We took a detour today and went on a guided tour of the Lake Shasta Caverns. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever been in caves before, but it was fun for the kids to see something that they’d only read about in books or seen in movies and games.
We took a boat ride across Lake Shasta with a dozen or so others and then rode a bus up a very steep and windy road until we got to a visitors’ center. Part of me wonders how people even get the equipment necessary to build a visitors’ center up this road in the first place.
Then, we entered the cavern through the modern entrance. The original entrance was much higher on the cliff-face and would have required mountaineering gear to repel down into the chamber.
Once inside, we were led through a series of rooms that had concrete floors and modern electric lighting. We were warned to leave all of the rock formations untouched because we could harm the growth of the structure or cause its collapse. How modern lighting is installed without disturbing the living infrastructure of the cavern is also an unknown to me.
The tour guide shows us features of the cave and talks about how they form. She also talks about the earlier generations of explorers that studied this cave. We found evidence of several expeditions and even some hardware used in the initiation of recruits into the Odd Fellows’ ranks.
(that's 1878, btw)
After seeing the cathedral room (don’t all caverns seem to have a cathedral room?) we exited and returned via the bus and boat on which we’d arrived. A quick stop later and we’d eaten lunch in the RV and shored up supplies at a small grocery mart that probably employed more staff than customers at any given moment.
A little later into our drive, we stopped at a scenic overlook to read an exhibit and take in the landscape before we entered the park. It’s not so much what we saw that was impressive. I mean, I do think that the landscape is like no other, but it’s really what we didn’t see that made more of an impression in my mind. That led me to think and get lost in my feels, so bear with me for a minute.
Sometimes I wonder what it takes to leave a mark on the world. None of us will live forever, and frankly, I wouldn’t want that. But nature provides examples to show us what works. Think about all the canyons I’ve posted about over the last several weeks. Canyons are carved out by rivers over thousands of years. What begins as a trickle in the mountains builds momentum and washes away everything that isn’t stable enough to withstand the forces of erosion. All the silt and debris is removed. Even the living things die and their bodies are added to the list of things that cannot last.
On the other hand, consider something like the place we’re staying tonight: Crater Lake National Park. A long time ago, there was a volcano named Mount Mazama . This thing is old. It’s older than any of us, and definitely older than any opportunity to have been given a name. I can barely scratch the surface of its history. As the earth continues to change, convection currents within the core cause some places to be more active than others. Plate tectonics create areas of tension around the pacific ring and mountains are pushed to great heights and destroyed by their internal forces.
So, where there was once a towering volcanic cone rising above the landscape, we now see a lake that was formed in what might be best described as the gravesite of an enormous eruption. I won’t have any pictures of the lake until tomorrow because today was a travel day and we won’t even see the lake until morning. I’m just thinking about it. I’m thinking about how people leave their own marks on the world, whether that be a steady river of water that cuts through a canyon or a devastating eruption of molten rock that transforms the landscape and leaves a different kind of scar in its wake.
In a million years, it won’t even matter… none of us have a mark that will endure that amount of time, anyway. I don’t know. I don’t want to get too philosophical, but would it make any difference in the way we live right now? I don’t even want to know the answer sometimes… I just want to be who I am and let it fall where it will. In the meantime, there’s a lot left to do and see and enjoy about this place and the life we’re given.
Until next time, take care!