Return to Tabernacle Crater

This October, the scout group I'm currently a leader of was in need of a campout and a place to go.  After taking my family out to explore Tabernacle crater the month before, I knew the young men in our group would enjoy it and suggested it to them.  They concurred.  So, back to Tabernacle Crater I went, this time to camp out.

 October 14-15, 2016

Due to leaders like myself not being able to get off of work sooner and the drive out to get there, it was well past dark by the time we arrived out at Tabernacle Crater to set up camp.  As we approached it, there was already a couple groups that had taken up the spots at and next to the area I had parked with my family the prior month.  It was also evident that another group was right on our tails, likely there to camp as well.

Having studied out some pics from others of the area and some satellite imagery, I now knew there was another choice location to camp a little further on down the dirt road.  With fingers crossed, we continued on in hopes of finding that next site unoccupied.  To our delight, it was.  We pulled right in and got to work with unloading and setting up our camp.  Those behind us passed on, having to go further down the road in pursuit of a site for themselves.

Once we were settled in, the boys got itchy feet and wanted to head up Tabernacle Hill, which rose up just east of our camp.  As leaders, we followed them up to the ridge where we were treated to a nightscape featuring the lights out in the towns of Meadow and and Fillmore.  I was so focused on ensuring nobody wandered off into anywhere dangerous, that I did not think to get my phone out to try snapping up a few pictures.  There were a few small craters (I'll call them manholes) that surrounded our camp within the much larger crater were were in that lied in wait waiting to swallow up any unsuspecting wanderer.  Ranging from around 20-30 feet across and 10-20 feet deep with vertical walls all the way around and highly abrasive lava rocks and boulders that lined the bottom of these small 'manholes', it was imperative that I and the other leaders keep everyone corralled in the right areas.

After taking in the view from the hill, we went back down across our camp, found one of the 'manholes', then moved on up the other hill and a small jagged peak to the west.  Along the ridge there was a small saddle that dropped down into the main bowl of the Tabernacle Crater.  Some of the boys went down while we leaders and others stayed above, knowing it wasn't worth the trip down only to hike back up it all.  We soon called them back up and made our way up to the top of the peak off to the side.  It was easy scrambling with how much traction the porous texture gave us, but required extra careful footing and hand placement so as to not stumble and become the victim of some serious road rash.  From there we wandered back around the other side of the hill where we could see the group that had come in behind us camped out a little further out.  Finally, we returned to  our own camp to settle in for the night and await the morning.

Being the shoulder season, the night could have been quite cold, especially with the clear skies we had, but we were in the midst of a warm front at the time so we were privileged to very mild and comfortable temperatures.

I woke up at dawn while everyone else remained down and took the opportunity to snap up a few pics from around camp before it would be time to get breakfast going.


Camp in Tabernacle Crater from Tabernacle Hill

Back down in camp, with everyone awake now, we cooked up breakfast and broke down camp.  From there, we set off to go tour around the other nearby larger 'manhole' craters and the main feature, the nearby lava tubes.

Ancient lava vein

On the edge of a larger 'manhole'

Above the earth and beneath the earth

Another large 'manhole'

Tree at the bottom of a larger 'manhole'


We were able to discover another tube I did not see with my family last time.  This tube was actually part of the same vein or channel as the tube I had gone through with my family, but was further out and actually ran under the road.  It was much larger and longer and it was apparent that others have camped within it before. Thankfully those who had last camped in it before left it free of any trash, only leaving behind the sturdy fire ring and a stash of firewood.  Those who camp in places like this do so at their own risk of being intruded upon and having others walk right through their camp.  Fortunately, we did not have to disturb any tube campers with our presence.

Entering the larger tube

Entering the larger tube

Inside the larger tube

Lava tube campsite

Approaching the exit of the larger tube

A little closer to the exit

Looking back to where came into the larger tube

Once through the other side and across the road, we came out into a section where the tube had obviously collapsed at some point in distant history and then soon entered into a tube I was now familiar with, having pulled over on our way out so I could check it out for a few moments when my family and I had begun to drive away in the month before.  Because it is riddled with several holes through its roof, I'm going to call it 'Skylight Tube'.

'Skylight Tube'

Inside of 'Skylight Tube'

Approaching the exit of 'Skylight Tube'

Looking up while exiting 'Skylight Tube'

That tube eventually lead to another collapsed section before leading us down into the little 'valley' my family and I had entered to.  From there we made our way up into the tube I had previously taken my family into.

Working through a collapsed section

Entering the final tube

Entering the final tube

Our group

Exiting back out the final tube

A look back down at the last tube

Not being able to safely go any further, we returned up to our camp, piled into the vehicles and made our way out to the nearby hot pots, a.k.a Meadow Hot Springs.

With the warmest and deepest of the pools full of people, as usual and as expected, we went over to the pool my family and I had occupied the last time.  This time, it too was overtaken with what appeared to be a large extended family and a few others.  So, we went on to the larger and cooler of the pools.  It was void of anybody.  This time it was considerably colder than I remembered it being from a month before.  Being warm enough with the sun out, we didn't let the colder water hold us back.  We jumped right in for a nice little swim.

Swimming in the larger pool

Swimming in the larger pool

Soon, the crowds thinned out at the previous pool and we took a turn there.



Cannon ball

Me going feet first

From there we crammed in with others at the warmer pool to see what it was all about before heading back for the cars and making the drive back home.  It proved to be well-worth the drive for the youth we had with us.  With these kinds of trips, it's always a success when everyone can return back home, healthy and whole.

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