Monday, August 13, 2012

An Underground Anecdote: the Subway Cave

Place: Subway Cave, Old Station, California
Date: 10/17/2011
Cave at 40.680876, -121.424136. 
Length: about 0.5 mile in and out
Level: easy (requires flashlights). 

We've had frequent visits to Lassen Volcanic National Park but only recently became aware of the Subway Cave - an ancient lava tube just a quarter mile north of the 89/44 junction in the town of Old Station, less that 15 miles north of the entrance to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

If you are in the area, particularly if you have children with you, make sure to visit this place. It is very cool :-) 

Venturing into the darkness. 
This cave is part of the Lassen National forest, which offers guided tours there on summer weekends. On our first time there, we joined this tour and enjoyed it much. The ranger had extra torches (we brought our own next time around) and pointed out to us the earthquake cracks in the cave wall, a lava bubble that solidified upon popping, plant roots emerging through the cave ceiling and talked about the area's geological features. 

This cave was formed during an eruption 20000 years ago, when the edges of a lava flow crusted and solidified, while inside the lava remained hot and fluid. When the inside flow emptied out, the cave walls remained. 
This cave is wide and fairly tall. There is only one spot were we needed to stoop a bit, but most of the time we could walk erect with ease. Also, the bottom reasonably even, without any surprise holes or drops. 
Because it is underground the cave is fairly cool too. A very refreshing coolness on a hot summer day. However, it is not a bad idea to bring a sweater or a shawl. 
Waiting for the subway to arrive. 
This cave is pretty long but only part of it, about 1/3 mile, is open to the public. Because there are no ceiling holes or vents, it is very dark throughout, so be sure to bring flashlights.

A single ray of light piercing darkness.
There is an exit on the other side and one can chose to either go back through the cave or along the above-ground trail (from which, sadly, I have no photos. Nice shrubbery, though.)
All and all, it is a wonderful 30-45 minutes stop, and the children absolutely love it!

Credit where credit is due: the photos in this post were taken by our friends who joined us on this trip. 

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