving at Captain Jack's Stronghold we noticed these plants.
From a distance I did a double take. No one in JoMomma could tell me what it was. Go figure!
The stronghold was pretty amazing. We could see why they held out as well as they did. There were caves and alleyways in the rock. Several places were barricaded against enemy fire. It would have been easy to shoot then move undetected to another spot and shoot again. Two warriors could easily seem like ten, and with ten to one odds, they needed every advantage they could get. That place was offensive suicide. What eventually brought them down was water and cohesion, or rather the lack of both. The Army managed to cut off the Modoc from Tule Lake, their only source of water, and although Captain Jack wanted a peaceful end to the conflict, several of his warriors were impatient and thought violence was the way to get results.
I tried to get some photos, of the Stronghold but they just don't come across right on the flat screen. It just ends up looking like a bunch of rocks.
Well the rest of the story isn't very exciting. It was about noon and the GPS told us arrival at "home" would be 5:30. Add in gas and Quiznos and we pulled in at 6:30 rounding out our biggest day at 340 miles. One of the best parts about coming home is that we get to take hwy 20 west of I-80 for a little bit of twisties and then take a shortcut down a side road that is dirt with some nice bumps and ruts to make it interesting. As we turned onto this road there was some major construction on the beginning paved part. Wow, they are going to town here! Getting to the good part we were dismayed to see it freshly graded. Boo!
I feel pretty guilty for the lack of photos in this report. I gleaned the only point of interest from my videos for your viewing pleasure. You can see the bad angle of the camera here in my production of this fine bit of film that I call "Roadkill"