A dreary black field of obsidian covered the entire horizon and all I could think about was the emptiness that is sure to accompany a lava field. Even though there are constant reminders of the earths volcanic past in California, I often forget about it until it is right in front of me. Whenever I see it though, it smacks me in the face like a dodgeball in gym class during Jr. High. Today, heavy clouds float closer to the ground than to the atmosphere lending the perfect amount of light to complete the otherworldliness of the scene. I have escaped the recent Coronavirus lockdowns by retreating to the border of Oregon and California. There, I found myself searching for life at Lava Beds National Monument.
I felt unusually present while I drove through the empty roads. It’s always hard for me to fathom how anything can survive out here. Dry sage brush struggles to find water even though the atmosphere seems full of it.
I watch a tumbleweed blow across the road into the rocky wilderness, it in itself scarred by the recent wildfires that plowed through here. So recent are they, that the southwest section of the park is closed off and the ground is still a mixture of ash and embers.
It seems almost appropriate though, that this is how I find the lava beds. They were, in fact, once flowing molten rock, disintegrating everything in its path. At this part of the park though, a quiet blanket of calmness seems to wrap itself around everything. The calm before the storm that the clouds are itching to unleash.
I drove down a rough dirt road, a little concerned about the sharp volcanic rock scattered about. Out here, miles away from the closest other human is never the place one wants to have tire issues. With this in mind, I decided that exploration by foot might be the most sensible and soon I was on my own, alone with the ravens searching for a morsel to eat.
I am told that there are some amazing lava tubes to hike in around here, and I wanted to search for them, but the further I pushed into the wilderness, the heavier the clouds seemed and the thicker the air felt. I knew that soon it would start to rain yet it didn’t seem to matter to me at all.
What else was there for me to go and do? The entire west coast was shutting down again, concerned with the virus and therefore afraid of those that dared to explore. Out here, at least the rodents and deer greeted me with curiosity, an invader yet not one that would cause harm.
And I guess that is the takeaway from my few hours in this martian world. Today, we seem to be so overly concerned with our safety that we are losing our will to truly live. We are foregoing experience for the sake of survival, yet we are losing something in the process. We are losing our sense of adventure and further living vicariously through media. Living through intangible experiences and forgetting what it truly means to feel. We are forgetting what it means to be alive.
With that thought, I cherish every day that I am out learning more about the world. The more I live, the more satisfied I am and the less concerned I am with loosing. The only certainty is that there is an end. Other that that, all there is is the path and as the clouds finally burst on my way back to the car, as I slowly trenched through the giant drops of water pouring down all around me, I felt more alive that I had in what seemed like ages. But then I stopped to think about how only days ago I was hiking through the redwoods and what seemed like ages was only hours.
To be alive is not to live and to live is more valuable than anything else I can imagine.
Closest Supercharger Klamath Falls OR – 36 mi
2655 Shasta Way, Klamath Falls, OR 97603
Lava Beds National Monument
1 Indian Well Hqts, Tulelake, CA 96134