Photo by Lee Juillerat The trail to the battlefield overlook is easy to follow.
Photo by Lee Juillerat A hiker nears the summit of Hardin Butte.
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT — Sometimes a familiar hike can be made refreshingly new.
A recent hike to Hardin Butte, a somewhat nondescript cinder cone in Lava Beds National Monument, was spiced up by adding a short cross-county detour that led to the Thomas-Wright Battlefield overlook with a view of the place where Army troops were attacked and many killed during the nearly 100-years-ago Modoc War.
And, to add some extra allure, while following the trail back to where the hike began, I took another detour to the Black Crater, a spatter cone consisting of black lava splattered in a beautiful confusion of wonderfully ragged, rough and erratically shaped formations.
The hike to Hardin Butte began from the battlefield parking lot. It’s about a quarter-mile south along the main park road to an old, unsigned road that’s not shown on park maps. From there it’s about two gentle miles east to the base of Hardin Butte. And from there it’s a make-your-own climb to the cinder cone’s 4,469-foot summit. From the summit ridge the views include the seemingly frozen lava fields of the Schonchin Lava Flow, Schonchin Butte to the south and, on sunny days, snow-capped Mount Shasta.
The cinder cone is named for Charles Hardin, who was an Army private and later a corporal during the Modoc War. At that time it was known as Sand Butte. Warm Springs Indian scouts, who worked with the Army, reported that Modoc Indians who had left Captain Jack’s Srtronghold were gathered near the cinder cone.
On April 26, 1893, a reconnaissance patrol led by Cpt. Evan Thomas and First Lt. Thomas Wright left Army headquarters at Gillems Camp and headed to Sand Butte to determine the feasibility of moving artillery into the area. The patrol included five officers, an assistant surgeon, 59 enlisted soldiers, a civilian guide and a civilian packer. According to historical accounts, instead of keeping their distance from each other, Company E, 12th infantry marched in a column, making …….