Lassen Volcanic National Park
The Road Trip has been an American tradition since the end of World War Two. It has been celebrated in song (…get your kicks on Route 66) and extolled in movies and popular culture ever since.
After two months home from Latin America and with summer in its full glory, I was ready for one. So I packed up the Jeep, got out the maps and made plans. Two goals were to visit Yellowstone National Park (it’s been 20 years since the last time) and Glacier NP (never been) by the Canadian border in Montana.
I made some tentative plans to fill the long gaps in between these parks. We have a vast Interstate Highway network in the U.S., but I prefer the back roads during long drives. I tend to see more and experience a more real cross section of Americana.
For my first destination I picked Lassen Volcanic National Park, a five hour drive from the redwoods of Boulder Creek and at the southern tip of the Cascade Range.
I have been there a few times before and once hiked to the summit of Lassen Peak. At 10,457 feet (3187 meters), it is a challenging all day hike.
In 1915, after a year of small grumblings, Lassen Peak violently erupted sending an ash cloud 30,000 feet into the air and causing volcanic debris to land over 200 miles away in Winnemucca, Nevada. This photo, courtesy of the USGS was taken from the town of Red Bluff.
The following year, 1916, Congress made the area our twelfth national park. Although there have been no significant eruptions since that time, the volcano is far from extinct and the area is a natural laboratory for the study of volcanic events and hydrothermal features such as geysers, boiling mudholes and lakes, and steam fissures.
Upon arrival I found that the trail to Lassen Peak is closed for a multi-year restoration project and will not reopen until 2013. After my initial disappointment, I switched into my flexible travel mode, looked for a campsite and found some other hikes to occupy the next couple days. Summit Lake Campground was sparsely populated and I found a killer campsite right by the lake.
That evening I cooked baby back ribs (prepped back home) and made a salad. As the evening blackened, I star-watched in awe. Later, a full moon rose over the lake. I could not have asked for a more perfect night. My heart was full (as was my belly).
The following day I hiked to Bumpass Hell (love that name). It is named after Kendall Bumpass. One day in 1860, Bumpass stumbled upon the area and his leg was badly scalded when it broke though a thin crust above a mud pot. He told his friends and townspeople about it, describing it as “hell.” A newspaper editor was interested in the story and convinced Bumpass to take him to this place. Unfortunately, Bumpass’ leg broke through the crust again – this time it had to be amputated. Today, there are wooden walkways through the thinly crusted area and there have been subsequent injuries to those that ignore the NPS signs to stay on the walkways.
After some time, I continued over a mountain pass covered in wildflowers and down to Cold Boiling Lake and Kings Creek before returning to my Jeep and back to camp.
The following day I attempted to summit Brokoff Mountain. Although “only” 9,235 feet, it is more elevation gain and considered a more difficult hike than Lassen Peak.
I hiked for two hours through mountainsides covered with wildflowers. It got late and I turned back before the summit. Nonetheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and challenging hike. Another great camp night and the following morning I was headed to Yellowstone.
to be continued