Beginning of day two - and yes, indeed, the clouds were clearing. No more rain, and blue skies were fighting for dominance. Hallelujah!!!
One of our first encounters of the day was with "Gary" the Campground Host. We've been blessed with our last two camping trips of having campground hosts that have been super informative and helpful to us. Gary told us all about Jot Dean Cave (which we'd found on a map), Medicine Lake, and, best of all, the Lava Beds National Monument. While I spoke to Gary (a grandfatherly sort of guy), the girls made friends with "Chip", his dog. Chip grunted and groaned constantly in appreciation of all of the girls attention and love, he was in Heaven!
Waiting for the clouds to clear out - with Russian Tea and our Kindles (while the kids, literally, played with fire) =)
On the road....see that blue sky? We followed this scenic byway for about 70 miles each way to our final destination. But, it was SO WORTH it. The scenery was gorgeous, it was paved and easy to drive, and we pretty much had the whole route to ourselves.
Here's a view just a few miles in. That's Mt. Shasta amidst the clouds.
First stop, and the first cave of the day - "Jot Dean Cave". We were told this one had ice...
Going down into the crater.
And, then we hit the ice. Ellie did a little sliding and got her backside a little wet.
This is the view from where Michele was sitting back up to the entrance. You can barely see the silhouettes of the girls.
Next stop, a couple of lakes. The first one was Blanche, and the next Bullseye. Along the way, we found snow, undoubtedly left behind from the night before's storm.
The last lake stop was Medicine Lake. This place is "hopping" with all of its offerings once it gets warmer. It has a cut apart area for swimming, apparently it's well stocked with fish, and has lots of camping and picnicking. However, given the patches of snow around the lake, we weren't too interested in any of the water sports.
About 17 miles beyond Medicine Lake, we came to the the Lava Beds National Monument.
The scenery changed dramatically from this side of the mountain - you could actually see all the way to Oregon's border from here.
This place has over a dozen caves to explore, but they require you to check in first so you can pay the National Park fee and also verify you haven't visited other caves along the east coast or Europe to risk bringing in a fungus dangerous to the bat population here. Bats? You bet...however, they closed off the particular caves where the bats were tending to their babies at this time of year. So, there were no encounters of the winged-furry-creature kind.
The first, "introductory" cave was "The Mushpot". It had LED lighting along the way to illuminate special features, and gave us our first opportunity to watch our heads (yes, that's why you are told to wear helmets) and try duck-walking under the low lava bed ceilings.
From there, we spent the next three hours (until two minutes before the park closed!) exploring six more caves.
Skull Cave, one of the few that still had an ice ledge in the park, was named after two human skeletons found in the cave next to dozens of animal (like livestock) skeletons. No one knows why they were down there.
We didn't get back to our campground until around 6:30 - just in time to bbq some hot dogs, heat up some baked beans, and perfect the meal (and a wonderful day) with s'mores.