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Pluto's Cave

 

This is a very interesting lava tube (not a real "cave") that is easy to get to and offers a cool respite from summer heat in the Shasta Valley. Drive 12½ miles north of Weed on Highway 97 to the Grenada turnoff (county road A12) and turn left for 3½ miles to a telephone pole on your left that has "Pluto caves" (or something to that effect) written on it, then another ¼ mile or so to a parking area, pictured below:

 

picnic table

For some unknown reason, the Forest Service (or whoever "developed" this spot) placed a very comfortable picnic table on the "sunny" side of a tree, which is the last place you want to hang out after spending several hours in the 40 or 50 degree temperature of the cave, so try to utilise it before going underground, not after.

 

small rock with a white arrow on it

What used to be a very straightforward hike (to the cave entrance) has turned into a real head-scratcher now that there is a gate on the road. The natural (mine, anyway) instinct is to continue walking up the "road" after parking, but this will only give you an opportunity to walk along a gravel road sided with sage brush and nice views of Mt. Shasta, and not get any closer to the cave. The trick is to locate a small rock with a white arrow on it, and follow the feeble trail to the entrance.

 

short dead-end cave

Depending upon which "trail" you follow, there is a short dead-end cave on your left that seems impressive at first but is little more than a local partying spot.

 

arch

If you turn to the "right" (north?) you'll pass under an arch and get to the real entrance.

 

interior of cave

Looking like a lunar landscape, it helps to stop for a moment and get your eyes used to the darkness. The light up ahead is from a collapsed portion of the ceiling.

 

collapsed portion of the ceiling

This is a view looking back on the "skylight" in the roof.

 

below the skylight

If you shuffle your feet below the "skylight" the dust can take hours to settle because of the lack of drafts in this cave.

 

cave

Unlike most caves in television movies, the floor is seldom as flat as a basketball court, so good headlamps and sturdy boots are helpful.