The beautiful sunrise shined on the Escape trailer when the moon was still in the sky. Today we became caveman and cavewoman. Each of us wore a miner’s lamp for the cave tour.
Merrill Ice Cave doesn’t have ice anymore due to the rising temperature. Cold water drops hanging at the tips of lavacicles. They were as pretty as the dew and shone like diamonds. The steep ladder took us deep into the cave. It was cold down there although I had three layers of cloths on. The lava rocks have rainbow colors with shades of green, brown, blue, rust and purple. It was nature’s artwork. The different patterns of the lava rocks are fascinating. One looked like a carved cathedral half dome painted with dabs of rust color. Another resembled a fiery sunflower head.
Skull Cave was huge and deep. It had a huge rough tunnel with large lava rocks. Standing at the entrance looking up towards the ceiling, I was awed by its gigantic dimension. A narrow trail skirting by the wall of the cave only allows one person to walk at a time. I took steep ladders going deep down the cave. The ice floor was closed for tour in order to preserve the precious ice and water for wild life in the cave. Through the gap of the gate, I saw a little ice under the big rocks under the floor. When we were near the entrance, the natural light shone into the tunnel was so welcoming!
It felt hot already at 10:30 in the morning although it was in the lower 80s. We started our hike to Symbol Bridge. Although it rained last night, the air in the high desert remained dry. Feathery cirrus clouds flew above Schonchin Butte. There were collapsed lava tubes along the way. It didn’t take long for us to feel the heat. We took small breaks under spruces. The shade and fragrance of spruce were so delightful in the hot summer day. Half way on the trail, we regretted that we forgot to carry water with us from the truck. I asked a man on his way back on how far it was. He said it was right around the corner. He didn’t see any pictograms at the Big Painted Cave but he saw some at Symbol Bridge. That kindled my hope. I walked faster and soon passed the Big Painted Cave.
We finally reached Symbol Bridge after the one-mile trek. From my perspective, the symbols on the cliffs are similar to Chinese oracle. I think that native Indians depicted things that were important to their daily lives, such as water and plants. Modoc people have been living in this land for over 11,000 years. They fished and hunted on this sacred land until they were expelled to the reservation. Some Modoc people returned and ignited the Modoc War. Modoc people won some of the battles but they lost in the end.
The cave tour was adventurous. And the hike to the cave enhanced the experience of exploration.