Sunday, November 05, 2006

lava tube (at night!)

Thanks to daylight savings time it rapidly became night after leaving the dunes (digital shutter speed not fast enough to capture scene when you shove the camera out the window while driving). This transition from daylight to the absolute pitch blackness of the desert made our next stop tricky (it also caused me to lose all students (they went home) but the 2 with me).

The lava tube is located beyond a collapsed tube at the base of a cinder cone. The collapsed tube is located near a wash that edges an unmarked turnoff near an old corral on an unmarked dirt road some 15 miles north of Kelso Depot (old train station deep in the Western Mojave that reopened this Spring).

Despite missing the turn onto the unmarked road and having to backtrack to it, despite the uneasy and doubtful comments from the back "are you sure we should be trying to find this at night? isn't this kindof pointless?", and despite the annoying fact that rough sandy and cinder-y road absorbs the light from highbeams rendering them almost useless - I pressed on.

We eventually found the corral and I squealed with glee - turn left whenever you can!
We turned left and rumbled along considerably rougher road for a few feet, piled out, passed out flashlights and started roaming around blindly. The roaming was pointless - they were sticking too near the car! I ignored the troopers and pressed on following the ever worsening "road" (probably in daylight I'd find that it isn't a road at all). I stumbled across (not actually stumbling, believe it or not) a large basaltic rock that looked suspiciously flow-like. I decided to follow my gut and make a sharp right into the black. Less than a minute later I found myself looking at a big hole in the ground:

Into the blackness I whooped "woohoo!!!! I FOUND IT!!!" to the utter disbelief of the others. They followed, and my faithful (though very quiet) student Riley helped find the "entrance hole".

Check out that ladder! It's hilarious!
In we go! (ME FIRST!) And snap a shot back up at the sky - check out that full moon and black night!!!

There were some low spots where one had to crouch or crawl
The floor was blanketed with find silty desert sediment - evidently fairly dusty - my flash captured a lot of that!

Then once our eyes grew more accustomed to the dark and our flashlights scanned the walls of vesicular basalt, we found we weren't alone.
Here is a teeny little bat high on the wall. I said "hey little bat-let, where's your family? you can't be responsible for all the poo in here" The bat just wiggled its wings and ignored me.

Here is one of several nests we scoped in various nooks and crannies well above our heads in the tube. If you zoom in really close you can see the head of a little mousie (possibly Frederick) peeking out.

And here we came across the distinctive original hole (the "glory hole") that I found in the dark from above. Man was that ever cool. Lava tube during daylight will never compare now!

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