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The Adventure of Tulelake Caves

In northern California, which is close to the border of the state Oregon, there is an extremely remote and little-known national park called “Lava Beds National Monument.” Due to its complex route, only a few Chinese people know about this place because the road is too difficult to drive for tour buses. It was almost forgotten by a majority of tourists, but in the eyes of explorers, here is a place full of adventures. The risky underground caves are mysterious and intriguing, providing people a feeling of running into the hell. It’s highly recommended for those who prefer a stimulating trip with niche tastes.

Along the mountains of Highway No.5, there is an interesting off-road mountain pass. After feeling the exciting and bumpy mountain road, you will firstly see a vast wilderness with exotic landscapes. Relics of the volcanic eruption such as vertebral mountains, volcanic craters, the volcanic melting slurry caves (Lava Tubes) can be found everywhere. The youngest remnants are from volcanic eruptions that happened a thousand years before. There remains a huge amount of black obsidians after the volcanic eruption. Here there is no longer any sign of living plants or animals. The desolation makes people associate it with a feeling of the end of the world. This type of landscape is absolutely a unique experience whether it be surrounded by a lonely and bright moon night or a rosy and glowing sunset.

The most distinctive landscape near this place is the tunnel-like “Lava Tube”. Unlike other common limestone caves, these caves were formed after a volcanic eruption. Specifically, a large amount of the molten lava shaped a flowing river. Due to the low ground temperature, the outer layer of the molten lava was cooled and condensed into a hard shell, while the internal temperature remained high and the inner lava could still flow. When the eruption stopped, the slurry flow dried and formed a tubular cave.

This volcanic rock park has hundreds of such tunnel-like caves and it is the most intense lava tunnel-filled place in the United States. The caves intertwine with the land and are distributed generously over the land. The surface looks devastating and the underground is similar war tunnels. Approximately twenty caves are now open to tourists. Except electric lights in one of the caves, the rest of the caves are completely dark and unlit. Tourists had better familiarize themselves with the map and register their license plate numbers before entering the caves because this is the only way to get rescued if they get lost. At dusk, if the cave has cars that have registered but there are still no people in the cars, the rescue team will come inside and begin searching. There is no cellphone signal inside the cave and some of the caves are totally dark, which makes it easy to get lost. Therefore, people must bring safety helmets, gloves and the flashlights. Even though the outside temperature is really high in summer, the inside of the caves still remains cool, so people must wear pants when they intend to go inside the hole. When everything is ready, it is time to climb inside the cave!

Those caves are all in a semi-developing phase with varying sizes, shapes and complexities. Signs inside the caves will guide you to avoid people getting lost. However, there are no lights inside there, so if you accidently got injured and were alone, the consequences could be disastrous. The bigger caves are like the super time tunnels, which have a path through the hole. The route will get darker and darker, and also the temperature will get lower and lower. You will see some parts of the way are starting to freeze when you walk further inside. For those small caves, you need to crawl to walk and use both hands and feet at narrow places. If you do not pay attention to the height of the hole, your head will bump into rock, which could be quite painful. People who experienced the joy of climbing and exploring these caves will never forget it. When you encounter the dark hole, you must walk slowly because you do not know how deep the hole is. Also, do not freely shake your flashlight in case there are some unidentified objects you may hit. The atmosphere inside the cave is extraordinarily weird and it is hard to imagine what exactly would happen if you took advantage of the opportunity to scare your partners. Don’t try that!

You can develop a new road for yourself as an explorer and you may discover a shortcut of the exit if you work hard for that. Of course, you can behave yourself and follow the normal path as well. You can challenge yourself and get over your timidity during the process of climbing the cave. Use your sweat and screams to conquer this horrific hole. For everything you do, you should not overestimate your ability or underestimate your potential. Someday you may be one those successful explorers!

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