Skip to content

Lava Tubes, Hot Springs And A Faulty Compass

March 26, 2018

Our Window was perfect.

We camped on the sand dunes. To the East we could see the lights of Meadow and Fillmore trapped between the Rockie Mountains and the concrete river that was I15. To the West we could see all the way to Nevada. It was just on the other side of the horizon a couple hundred miles away.

The landscape couldn’t have been more bleak. Utah has it’s own unique beauty. If Washington is a woman all dressed up for a night on the town, Utah is a makeup-free woman with sun bleached hair. It had taken me a lot of years to appreciate the beauty of the desert.

Looking across the barren landscape we might have been on the moon or Mars. We were here with a group of boy scouts to visit two unique features that seemed as out of place here as a Starbucks in the Amazon.

After pitching our tents on the sand, we loaded back in the vehicles and headed down the non-descript dirt road. “Turn left at the fence” was the directions we’d been given. Another mile and some twists and turns finally brought us to a sign stating,

Lave Tubes 2 Miles

We turned off the gravel road and dodged mud puddles and deep ruts. The other leader’s SUV acted as scout for my 15 passenger van. I didn’t so much follow him as use him for a guage. If he went right and seemed to bog down, I went to the left.

We finally arrived at our destination. A collection of vehicles parked at the end of the road at the base of a hill with an impossible track leading up the side of it.

Everybody out, boys. We’re there.

Other than the hill behind us, the rock and sagebrush looked no different than the land we had driven past for the past several miles.

Watch your step. The lava tubes come up on your pretty quickly.

And then, like a opening to the underworld, the sand and sparse grass fell away to reveal a hole in the ground. The tubes are anywhere from 15 to 50 feet in diameter. Remnants of a past that was much hotter and much more violent.

I’ve taken a half dozen groups to the lava tubes over the years. They still surprise me everytime. At one point they open up to nearly a small valley. It is like you’re Frodo walking into Mordor. There’s nothing to see, and there’s more not to see around each corner.

Even though the tubes literally have one enterance and one exit, it’s impossible to get lost, we insisted the boys pair up and stay behind the leader and in front of the sweeper. It’s not Disneyland. Do it wrong and someone could twist an ankle, or worse tumble over an edge. We climbed over the rocks. Me and my sore knee limbed along far behind the boys who jumped from rock to rock.

After several hours, we left the lava tubes and headed back to our campsite where we’d left trailer with the gear. The boys took turns using it as a changing room to get into swimming suits. We hooked up the trailer and headed off down another dirt road. We rolled across cattle gates and past disinterested cows, familiar with the comings and goings of visitors in this otherwise deserted corner of Utah’s desert.

We pulled up to a simple pole rail fence defining a rustic parking lot, occupied with 2 cars and 4 trucks. There was no toll booth, or ticket taker, just a simple collection bin marked

Donations Welcome

The farmer who owns the land, simply makes it available to whomever wants to make the trek. The hot springs are a pool about 20 feet in diameter. It’s deep, descending deeper than boys holding their breath are comfortable going. The couples already there just smiled as the bosy jumped into the warm water. The other leader quickly jumped in as well. I opted to play lifeguard. We had a two hour drive home, and no amount of playing in the water was worth driving in cold wet clothes.

As I sat on one of the rocks that did for makeshift benches, I wrote. And I noticed the survival bracelet that my daughter gave me as a present a couple years earlier. I noticed something odd about the compass. It was pointed in the wrong direction. Sure, it wasn’t a great compass, but it was seriously off.

I thought about the implications of a compass that wouldn’t point North. Better no compass than one that is wrong. I took the bracelet off and realized my mistake. Well, not exactly a mistake, but I realized why the compass was off.

The striker for the flint and steel typically rests right next to the compass when the bracelet is on my wrist. So, the tool is accurate, but it requires the user to understand the principles and then be willing to remove it to use it.

Yeah, lots of metaphors in that simple little survival bracelet.

Anyway, that’s what I did with my weekend. I hope yours was equally as enjoyable.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply