This was the second part of jam packed day of caving. Earlier we had gone and seen Stanley’s Cave. Then we kept trucking down the road. It was an amazingly warm day in January, and we weren’t going to waste it.
Tabernacle Hill Lava Tubes are another reasonable beginner cave area. A high clearance vehicle or willingness to hike a bit is a must if you don’t want to bash up your car crossing the lava flow. The largest flow is easy walking through tunnels with occasional skylight holes broken through. There is one side tube that gets to total darkness, but much of the tube is simply in deep shadow. Again, being well known and relatively easy to access leads to a large amount of visitation, junk, and garbage. People occasionally camp inside the tube itself. I’m not sure why, it acts like a wind tunnel and blows absolutely nasty sharp volcanic dust everywhere. I wanted a shower after simply walking through it, can’t imagine how dirty you would be if you spent a night in there.
The thing you have to remember about lava tubes is that they are black. Not just dark, like any cave. But absolutely light sucking black. Every time I visit a lava tube I feel like my headlamp batteries need to be replaced, even if they are brand new. It is important to keep this in mind as you are traveling through the tube–you simply can’t see quite as well as you are used to. And it is hard to tell a rock from a hole if you aren’t paying close attention. I recommend stopping to look around, rather than trying to walk and look around at the same time.
We walked through the main tube from beginning to end with everyone along on the trip. Afterward we rattled our way across the flow to some of the other known tubes and checked them out quickly as well. Getting off the flow and onto the “smooth” desert plain was a welcome relief for everyone.
The information I have heard is that this flow was covered by Lake Bonneville, and it has accumulated a lot of “soil” over the surface of the flow because of this. Nearby younger flows are essentially bare rock, and difficult to walk on.(Impossible to drive on.) We spent the last of our daylight running around one of those younger flows in our t-shirts simply looking for additional tubes in the 60+ degree weather. We watched the full moon come up as we talked around our vehicles back on the paved road. Jeremiah absolutely crashed into sleep on the way back home in the dark, and I have to admit I was very glad I wasn’t the one driving the vehicle I was riding in.