Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lassen National Park

30 June 2012

Another wonderful day has been had. Woke up relatively early to a cold morning and headed out of the crowded campground to the official museum. Watched a 20 minute movie full of stock photos of vulcanism but it made a few interesting points. One of the quotes talked about how national parks are silent and invoke deep thought. Uh, yeah.

The museum was originally built by Mr Loomis, the photographer who captured the 1915 eruption. He and his wife had the same name and their only daughter died in the flu epidemic. Their impressive series of 6 photos took 20 minutes to take. We figured he didn't look at the back of the camera to see how the pic went.

While we were there a young girl was officially inducted into the Junior Ranger program, given a little lecture by the info booth attendant and it was all very solemn. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or rather creepy.

We drove off on our highway trip but before long we'd stopped to take photos at the Chaos Jumbles, a massive rockpile leftover from a rockslide 350 years ago. The trees are only just growing back.

We also visited the Devastated Area where mudslides and pyroclastic flows had ruined a huge amount of the hillside in 1915. Lots of boulders and old photos but it didn't look as devastated as we thought. I guess 100 years makes a difference.

The highway wound upwards. We stopped at the Hat Creek Meadow and wondered if the buildup of sticks was evidence of beavers or floods. The meadows are gorgeous, very Keats, although rather boggy. Luke waded in the stream but not for long.

We stopped on the side of the road when we hit the first snowline and Luke decided to jump around on the slushy pile without shoes on. It gave him an icecream headache in his feet.

Further on we contemplated walking to Kings Falls but it was a 4km round trip so we thought we'd save it for Bumpass Hell. We DID walk up Mt Lassen, two switchbacks worth. Very beautiful. Who'd have thought we'd be in snow in summer? The trail is being improved so it is only open for a few days this year. Today was the first of those days so the carpark was full and it was very busy.

Down the hill was a frozen lake, still thawing and then around the corner was the carpark for Bumpass Hell. This is the walk to the thermal areas, 5km round trip. Carpark was also full, had to squeeze the RV into a spot but it was OK.

The very start of the walk involved sliding down a builtup bit of snow. One rather large lady chickened out at that point. Luke nearly fell over immediately. We set off very carefully after that.

The walk was beautiful, went past lots of impressive vistas, uphill for a fair way and crossing patches of snow. The further we went, the more snow there was. Some bits were very tricky and you had to concentrate so as not to fall over (or off a cliff). We were wishing we'd had hiking shoes. My sneakers started to get pretty wet and my jeans were snow filled.

¾ of the way along we encountered a family where a little girl was having a hugely loud tantrum. “NO! I'm cold, I don't wanna, I'm not walking anymore, I hate this!” We laughed for a while but the parents looked so frazzled and she had wet feet so we felt a bit of sympathy. Also saw a family with two teenage girls. “I wish I was at the beach,” whined one. “We wish you were at the beach too,” said the dad.

Finally made it after some seriously slippery and scary bits. The thermal area smells like sulphur so Luke took the opportunity to do a lot of farting. There's a huge fumerole – steam vent – that's been getting larger over the last century. Made lots of boiling noises. The mud pots weren't very muddy, more watery, which was a bit disappointing. There was a boiling pool with iron pyrite floating on it. Amazing.

We were beaten to the pools by a family with two small boys, one of them carried in a backpack. The Dad had ended up carrying them both most of the way. Family of the year. Except the elder kid was called Trevor.

I put my finger into one of the streams... it was very warm but didn't burn me. Felt acidic though.

We finally turned and headed back. The return trip was a lot easier, mainly because we were climbing up the snow rather than trying not to fall down it.

Got back to the carpark and enjoyed a drink while looking at the gorgeous view. It was 6pm by then and very cold but a number of people were heading off on the track at that stage. Brave, I think.

We wound our way back down the mountain and decided to stop at Volcano Country RV Park in Mineral, very simple but nice place off the road, $25.

Right now it's 1st July and I'm waiting for Luke to do the washing.

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