I have been camping in the Coconino National Forest for a few days. I knew from reading blogs that three friends I met last winter were in the area of Flagstaff, so when I arrived in town I emailed John to see if I could drop by for a visit. He replied back that he, Nancy, and Jeanne were all camped north of Bellemont, about 10 miles west of Flagstaff. He said there was lots of room where they were staying, and to come on out and camp with them.
It has been nice to see them again. We go for walks in the morning and catch up on all the news of places we have been this summer. Yesterday, John drove us all to McDonalds at the end of the road where we all enjoyed a breakfast. They have been saving their receipts and going online for a coupon for free food. I thought you would have to give out your email address but they said no.
This afternoon I drove 8 miles north of here to a lava tube cave. The Lava River Cave is almost a mile in length. It has not been improved in any way, and in fact the forest service tries to remove any trash or graffiti left by humans. It is really kind of a nice place to go.
Because it was a Saturday, there were many people there to hike the cave. There is only one entrance to the cave so everyone has to walk two miles to do the whole length. The entrance is quite technical with large, jagged, slippery boulders, where you scramble down a steep slope for about 50 feet. Then the cave levels out for the rest of the way. There are still piles of rocks to climb over that sometimes roll around under your feet, and low ceilings that don’t move if you forget to duck. Ouch!
A lot of the walking is on a floor of bubbles, seams, and lava flow, turned to rock. It is quite easy to twist an ankle or lose your balance in the dim light of a headlamp. I saw a few kids that moved too fast over the uneven rock, trip and fall.
As I traveled further back into the cave, the crowds thinned and there were even times when I was all alone and out of flashlight flicker from people ahead and behind. When I reached the end of the cave, there was a group of young people playing band instruments. I not sure what kind of celebration they thought they were doing, but to each his own. The noise ruined the affect for me.
I was pretty tired by the time I got back to the entrance. I had already walked 4 miles that morning, and the additional two of the cave left my legs pretty rubbery. I would like to do it again someday when there were not so many people.
I’m going to leave in a couple days and travel down near Richard and Dianna. They are leaving to travel to Texas in a couple weeks and it will be nice to see them before they go. Then it will be time to find a lower altitude to camp – it has been down to freezing the last two mornings! Brrrrrr!