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Well, I had Columbus day off so I figured one more trip to some mountains before the winter set in would be a good use of my time as I had no plans. And what better way to honor the explorer who is responsible for getting me the day off than by exploring a new park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, in the northern part of the state I had never been to. I needed a bit of relaxing Saturday and a key 9 mile loop hike I had wanted to do was closed due to fire. Therefore, I left Sunday early as I figured I'd get enough in. In addition, the weather was to warm up a tad starting Sunday. Though, as I would later find out, the wind warning in the forecast wasn't kidding around. I would find some place to sleep in the car Sunday night and wash up in the visitor's center in the morning. I was excited to be finally getting to use my new 20 degree sleeping bag.

The trip started off on a bad note as I couldn't start my car on a really steep hill. Turns out that my fuel level was low enough that the steep grade made the gas not able to go into the combustion chamber or something like that and I needed a top off from AAA. Delayed about an hour and feeling stupid, I set off for the 4 hour drive.

Day 1
The first item on my agenda was the hike up Mt. Lassen Peak. This guy has a great account of the trail. I have some pictures I took with my last role of conventional film I found in my old camera that I wanted to use up, and it was a mistake since there was nothing good on the role and the pictures came out bad and the developing was costly with the digital photo option. Basically, the wind was incredible on this hike. In the parking lot, it was crazy and I figured 2k feet up it must be really nuts. Here's a look at the lot from somewhere mid-trail. Fortunately, since I was going to be camping and the low was to be 34 degrees, I had come prepared. I put on jeans, ski gloves, my new $120 (on sale) Mountain Hardware soft shell jacket, and ski hat. It was fortunate too that I had decided to wear my big-lensed Nikkon polarized sunglasses on this trip because they provided excellent viewing in the low and bright light and acted as a windshield against the ferocious gusts. I actually would have worn ski goggles on this hike had I known about this wind. It was probably 50 mph winds at times. Sometimes as you rounded a corner, the wind would be completely gone. Then, you would round another turn and hear the noise and seconds later, the bone-chilling wind easily penetrated my ski hat. I unfortunately made the bad choice of wearing the light ski hat which was stupid since I had brought the thicker hat (which I found at the trailhead on the previous Sequoia trip and as I was unclaimed for 2 days and brand new, took it). Here's a view of Brokeoff Mountain in the distance, I think. A shot down the barren slope and some snow below. A shot up a slope on the trail. The combination of the cold wind pounding my head and the elevation gave me a bit of a headache, but not too bad. But I still made a better choice than the fools wearing shorts and no hat or glasses I saw going up. At times, the wind pushed me up the steep incline which was nice. But other times, it was a battle to go against it. Sometimes, I had to lean into the wind to keep going in the right direction. Going down, I was almost able to lean forward like a ski jumper with only the wind to hold me up, but I did end up having to stop myself from toppling over with maybe 10% of the normal energy without any wind. The sun was bright and my jacket worked great, considering underneath, I had only a thin long-sleeved wicking shirt. If I had had my good ski hat, I would not have been cold at all. The jeans were effective too even though I had no long-underwear on. My legs really never get very cold. Up higher, this lake by the parking lot had some crazy reflection from the sun and the wind rippling the water. On the top the formation combined with the snow was cool. I could have explored over in that stuff a bit, but wasn't in the mood to trudge through snow at the time. Another directional look from the top. An expansive view in another direction. Me with some mountain in the direction of Mt. Shasta in the background protected by some rocks from the mad wind. Another one of me with the camera tilted a bit, but where you can actually see Shasta. Another shot of cool rocks. On the way back down, some jutting rocks. Didn't take any pictures on the way down as I wanted out of that wind. At the bottom, a look up a massive rock slope.

Anyway, the hike was good. Everyone I saw on the trail was fighting the wind. I never made it to the very top were the solar weather station thing is because I couldn't figure out how the trail got there and with the wind going crazy, I was sort of scared about having to climb rocks as I looked like you had to. Still, I was satisfied ending up where I did as I could see the crater nicely and had a good view of Mt. Shasta. It's a good short and moderately strenuous hike that I would like to do again without the hurricane-force winds.

Next on the agenda, was to head the Kings Falls trail. On the way, a very nice meadow with meandering stream and Mt. Lassen in the background. It was a pretty easy hike and a lot of bang with great cascades along the trail to tide you over till the falls. Here's ten views of them which I'm too lazy to comment on: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Here's some looks at the falls: Kings Falls Bottom Kings Falls Mid Kings Falls Top

Drove the 20 miles or so to the other park entrance, stopping a few times to take in views. In the waning light, Lassen with snow is a nice contrast to the shot I got in the morning of Day 2. In the other direction, this shot of Crescent Crater was getting some nice late-day sun. After checking out some sad lake near a campground, I exited the park looking for a place to sleep. Signs in the park stated you couldn't sleep in your car except in this campground that was back in the other direction or for $16 near where I was which I wasn't paying for sleeping in my car. Luckily, I found a nice deserted rest area just off 89 about 2 miles from the park and just me and a trucker were there. Had a few beers, a sad turkey sandwich and some other snacks and read and listen to music until about 9pm then went in the back seat for an uncomfortable sleep. The new 20 degree sleeping bag worked well.

Day 2
Spent the last two hours before daylight sleeping in the front seat as I needed to stretch up my body parts that had been twisted like a pretzel in my futile attempt to find some way to sleep in the backseat. Next time, I'm sticking with the front seat airplane style as this is a better plan than trying to make a bed out of the back seat, even with my short 5'7" length. Had a nice breakfast of pudding cup and blueberry breakfast bar. Around 8, drove into the park and washed up in the visitor's center bathroom. My first hike was to do Chaos Crags. Here's a nice photo from some web site. I hiked to the base of this which is basically the devestated part of the eruption that occurred a while ago and to see the rock avalanches. It was a nice hike through some forest and cool to get to the base to see the aftermath, but I thought there'd be a lake at the end and there wasn't so I was slightly disappointed. Here's a look early in the day before the sun made it over. I explored a bit and then headed back to the car to drive to my main activity of the day.

On the way through the park back the way I had driven the previous day, it was nice because the time of day was different so everything had a different look. I stopped off the road to take some shots as they came about. Here's a nice shot through the trees of the back side of Mt. Lassen in snow. Another through some trees with some great fall color. Another nice leaf shot. Another unobscured angle of Lassen. Nice meadow from the road above as I near my 2nd hike. Lake Helen at the base of Mt. Lassen. Close by is another lake, Emerald Lake where you can see the power of the wind in the tides.

So, I got to the Bumpass Hell parking lot where I proceeded to eat some sad sandwich. The wind was incredible again and the car was shaking. The Bumpass Hell area is a good view of some geothermal activity. It's not as impressive as the stuff in Yellowstone, but it's still pretty good. Here's a high view of the area from the trail. Here's a mid-view where some nice steam can be seen. Down on the wooden plank path now, here's a clear pool. Some boiling mud action. The sulfur smell sometimes was overpowering and created a haze in the air. Some nice colors and cracked lake bed seen through the clear water. Good boiling mud pot close up.

After seeing all the geothermal stuff, I had a decision to make. There was a trail to something called Cold Boiling Lake which sounded intriguing, but I knew it would probably occupy the remainder of my day and I had sort of planned on doing this other hike. But I figured I'd try it and see if I could still squeeze in the third one later. The only problem was this hike, though not too long, descended some serious elevation. The trail was pretty cool meandering along a ridge through some forest till it finally started clearing up. Also nice, was that the wind was nil as it was blocked by the landscape. From the trail, a look down at Crumbaugh Lake in the meadow I'd be going down into shortly. At the bottom, a wide shot of Cold Boiling Lake. I was a bit upset since I saw no boiling. But then I walked a bit and saw this sign. So I went a little closer and saw what all the hubbub was about. Not the most exciting thing ever, but still a nice hike and the area was pleasant to be in. Also, the weather was perfect down there and I actually had to shed my jacket and ski hat on the way up. A shot of the lake on the way back up. As I returned past the Bumpass Hell area, the wind went crazy again and I had to don my jacket and gloves for the last bit back to the parking lot.

So, I got back to the car around 2:00 and I could have done this rigorous hike up Brokeoff as I had planned and finished up just before the sun went down. It really sounded cool (this guy's web site is awesome). But also sounded a bit painful considering the earlier hikes, the bad sleep, the elevation gain and 5 hour drive in store for me back home. I decided to do it on another trip, which means I am getting old because the old Marc would never waste daylight on a trip and usually scoffs at excuses not to do more hiking. Oh well. Here's a parting shot from the road as I leave.

In all, I highly recommend Lassen as a 2 night camping trip. Had that fire not closed the cool-sounding loop hike, I could have done that one and the Brokeoff Mountain the next day and had some time to relax as well. There's not all that much to do at this park, but definitely an early drive up, do the big peak hike and a little one, next day do another big hike and some little ones, final day, do Brokeoff early and go home would be a nice itinerary and then you'd still have some relaxation time if you camp and don't go ghetto like I did sleeping in the car which I shan't do again.

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