This was a relatively short trip to the tiny Lassen Volcanic National Park. It took place during the Labor Day weekend of 2009.
Lassen is actually a very nice place to visit. it doesn’t have large crowds like Yosemite NP or Sequoya NP. And thus it doesn’t have all the pain with permits. In fact, the wilderness permits are free; no reservation is required either, beautiful. Of course, it doesn’t have the likes of Half-Dome or General Sherman tree, but it has enough of very active things happening. Actually, it is even better. Half-Dome sits there to just look at it. In Lassen, a lot of things are fluid, changing all the time, like on the photo below. But of course, Lassen doesn’t present as big of a challenge as its cousins.
We had a good crew on this trip. All reasonably seasoned backpackers except one newbie. I wanted to limit the size of the group to 6 people, but due to popular demand had to increase it to 8. Looking back, I could take even more. My main limitation was the availability of space on the first night – Warner Valley Campground. The person in the visitor center kept scaring me that we won’t be able to get a spot, especially on this long weekend. Thus I was afraid that getting one 6-person camping spot would be difficult, getting 2 would be impossible. But it actually turned out fine.
Saturday, Sept 5, 2009.
We started early as planned. The long drive to Lassen was quite enjoyable mainly thanks to Jenny’s driving. We met with the car driving from SF in the new sparkling visitor center with unpronounceable name – Kohm Yah-mah-nee. It was actually built quite recently. It wasn’t there when I visited Lassen last time two years ago. The park service also showed the standard educational movie about the park. After that we set off into the wild, sort of speak.
The initial plan was to hike to the Warner Valley Campground, find a spot. If no spots available, we would have to go further up hill to Drake Lake becuase it is prohibited to camp around Warner Valley. I wanted to go faster to get the spot. But people went at the speed they could. It is the first day, after all. When we reached the deserted campground, I was happy. It was already around 5PM and I could see that the group is not willing to go up any hill.
The campground was great: clean, quiet, empty, shaded, with lots of wood for the campfire. Nice. That is what I like about Lassen. After some nudging from my part we finally set out for a short day hike to the local thermal activity. Since it was rather late we didn’t to Devil’s Kitchen. We stopped at the Boiling Lake instead.
It was very interesting sight to see. The lake had some off-white color and was steaming. The stench of rotten eggs was everywhere. The lake, apparently wasn’t not at its highest point. As a result, there were a lot of small bubbly things making noises all around it. It was quite a spectacle.
After that we went back, obviously. However, there was a very nice looking Drakesbad ranch with a nice pool. Then my usually law-abiding wife said that we should go and swim in their pool and Cecilia supported her. We went through a path that said Keep Out through the swimming pool to the shop in that ranch. I was surprised they didn’t jump into the pool.
It is a nice place. Good place to bring your not very rugged relatives or guests. There is a road going there and I’m sure that it is rather empty during the weekdays. You can see quite a lot within a very short walking distance.
Sunday, Sept 6, 2009.
Regular camping day. Get up, eat, pack, go. There was a bit of an intimidation of that scary steep climb that was coming up. However, the group flew up to it, really. It took us maybe 20 min to be done with it. After that we were doing a good pace. it seems that people had acclimatized already. They looked considerably happier than the day before.
We were at the twin lakes a bit after lunch. Found a decent camping spot. This place was rather humanized. You can see the remains of other people’s camping, including trash (why do they do this?). We set up the camp and had a good swim the lake. It was so nice and refreshing. After all that dust on the trail the water felt so good.
Monday, Sept 7, 2009.
Last day. The distance to the end point is so shot. Can sleep longer. So unwise. The lake was heated during the day. The night was relatively cold. As a result, in the morning this lake was steaming. I think that is what the cause of this effect is. You can see the steam coming up from the lake. Very beautiful. I suspect earlier in the morning the effect was even better.
We ate, packed, and went back. It should all fine. It is just a short trail, after all. But then there was some confusion with the trails, we went off into the woods, and I got lost. Not so good for a leader. But eventually we found our way back.
On the way back there was a short stop for ice-cream at the visitor center. For some reason people didn’t want to see Bampass Hell. I guess they have had enough at the boiling lake (and maybe they were eager to get to that shower).
The photos are all over the web.
Map of the trip can be located here:
Lassen Volcanic National Park Backpacking at EveryTrail