Although this week was largely about dealing with work stuff, other things did happen. First we were joined at our campsite by 7 young adults from American Conservation Experience. It is a really cool program where young adults can volunteer their time and earn money for college and/or college credit. The group we have is here for 9 days, then has 5 days off, then comes back for another 9 days. They are very diverse, coming from all over the United States and there is also a young man from Germany, a girl from Manchester, England, and another girl from Korea. I was a little concerned at first because of the possible noise factor since they are tent camping behind us, but they work all day doing manual labor out on the property, come back at dark and eat and settle in pretty early. They are a really nice group and Lee has spent quite a bit of time with them. I’ve had other things going on, so was less available, but I did make them some hot apple crisp one night (the German guy loved it) and bought them some fresh strawberries another day at the farmer’s market. I guess for them this is a pretty cushy gig since they are so close to town. Often they backpack deep into National Forests and are 15 miles from the nearest anything. I definitely know this is a gig for young people though as they work hard all day and end up washing up in the nearby stream since there are no showers. Pretty impressive really, and an experience I think every young person should have.
Lee loves working with young people, he volunteered frequently at the Keene High School career center’s video program, and he had a great time helping them get settled, but I had a pretty stressful week. So by Thursday I was ready to get out. I make a list when I come to an area of things I would like to do and then when I am feeling antsy pick from the list. Thursday evening we tried the Willow Creek Wildlife Area which is BLM owned and a nesting area for many birds including Sandhill Cranes. I knew this time of year it would be much less active but wanted to give it a shot anyway. Unfortunately it was a disappointment as it was just a road next to a creek and there was limited bird activity. We walked for a while, but the ranch next door with its strong cow smell drove us back to the truck. Still it was good to get out and at least I crossed something off the list. The most exciting thing that happened was when we flushed some ducks and I managed to get a shot of them. No clue what kind they are but it was neat.
Saturday we had talked about going to Lassen, but Lee found out he needed to drive some bikes down to the beginning of the trailhead. The local bus service can take a limited number of people with bikes, the 27 miles to the beginning of the trailhead, but when more sign up BLM services takes them in a trailer. Pretty cool that they do this and Lee took the bikes of 14 boy scouts up while Stan rode in the bus with them and talked to them about the history of the area and the trail. Then Lee and Stan rode some of the old logging and Forest Service roads along the trail and checked out some of the more remote locations on the trail. They had a nice time and I went to the farmer’s market. Unfortunately, it was the last farmer’s market of the season so I stocked up on meat from a local rancher, got lots of vegetables and gathered information from a couple of the people there who continue to sell from their farms after the farmer’s market stops. Since it’s still quite warm here, they have produce into October. The rest of the evening we just relaxed and splurged on some local Chinese food to celebrate my new endeavor. Unfortunately it was terrible…buffalo wing sauce on the General Tso’s chicken terrible. I will say we both really miss our Feng Tong in Keene! Twice in 9 months we have tried Chinese food on the road and both times it has been spectacularly disappointing. I’ve tried to master some Asian recipes at home, but really nothing can take the place of super good Chinese Food. Ah well…can’t have everything. We did take a little drive into town to check out the 60th anniversary sale at the local Big 5 Sporting Goods store. They are pretty common in the small towns out west we have been in, but I didn’t expect much. Turns out the sale was great and we ended up buying two Outdoor Ripcord 2L hydration packs for $25 each!! Much cheaper than Amazon and a backpack is something I wanted to try on in person to check comfort level. We knew if we were going to be taking hikes we absolutely needed these, to solve the water carrying problem if nothing else, and the price was right and timing was perfect for our planned hike on Sunday.
Sunday dawned and finally we were getting to go to Lassen Volcanic National Park, the number one thing we wanted to do in this area while we’re here. We were told it was like a “mini Yellowstone” without the crowds and since we had never seen anything like that before we were very excited to go. Since it is at high elevation and is closed when it starts to snow, we knew sooner was better than later. We came in from the northern route and the first place we stopped was the little museum. Actually, Lassen Volcanic National Park has a very cool story on how it got started. On May 22, 1915 a large explosive eruption of Lassen Peak was photographed by a local resident which brought national attention to the eruption and set the stage for the establishment of Lassen Volcanic National Park on August 9, 1916. It’s pretty amazing that the event was captured because this was still the days of the old-fashioned cameras with metal plates. The pictures, which have been blown up into wall murals, are really terrific considering the era and available technology. The museum also has an example of an old seismograph with explanations of how they differ from the newer ones. We got to see several newer ones as we went through the park and it’s clear that the government is still actively monitoring the volcano. After seeing the museum we started on the drive, which is roughly 30 miles one way through the park. It’s a really nice road and makes the $20 seven-day pass worthwhile. We got in for free with our America the Beautiful pass and am I happy to say that we have now broke even on the pass and still have 10 months worth of use on it!The first place we stopped was called Hot Rock. After the volcano explosion this huge rock was thrown through the air and landed in a meadow. Those of you who have been following know how much I love rocks and this is absolutely the coolest rock I have ever seen. It feels really smooth and is a great design so of course I had to climb up and get some pictures taken.
We continued driving and the views were really amazing. After Glacier I have been a bit worried that no other view could impact me the same way, but this was really cool. It’s different of course, but really stunning in places and the mounds of rocks caused by the explosion were really unique.
One of the neatest views is the Vulcan Eye. This outcropping was actually formed by lava after the explosion and it looks like an eye staring down on you. Very cool and a teensy bit creepy.
After driving awhile we found a great lunch spot at Lake Helen. The water in the lakes looks very green but I walked down to the lake and saw that the rocks are covered in clay and mud. Still pretty though and we enjoyed our sandwiches before moving on to our hike at Bumpass Trailhead.
There are many hikes in Lassen but after doing some research I picked Bumpass Trail. The hike is 2.6 miles round-trip and leads to Bumpass Hell which is one of the major “hot zones” in the park. The hike was described as moderate (which I agree with), because it is at high elevation and the trail is rocky. The trail does have many sharp rocks and I actually slipped and fell pretty hard when we were getting started because I was looking at a very cool rock…of course! The inclines are mild though, with about an 500 feet change in elevation to the site, and then a 250 foot descent into the site itself, and the only really rough part was coming out when at the beginning it was pretty steep. The best part of the hike, besides the end, was the fact that it was along a cliff and the views along the way were totally breathtaking. I really like when the hike itself has neat stuff to look at and not just the thing at the end.
Most of the walk looked like the views above but as we got closer to the end we had a pretty neat encounter with a chipmunk. Now if anyone here doubts that Lee’s spirit animal is the chipmunk, please see the proof below that he is the chipmunk whisperer. There were tons of these little guys everywhere and most were pretty skittish, but this little guy saw Lee and knew just what to do.
After the chipmunk encounter we started to smell the sulfur. Be forewarned these hot spots do smell, but I think it was completely worth it for the amazing views. I have personally never seen anything like this before and was totally fascinated. We spent quite a bit of time looking at all the different sections and just tried to stay up wind as much as possible. The fascination far outweighed the unpleasant smell in our minds and we really really enjoyed it.
After the hike we finished out the drive and stopped at the Sulfur Works. This is a huge bubbling mud pot that is right off the road with a wheel chair accessible path. This mud pot was huge and Lee had a good time taking some video of the bubbling. I wandered across the street and saw one of my favorite views of the day. It was a really nice park, we had a wonderful day and it definitely helped me reconnect with why we chose this lifestyle. Plus really cool rocks!!
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