Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox at Lava Beds & Crater Lake

This was an exploration of two dramatic volcanic landscapes timed with the Autumnal Equinox.

Trip Report:
Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Obsidians | Date: September 2018 | Duration: 4 days | Participants: 5 | Type: car camping, hiking, and caving

Upon arriving at the forbidding Lava Lands National Monument we made camp and then explored several accessible lava tube caves around the visitor center. We also climbed the conical shaped 5,302-foot tall Schonchin Butte where we enjoyed views 100 miles east to the Warner Mountains, near Nevada, and 50 miles west to Mount Shasta. In the evening, we walked along a dusty trail into the Schonchin Wilderness Area and encountered an entrance to a lava tube that was at least 4 stories tall.

The next morning we hiked from the campground to Skull Cave where a small ice pond can be viewed year round. We also hiked to several pictograph caves and enjoyed our lunch on the trail. As the afternoon warmed we spent our time underground where we explored three caves and partially a fourth. Back at camp, we were surprised to discover that several hundred bugs had descended upon the hood of one of the cars, possibly attracted by the metallic-blue color. They had apparently been engaged in a frenzied mating and exhausting themselves to death. Bugs that fell onto the ground were snapped up by an eager lizard. As the sun set, we hiked into the nearby wilderness and enjoyed a pastel sky.

On the third day, we packed up and drove through the northern section of the monument. Our last stop was to Petroglyph Point where a monolithic wall includes petroglyphs, raptor nests, and evidence of former wave action. Tule Lake was a gigantic, yet shallow inland lake that existed for millennia. The lake was drained in the early 1900s and the exposed land turned into farmland. The existing lake is far to the west and is one-sixth its original size. Future explorations to Lava Beds will include additional sites of the Modoc War and seeing the remnants of an imprisonment camp where Americans of Japanese ancestry were forced to live during WWII. In the afternoon we drove to Crater Lake and made camp. The Mazama Campground was closing for the season and this was its last weekend. Upon our arrival, the sky darkened and it rained for several minutes. After making camp we hiked to the Great Spring and down the picturesque Annie Creek trail loop. In the late afternoon, we made good use of the camp showers then drove the rim to enjoy the views from Discovery Point. At dinnertime, we made our way to the historic Crater Lake Lodge where we raised a glass to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox then enjoyed a meal. Back at the campground, a nearly full moon encouraged multiple parties at neighboring campsites and sleeping was difficult.

On day four we woke to a frosty 28 degrees Fahrenheit. We warmed up though at the local Annie Creek Restaurant with some hot coffee and breakfast. As we drove along the east rim to the Mount Scott trailhead the sky was blue and clear. We hiked for about an hour to this highest point in the park, which stands just less than 9,000 feet. The view of the once massive volcano Mount Mazama, now known as Crater Lake, was superb! We could see about 100 miles in each direction; to the north the Three Sisters, and to the south Mount Shasta. As noon approached we hiked back down the mountain and ended our trip with a late lunch. There was a definite chill in the air, fall had arrived.

Sequoyah’s One Room Log Cabin

Sequoyah’s one-room log cabinSome of the most interesting places are located just a short drive off the main road. Sequoyah’s one-room log cabin in the beautiful forests and hills of eastern Oklahoma is just such a place.

Sequoyah is known as the inventor of the Cherokee’s nation’s written language. He built this cabin in 1829 shortly after his moving to what is present day Oklahoma.

Sequoyah was born about 1770 in Tennessee to a Cherokee mother and non-Indian father. Sequoyah was “intrigued with the fact that white men could convey messages by the use of writing or ‘talking leaves’…. Sequoyah came to realize that the Cherokee language is composed of a set number of reoccurring sounds. With this insight it was possible for him to identify and create a symbol for each sound, thus producing a syllabary rather than an alphabet.” After 12 years of work, in 1821 he completed the Cherokee syllabary.

The drive to the cabin takes visitors along some beautiful country roads. The first thing you notice when you enter the grounds is the air – it is clean, moist and just makes you feel good. The next things you notice are the well-maintained grounds followed by how solid the buildings are constructed. It is obvious this is a well loved and appreciated landmark.

Sequoyah’s one-room log cabinThe cabin is actually preserved inside a modern building. After opening the door of the outside building you enter a single open room; at the center is a hand-hewn log cabin, along the walls are displays about Sequoyah’s life and his work. What is nice about this exhibit is that visitors can actually step inside his cabin for a close up view of the period furniture and items that would have been in his life. Unlike many places that hide stories from the past behind cold glass, this landmark is open, inviting and warm.

The people working at the landmark were all friendly.

Sequoyah’s cabin is located about 6 miles northeast of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, on State 101. The cabin and grounds are open Tuesday – Sunday. Check the website for hours. Admission is free.

The cabin is preserved as a National Historic Landmark.

A special ‘thank you’ to Arethia Stann for her introduction to this great place and a tour of the surrounding countryside.

For additional information visit:
http://www.okhistory.org/outreach/homes/sequoyahcabin.html

Reference: “Sequoyah’s Cabin” brochure.

Get Up Close to Art and Artifacts of the American West at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum

blog_20101213_img1Just north of Tulsa is a great museum with art of the American West and artifacts from the Americas.

This is the Gilcrease Museum. It is a pleasant day trip for families curious about western U.S. history and the artistic traditions of Native Americans.

During my visit several favorite exhibits included: amazing paintings of ‘the West’, displays of Native American headdresses and clothing, and portraits of the men and women who helped shape the frontier. What really impressed everyone was the ‘Kravis Discovery Center’ on the lower level. This small research area houses many smaller items from the museum’s collection. Here are beautiful crafted arrowheads of all shapes and sizes – including some gorgeous and rare Clovis points, ancient pottery and ceremonial items.

Afterwards, grab a bite to eat at ‘The Restaurant at Gilcrease.’ Request to sit by the large glass windows for views of the picturesque Osage Hills. The menu offerings are simple, yet varied and very tasty.

blog_20101213_img2Parents will enjoy touring the various gardens that surround the museum. Kids can burn off some energy at nearby Stuart Park, just a quick walk away. Here you will find many carved woodland animals hidden along the trail. Visitors will also find a number of bronze statues on the museum’s grounds that are fun to visit. The image above, located at the entrance to the museum is the ‘Sacred Rain Arrow.’ The life sized ‘Pioneer Woman’ sculpture can be discovered while exploring the nearby trails.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays and Christmas Day. Admission is $8 for adults and kids under 18 are free.

Visit Gilcrease online:
http://gilcrease.utulsa.edu

The Often Overlooked, Yet Curious Hospital Rock

blog_20100904_img1People visiting Sequoia National Park often overlook the Hospital Rock area. To many visitors it is not a destination; rather it is an unusual name on the map that lies between the Foothills Visitor Center (at the south entrance of the park) and the popular Giant Forest with its massive sequoia trees.

If you have the time check out Hospital Rock – it is a curious place. One of the first things to notice is the location; it is in a transition zone between the drier foothills and the mountainous region above. The highway also reflects this transition; after following the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River valley the road turns sharply at Hospital Rock and begins a steep series of switchbacks and a climb of roughly 4,000 feet.

At the parking area is a large, smooth monolith that people might think is Hospital Rock – it is a good place for kids to play, to sit and enjoy a sandwich, maybe wave ‘hello’ to people driving by – but this is not Hospital Rock. Nearby are several picnic tables and an interpretive display. At the display you read about the Native people, the Patwishas, and get a glimpse into their lives within this area. The display introduces Hospital Rock and the petroglyphs; apparently the designs were made before the Patwishas settled here. Finally, it tells about this place’s unusual name, Hospital Rock, which was given when a trapper received medical care for a gunshot wound in the 1870s.

Just across the road is a small sign that reads, “Hospital Rock” and behind it is a house-sized boulder. It is odd how this massive stone was there all the time – but was not easily seen.

This great stone is oddly shaped – it appears to have been cleaved, part of it leaning over to one side from the main form. The cleaved area is flat and has been used as a large canvas for petroglyphs, ancient drawings and shapes that have been carved or etched into the rock. Several steps in the rock allow visitors to get a closer look. Many of the rock ‘drawings’ are somewhat faded and streaked by mineral runoff and time, but some a very visible.

At the backside of this rock are several overhangs and caves that provide great places to explore and play for families.

Nearby is a short paved trail leading down to the river. After a short walk of just a few minutes you arrive to see white and tan colored boulders strewn in the riverbed as blue, white and emerald colored water moves quickly downstream.

Exploring the area around Hospital Rock reveals something curious, even mysterious – whispers of an old story are here.

Exploring the Mysterious Rock Art of Little Petroglyph Canyon

Hidden in the northern Mojave Desert and within the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, near Ridgecrest California, is a half-mile wash with over 20,000 images. It is considered the largest known concentration of petroglyphs in the western hemisphere. More information about visiting this remote area can be found at maturango.org.

The canyon starts as an unassuming wash. It quickly impresses. This is a mysterious place and is to be respected. The natural history guide will ask you not to touch the glyphs as the oils from our hands can destroy the rock art over time.

Some of the images are sixty feet above the floor of the canyon.
Impressive. The temperatures at the top of the canyon were well into the 90s’ on the day we visited, however in the canyon they were in the 70s.

The largest glyph is possibly the most recognizable of the all the images in the canyon.