Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Scenes from a Shield: Traversing California's Biggest Volcano
Before reaching Mammoth Crater, we stopped at Heppe Caves to catch an unusual sight: water! Very few sources of open water exist at the Lava Beds. Fracturing of the basalt allows water to seep into the ground quickly and no streams or canyons can be seen in the park. At Heppe Cave, a deep layer of ice allows a small pool of water to persist in the lowest part of the huge cavern in most years. Birds and other animals depend on the pool, despite its diminutive size.
It was in the low to mid forties while we stood on the shoreline, and it was drizzling. But the sign said "swimming beach", so my students, who always follow what the signs say...
Our next stop: the last thing you would expect to see on a basaltic shield!