Wanderings: Tulelake

“A nickel’s worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins.

Martin H. Fischer 



In early July I and a group of the family camped for a few days at Lava Beds National Monument, near Tulelake, CA. It is high desert, over 4700 feet, and the weather is very changeable. We picked the perfect time. The weather was fantastic: pleasantly warm during the day and cool, with an occasional little mist of rain at night.

My grandchildren, who are four and seven, like their mother when she was around that age, had a really great time wandering  around in the lava tubes and looking at the two major volcanic craters, one of which is empty (Mammoth Crater) and the other full (Medicine Lake).

The Monument gets its name from the fact that it is full of lava tubes, which are long tunnels created when the molten lava cooled on the top and bottom and the still liquid middle ran out 30,000 plus years ago. Inside the park they have been improved with paths and ladders (some are even lit). The 22 developed tubes are rated easy, moderate and “If you are over 40, don’t even think about it.” (I added that one)

It is also the site of the Modoc war that took place in the 1870s between the U.S. Army and a group of the Modoc tribe led by “Captain Jack.” You can tour the battlefield where 60 Modocs held off 600 soldiers for five months. It is well marked and full of history.

Adjacent to it is the Tulelake Wildlife Preserve, which is on the western flyway for migratory birds. In the spring and fall it is full of birds and a wonderful place to visit. In February it is visited by some 400 Bald Eagles, a sight that is well worth viewing (Klamath Falls, OR is not too far away and has motels, restaurants, etc., and the nearby town of Tulelake has some conveniences), including a restaurant known as Captain Jack’s Stronghold.

I have been going there since 1966 and the people at the Monument are always friendly and helpful. They even have special programs during the summer months that include lectures, demonstrations, and tours of various lava tubes, the Modoc battlefield and more.

The campground has running water and real toilets and is clean. It also has a forever view in all directions. Call (530) 667-8113 for more information, including RV facilities and size limits.

Best of all, this year I got a senior pass to federally owned lands that got us in free (saved $10) and half price on camping (saved $15). The best $10 I ever spent.

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