August 15: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Starting trip mileage 3937 miles.

We rose and left at first light from the little resort campground by Lake Almanor. None of the other campers had stirred - they were week-long campers for the most part and kept a more liesurely pace. A short way down Hwy 36 we caught sight of the top of Mt Lassen in the early light and pulled over to a rest area for me to take a picture.

Further down the road we crossed the end of the lake and got another good view of Lassen Peak. As I got out to take another picture I heard this curious honking sound and wondered if it might be Canadian geese. Sure enough, as we drove on past the shallower water where it was marshy, we saw several geese. We also saw some flying. Seeing some gulls with them, we wondered if they came from Mono Lake.

Driving along through the forest in the dim morning light we saw a deer cross the road, then what we took to be a coyote, and then a bobcat (at least it was a grayish looking cat with no tail). We were sorry the boys were sleeping.

As we neared Lassen Park we were treated to views of the peak and some lower peaks with little wisps of cloud around their peaks. This cloud burned off within an hour.

Entering Lassen Park at about 7AM we stopped at the restrooms as some sleepy tent campers were beginning to stir. The whole hillside behind the restrooms was dotted with tents. Across the road was the bare skeleton of the ski lift, looking strange in the green grass.

We drove on upward on the park road till we came to a turnout which gave us a good view of Lassen and would make it easy to roll off the van.

While Brenda was taking up the bed and readying breakfast, Jeff scrambled up the hillside to a remaining snow patch. We had our attention focused upon that hillside when Mark saw a deer grazing. Then a little fawn came out from behind a rock - still with spots. I shot a couple of pictures before Jeff bounded up the hill. Jeff scratched at the hard snowbank to make a snowball. Mark hung close to the van because he knew Jeff's intentions for the snowball.

We had a really idyllic breakfast on the beautiful forested hillside with the morning sun streaming in. The fresh fruit we had bought the day before, cereal and coffee seemed like fare for a king.

I walked up the hillside with Mark through the wildflowers to where Jeff was again scratching away at the snowbank. I took a couple of snow pictures - giving him an excuse to throw a snowball at me instead of Mark.

The excellent view from the mountainside made it hard to leave, but we rolled off the van to start it and frove on up the mountain to a point where we could see the whole mountain we had eaten breakfast on. I took a picture of that and some wildflowers and the boys played around with another snowbank. Patches of snow where dotted all around at this altitude. We had to roll the van off again and we headed on toward the Bumpass Hell trail head.

Parking at the Bumpass Hell parking lot in full view of the brillianty lit mountains, we started down the trail. We were soon diverted by the view of a mirror-like lake over by the road (Lake Helen)) and a large snowbank left by the road. After the boys played in the snow and we took some pictures by the lake and the snow, we managed to get back to the trail.

The well-maintained trail rose gradually along trhe mountain ridge with open mountain views all the way. I think this was the finest trail we have been on. I guess that's partly because it was uphill on the way in and downhill when we were tired. But mainly the spectacular views, wildflowers (pink heather lined the trail at many places) and the dotted snow patches. At places the trail went over sheets of unmelted snow. I never thought about the road to hell being paved with snow.

Finally we reached the ridge overlooking the steam and hydrothermal activity which is Bumpass Hell. There were abundant signs warning you to stay on the trail - the crust to the boiling mud was thin in places (Bumpass broke through and scalded his feet).

At that point we began to smell the sulfur and Brenda and I turned up our noses. Mark said "I kind of like it. It smells like fireworks." When we caught up with Jeff, the advance scout, he said "You know, this smells like some of the fireworks we have had." Brenda's association was more negative. When Brenda was a child there was an outbreak of the "the itch" and all of the children had to take sulfur baths. The smell was not overpowering and didn't bother me - it was a pure sulfur smell, not hydrogen sulfide or carbon disulfide, the really smelly ones.

There were vigourously boiling pots of mud, mud bubbles, clear water boiling, large steam vents, yellow sulfur crystals and a hot water stream running out of the area. There were ice cold show-melt streams running into it through the pink heather. Water boils at 198F instead of 212F at this altitude but the literature said that some of the pressurized steam vents were considerably hotter.

When we returned down the super trail to the parking area about 10AM we met a constant stream of people. The parking area was nealy full, whereas only one other car was there when we parked. Our practice of starting early has been a very good one - we had just about had the National Park to ourselves until now.

We drove on around the road through the devastated area which has reforested since the 1915 eruption. However there is abundant volcanic evidence and the trees are sparse enough that you get good views of the surrounding mountains and forests . That seems to be one of the big advantages of the volcanic parks - they stick up high and clear enough to give good views.

We continued to Manzanita Lake through an area where we were warned of rockslides and where National Park lodge and housing had been closed because it is considered a danger area. The Manzanita Lake was very nice and there were a lot of people fishing and picnicing there but by that time we were in a hurry and we rushed around, getting ice and food to leave. Around Manzanita Lake and the store there are the most often photographed featurea of Lassen Peak.

We headed west on Hwy 44 through rolling grassland hills to connect with Hwy 299 to the coast to see the redwoods tomorrow. Highway 299 turned out to be pretty hard work. The altitudes were not high - pass summits of 3212, 2902,2859,2262 ft, but you went to about seal level between each one. Wind up to one pass, wind down to the river valley on tight switchbacks. The grades were not bad but the road was slow.

Most of 299 was forested, but the first part past Whiskeytown Lake was rather dry and uninteresting . During the second half it was f more sierra-like forest and we followed a nice river for a long time.

We finally hit the fast Hwy 101 and zipped north to Trinidad to find a campground. Along a strip of the old 101 route we stopped at Sounds of the Sea RV Park, an old, well maintained camping facility on the side away from the ocean - all the ocean front is privately owned and inaccessable.

After settling the campsite we scrambled around trying to find a beach where the boys could have their first dip in the Pacific Ocean -they were jumping up and down to get to the ocean, even though the air was very cool.

The shoreline was pretty, but it was high rocky bluffs for the most part. We finally drove about six miles south to the little town of Trinidad. We drove to the beach and the boys tested the water a little and decided it was too cold to swim - after getting everything wet and sandy and dirty of course.

We walked over to the fishing pier which reminded Brenda and I very much of the atmosphere we had enjoyed at Beaumaris in Wales. It was cool with a damp wind and the nature of the pier and harbor plus the sound of the herring gulls fighting for fish scraps made us quite nostalgic for Beaumaris. It was a lovely old harbor.

Returning to eht campground we had our showers and prepared to settle down in the uncomfortable cool damp breeze blowing off the Pacific. It was cool enough that Brenda and I decided to hook up our electric blanket for the first time.


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