Suzanne had camped at Indian Well, the campground at the Lava Beds National Monument, before, so she knew exactly which site she wanted: #18.

Or not.

a wild land Fire Danger sign, severely damaged by fire, with burn marks obscuring most of the text
They’d gone somewhat beyond Severe Fire Risk.

The campground and much of the surrounding area had burned, recently enough that the damage was still obvious. Site 18 was black and charred, looking out onto a vista of ashes and soot. Fortunately, other parts of the campground had survived and we found two sites together without any difficulty.

And the fire didn’t damage the fun parts of Lava Beds, aka the caves. Suzanne was still under the weather, but not so under the weather that she didn’t want to go clambering around underground, so we spent our Tuesday wandering from cave to cave, managing to explore five of them — Golden Dome, Sunshine, Indian Well, and Upper and Lower Sentinel.

Was I efficient enough to tag my photos with actual names of the caves when I took them? No, of course not. Honestly, though, pictures of caves don’t strike me as all that interesting in retrospect — rocks, rocks, and more rocks, really, with not a lot of color — so it’s probably just as well.

I think this cave was named Sunshine. I spent a good while trying out everything I’ve learned in Affinity Photo hoping to improve this photo — but you know, rocks are rocks.

My favorite cave, though, was definitely the one that most reminded me of every video game I ever played in my childhood. As we climbed down into it, I told Suzanne that I fully expected to be attacked by either orcs or goblins any second.

Lava Beds also had truly spectacular sunrises, sunsets, and night sky. Desolate scenery is always good for a good sky. So are wildfires, for that matter. (There were none burning anywhere near us, of course, or we wouldn’t have been there, but fire season isn’t over and I’m sure the amount of ash in the air had something to with the colorful skies.)

sunrise photo with a sliver of moon in the sky
Sunrise at Lava Beds. Note the sliver of moon. Not all the trees around the campground burned, but most of the undergrowth is charred stubble.

This final photo is only sort of a photo of the Lava Beds. Or rather it is, but it has been extremely thoroughly tweaked in my image-editing software. Those aren’t the real colors, that’s not the real sky. The weather, in fact, involved beautiful blue skies with spectacular clouds every day that we were on the road. But I was experimenting and I liked the way this one turned out. And it does capture the charred desolation well, even if it was a lot less apocalyptic in person.

a very golden, bleak landscape shot
Not the real Lava Beds.