Wednesday, July 03, 2013
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
Lassen has been inhabited by Native Americans, who knew that the peak was full of fire and water and thought that it would one day blow itself apart, since long before white settlers first arrived .
Inconsistent newspaper accounts reported by witnesses from 1850 to 1851 described seeing "fire thrown to a terrible height" and "burning lava running down the sides" in the area of Cinder Cone. As late as 1859 a witness reported seeing fire in the sky from a distance, attributing it to an eruption. However, both early and modern studies suggest Cinder Cone last erupted between 1630 and 1670.
Starting in May 1914 and lasting until 1921, a series of minor to major eruptions occurred on Lassen, creating a new crater, and releasing lava and a great deal of ash. The devastation is clear, even now, when walking in certain areas of the park.
The rocks at Sulphur Works have been chemically altered into bright-colored clays. We had hoped to walk the Bumpass Hell trail, but it was closed due to snow, so we made due with what turned out to be PLENTY of stinkiness by the sulfur pits. I admit that I was gagging and my stomach was DONE allowing my nose to smell that within a very few minutes. It was horrible.
Usually we enjoy ourselves most when we don’t have a real itinerary and just walk the way our eyes and feet want to go.
Last summer Lassen was on fire. A wildfire broke out and was allowed to burn, a vital part of the ecosystem here (and in many areas, really). After a few weeks it raged to 12,500 acres and had to be contained as it ultimately burned for months. We were unaware of how large the fire had been and commented on the areas that seemed ‘blighted’ as we drove through before we were close enough to see the charred bark. We were relieved it was only fire signs, and not a disease, filling the forest. Then we played on the stumps.
Snow Plant, a parasite
We like camping, but we are still working up to full-on tent camping as a family. We’ve been enjoying cabins in the meantime, and this time we stayed at the Lassen KOA in a ‘kabin.’ The campground is clearly loved by its staff and owners. We enjoyed the tree swing they built in their undeveloped acreage (this is a KOA with TREES, lots and lots of ‘em), as well as the pool when we returned hot, dusty, and sweaty from wandering Lassen.
The campground also offers community meals on weekend mornings and evenings (pancake breakfast, $6/$3 adults/kids, etc), which is great for those who really want to be close to the park, but are not into the cooking part of camping. We are a family of eaters, though, so we always cook for ourselves.
“Campfire Chicken” is a traditional dinner every time we go camping. Paul’s specialty, it *must* be done with wood coals, and usually in the fire ring, with our own grill, or using one attached to the fire ring. KOA’s management were very nice when we requested a shovel to transfer the coals, sending over a cart with one within a few minutes (they also deliver wood and ice to save you some schlepping).
Shingletown FD sends someone to spray down the gravel roads to keep down dust and prevent fire hazards. The firefighter offered to allow our kids to explore the truck, and, while they’re a bit jaded, what with a few firefighter dads in the neighborhood regularly thrilling everyone with visits to events, Carter is always ready to get a closer look at all the dials and controls.