Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen was designated a National Park in 1916 to preserve and study this active, though dormant, volcano and the resulting landscape following its eruption in 1914.  There are four different types of volcanos within the park--shield, plug dome, cinder cone, and composite volcanoes.  There are also hydrothermal areas of steaming vents, boiling water, and bubbling mud pots like those seen in Yellowstone.
Lassen Peak, world's largest plug dome volcano
The snow only recently melted enough to allow the main park road to be opened to the public.  Still, the high elevation trails are covered in snow.  Today we drove the park road and stopped along the way at pullouts and trailheads to get a closer view of the landscape.
Chaos Crag

Small rocks cover the ground
Larger rocks near the top of the trail

Our first stop was near the north entrance station at the trailhead for Crags Lake.  The ranger we spoke with yesterday recommended this 3.6 mile round trip moderate hike up to the small lake formed when Chaos Crags blew it’s top.  The hike was nice through pine forest, but with a pretty steep uphill climb of just over 800 feet.  They put all the steep part together and there was more gentle, almost level, trail at the beginning and near the lake.  When we got to the point where the lake finally came into view, we were somewhat disappointed in the tiny pond that awaited at the bottom of a steep downhill.  We didn’t go down there.

After this hike, we drove over to the picnic area on the south end of Manzanita Lake for our lunch.  With a vigorous workout under out belts, it was easy to devour everything in the little cooler.
View of Manzanita Lake from our lunch spot
Back in the truck, we drove the main park road almost to the southern entrance to the Bumpass Hell parking lot.  This is the hydrothermal area and one of the most popular features of the park.  We told the ranger we were interested in seeing this area and she told us there was still some snow up there, but that the trail crew had been out and it was passable. She might not have actually recommended this hike, but we felt it was doable based on her description.  Well, I’ll have you to know there was some snow up there--about 4 feet of the white stuff stretching almost the entire 1.5 miles to the thermal basin.
Diamond Peak

Ice is breaking up on Lake Helen
There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and we could see several folks making their way coming or going to Bumpass Hell.  Despite the large orange sign that pronounced the trail hazardous, we stepped out onto the snow with all the rest.  When we got to the point where the basin finally came into view, we were exhausted and somewhat disappointed to find the boardwalk through the mud pots and steaming vents awaited us at the bottom of a steep downhill.  We didn’t go down there.  I was content once again to make my photos from my perch high above.

Bumpass Hell
On our return trip over the main park road we stopped at a couple overlooks and points of interest.  By this time we were pretty tired puppies and just wanted to be home.

Tomorrow we have a hike planned up the Cinder Cone Volcano.

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