Lava Beds Wilderness HP

Wed, Aug 16, 2017

With: Jackie Burd

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I had a day and a half to effect a turnaround from the end of a 30-day trip to Telluride and the Sierra Challenge to the start of a 12-day roadtrip for the eclipse. With my daughter joining me for this second trip, I barely had time to research any peaks before heading out early Wednesday morning. Jackie wanted to visit Lava Beds National Monument so we made that our first target, a six and half hour drive from San Jose. Only we made a short visit to Burney Falls first because, well, Jackie had never been there, it was on the way, and is one of the best waterfalls in the state for only $8. Afterwards we drove to Lava Beds NM where we got our white-nose bat fungus lecture and questionaire before visiting a handful of the caves off the main loop near the visitor center. We tried a variety of caves from beginner (easy walking, high ceilings) to intermediate (some stooping with sometimes uneven, rocky footing) to advanced (crawling). Jackie loved the advanced ones while Dad favored the ones that kept me off the ground. Crawling under bushes I don't mind, but crawling under something that might klonk me on the noggin - not such a fan of that. After several hours of this it was time to do something for which I had more familiarity with, so we set off on a quest to visit the highpoint of Lava Beds Wilderness. The point is located in the southwest corner of the wilderness and monument, adjacent to Forest Road 44N68 and looks like it ought to be a drive-up. This is probably true if one has a high-clearance vehicle, but for us it would be a bit more work. Forest Road 49 is decent (but somewhat washboarded on our visit), traveling SW from near the Visitor Center, through the monument and to the adjacent national forest. The turnoff to 44N68 is labeled as something else at the junction, but it was not suitable for van travel. We continued southwest on FR49 to a junction with FR44N32 which we followed NW for about a mile. We then parked and headed off on an older road no longer traveled to the north. The road gave out unexpectedly about 1/3mi before reaching 44N68 near Cinder Butte, but the cross-country was not overly difficult and we eventually reached the road we were looking for. More road travel got us to the highpoint indicated on the GPSr after a total of about 1.8mi travel. Lava piled up on the north side of the road gave us 2-3 possible highpoints which we checked out before leaving a tall wooden stick at what we guessed was the highest. The views were exceedingly marginal due to fairly boring terrain as well as haze from summer fires in the area. This was not the sort of outing that would garner admiration from my daughter, but she seems to have come to expect such things and complained not a whit. After reversing our route back to the van, we drove back out to the monument and then north to Klamath Falls, OR where we got dinner at Dennys, one of her favorites. After dinner we drove up to the top of Stukel Mountain, a nearby P2K where we would spend the night (and climb the remaining 200ft to the highpoint in the morning). A rather full day...


Jim P comments on 03/09/18:
For people who might want to see the very pretty Burney Falls but not want to pay $8, there is a free trailhead about .4 miles further away on Clark Creek Road. I found this by searching for Burney Falls in my phone google map app and was surprised not to be directed directly to the state park.
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