In August 2011, I did two things that I never thought I would do, two things that were so scary I wondered if I would survive them. It all started on a long-planned, five-day camping and hiking vacation in Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park in north-eastern California. WOW! This place was so different from the usual camping and hiking trips we take along the California coast or Sacramento valley. The park extends from about 6,000 to 10,000 feet in altitude. Everything was still green in August and there were fields of wildflowers among the green trees and verdant mountains. But there was also a couple of inches of snow on the ground in many places.
After stopping at the Visitor's center for a fabulous sandwich and big chocolate/vanilla soft serve ice cream cone, and 20-minute movie about the remarkable geologic formation of four different types of still-active volcanoes at the park, we began exploring the visitor center grounds on our own.
The coolest thing about Lassen is that the powers at be constructed the main road through most of the interesting natural wonders that people want to see. From you car you can see mud pots (below) belching their acrid and rotten-egg stinky sulfuric odors.
There are also waterfalls, flowerful meadows, trees, trees, and more trees, mountains, streams and rivers and little lakes along the northerly main road up to nearly the northern end of the park, where we camped at Manzanita Lake. But it took us about three hours to get there, mostly because we had to stop at every vista point and take pictures and marvel at the sheer beauty of the place! It only took about 30 minutes to get the campsite totally set up. All foodstuffs and anything with a scent (e.g., toothpaste, lotion) had to be locked up in a bear locker at one end of our campsite.
It was HOT that day, so we stopped by the little camp store and bought more ice cream on our way back to the campsite. After rest that afternoon and dinner, we decided that it would be cool to go back to the far side of the lake and wait for night fall to catch the Milky Way over Mt. Lassen. We caught exquisite pictures as the sun fell. It was pitch black when we returned, thinking bears were watching us as our head lamps and flashlight app on my iPhone pierced the darkness. This was the first scary event of our trip.
We decided to hike up the Cinder Cone Volcano, which is an incredibly steep and harrowing 600 feet up from bottom to top. Start as early in the morning as possible, take lots of water, an energy snack or two, and a walking stick. Further around the base of the Cinder Cone Volcano are brightly-colored cinder beds. Mt. Lassen looms 4,000 feet higher in elevation. The views are phenomenal!
I would also recommend a moderately difficult hike to King's Creek. Bring great walking shoes, a backpack with lots of water and food, a jacket in case it gets cool, plenty of sunscreen. And a camera to capture incredible views of wild flowers, numerous waterfalls, and a panorama of mountain ranges.
I conquered my fears at Mt. Lassen and am ready to go back for more adventures!
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