Monday, September 21, 2009

Hiking a Volcano...

Everyone had told us to visit Lassen and I found it quite strange in that I had never heard of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen is about 275 miles Southeast of Redwoods National Park in the middle of very,, very rural Northern California. In 1914, Lassen exploded and a man named Loomis was lucky enough to document the eruption on film and this brought great national attention to the area. So much so, that in 1916 it was made a national park. Lassen Peak is one of the largest of what are known as a plugged dome volcanoes in the world. It is always amazing the power of nature and this was no exception as massive lava rocks are to be found five miles or more from the eruption site. The park was not crowded at all and parking the trailer and getting a camp site was no problem except almost all places were on an incline. You defeat this by putting one side of the trailer up on wooden blocks and every trailer or camper there was done that way. The drive from one side of the park to the other is about 25 miles and goes up to around 8000 feet and from there you can climb the rest of the way up Lassen Volcano another 2000 feet plus. However, just prior to our visit, a young man had been killed when a rock gave way so that had the top part restricted. Beth and I visited a place called Bumpass Hell and it was a cauldron of gas vents, hot mud, sulphur vents and other things one would associate with an active volcanic area. The hike was about three miles and a good bit of climb so it was not easy. A man named Bumpass had discovered this area and unfortunately fell while showing people through the area and lost his leg as a result of severe burns, thus the name, Bumpass Hell. Next stop the next day was a cinder cone which is an actual volcano but smaller. We hiked to the top of one of the larger cinder cones in the U.S. and the climb up was very difficult but once there the view quite amazing. There were huge lava beds around the cinder dome which erupted some 300 years ago and they made a perfect dome shape just steep enough that the cinders don’t come rolling down the hill. (Also just steep enough to make the hike up very, very difficult.) This park also had a number of very pretty lakes and Beth and I did our best to catch a trout on one, but to no avail. The high points were not many people, the evidence of the power of a volcano everywhere and the stark beauty of it all. Like all of these parks, one really could spend several months there and not see it all or hike it all so our three days there was short, but interesting.

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