My visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park on a trip south to visit family.

Lassen_Volcanic_National_Park_map

I left Vancouver for southern California and my first overnight stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. As the name implies it’s major features are volcanic in origin. Being the southern most volcano of the Cascade Range the prominent features of the park are the largest plug volcano in the world, Lassen Peak and it’s sulfur – thermal hot springs.

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Originally two separate National Monuments dedicated in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak National Monuments were declared Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1916.

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I arrived late in the afternoon after an 8 1/2 hour drive and set up camp at Manzanita Lake Campground located in the northern section of the park. Then I proceeded to walk the loop trail around Manzanita Lake, ate dinner and enjoyed a nice campfire before retiring to my tent to read and fall asleep.

 

Accessible by five vehicle entrances the majority of visitors enter either from the north or south along State Route 89, named the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway or Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway, off State route 44 in the north and 89 from the south. Three unpaved roads enter the park but do not connect with the main road through the park, Highway 89.

The north-south 29-mile (46.6k) road, Highway 89, was constructed between 1925 and 1931. The road summit is the highest in the Cascades topping at 8,512 feet (2,594 m). This road is closed in the winter months due to snow, which can reach 40 feet (12.2m) deep.

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Early morning along the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway

 

I got up early, had a quick breakfast and packed up to head south along Route 89 to visit the sites of the park. It was very interesting stopping at the many informative signs along the road to read the history of the park.

 

The last minor to major eruption started in 1914 and lasted until 1921 creating a new crater on Lassen Peak. Releasing ash and lava it fortunately did not kill anyone. This eruption covered many miles of forestlands with landslides and the new growth forest today stands many feet above the old forest floor. These landslides also created Manzanita Lake as it damned Manzanita Creek.

The first blast was on May 19, 1915 and was said to be a night to remember with it’s steam explosion and subsequent mudflows. Had it not been for Elmer Sorahan many people might have died but he ran 3 miles (4.8k) to warn others after escaping the explosion.

 

Three days later on May 22, 1915 another explosion on Lassen Peak threw ash, pumice, rock and gas into the air that was more devastating to the area than the first. The pressure in the mountain built up like a lid on a boiling pot of water and finally blew. You can now explore this area on a ½ mile (0.8k) loop trail or take the strenuous 2,000 foot (609.6m) 5 mile (8k) round trip hike to the top of 10,457 foot (3,187m) Lassen Peak. Many other hiking opportunities exist in the park along with backpacking, auto-touring, bird watching, camping skiing, skiing, snow play, and snowshoeing.

There are 5 hydrothermal areas to explore within the park. Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell, Devils Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake and Thermal Geyser. I am limiting myself to 2 for this trip.

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My first hydrothermal area would have been the hike out to Bumpass Hell Hydrothermal Area, a moderate 3 mile (4.8k) round trip hike. This is the largest hydrothermal area of the park with temperatures of up to 322 degrees F (161 degrees C). I had done this hike with my kids back in the early 1990’s although I found the trail closed this season for maintenance of the trail and boardwalk through the 2018 season.

My next stop was Sulphur Works, a formation of mudpots, steam vents and boiling springs located right off the main road. This hydrothermal area in near the center of a massive composite volcano that collapsed many thousands of years ago. Mount Tehama or Brokeoff Mountain was estimated to be 1,000 feet (304m) higher than Lassen Peak. Active 400,000 to 600,000 years ago it is estimated to be nearly 11 miles (17.7k) across and had towered to 11,500 feet (3,505k).

 

My final stop was the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the south entry of the park to visit the small museum learning the history of the park, peoples and area and had a nice talk with the Rangers.

Now for the long 8 hour drive down the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along State highway 395 to the BLM area of Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, CA.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park trip August 2017 Day 5

Again leaving at 7:30AM we all head for the upper (northern) loop in the park heading clockwise to miss the construction traffic later in the day. We first want to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area, then work our way back south. As we pass the major road construction project the wait was a little longer today and there was more of a line in front of us and behind us.

Is Mammoth Hot Springs drying up? No according to the National Park Service, it is in a constant state of change as the movement of water and fissures constantly changes underground. The Park Service estimates the amount of water emanating from this area has not changed, only where it issues forth.

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Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks trip August 2017 Day 4 part 1

Here are some excerpts from people who explored the region now known as Yellowstone. Which do you find realistic? Which do you find fantastical?

“At length we came to a boiling Lake about 300 foot in diameter forming nearly a complete circle as we approached on the South side. The steam which arose from it was of three distinct Colors from the west side for one third of the diameter it was white, in the middle it was pale red, and the remaining third on the east light sky blue. Whether it was something peculiar in the state of the atmosphere the day being cloudy or whether it was some Chemical properties contained in the water, which produced this phenomenon. I am unable to say and shall leave the explanation to some scientific tourist who may have the Curiosity to visit this place at some future period—The water was of deep indigo blue boiling like an immense cauldron running over the white rock which had formed [round] the edges to the height of 4 or 5 feet from the surface of the earth sloping gradually for 60 or 70 feet. What a field of speculation this presents for chemist and geologist.”—Osborne Russell, 1839

“One geyser, a soda spring, was so effervescent that I believe the syrup to be the only thing lacking to make it equal a giant ice cream soda of the kind now popular at a drugstore. We tried some experiments with our first discovery by packing it down with armfuls of grass; then we placed a flat stone on top of that, on which four of us, joining hands, stood in a vain attempt to hold it down. In spite of our efforts to curb Nature’s most potent force, when the moment of necessity came, Old Steam Boat would literally rise to the occasion and throw us all high into the air, like so many feathers.”—William Clark Kennerly, 1843

This day it would be just my son and I exploring Yellowstone, as the rest of the group have scheduled a boat at a local lake.

Yellowstone Day 4a-3Leaving at 7:30AM we head for the upper (northern) loop in the park as we first want to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area, then work our way back south. Passing Norris Geyser Basin for later in the day or tomorrow we continue clockwise on the east side of the loop. We soon encounter a major road construction project going on. There must have been at least 8 plus miles (13 km) of broken pavement and dirt one-lane road to travel before we are back on the 2-lane asphalted roadway.

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Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks trip August of 2017 Day 3 (part 1)

I will be breaking this day into 2 posts as we covered a lot of ground during our all day adventure.

1800s Accounts From Out West
For decades, fur trappers and mountain men told stories of the lands out west. To folks living back east, all of the accounts must have seemed fantastical, yet today we know that some of the accounts were quite accurate (and some embellished works of fiction). How do you go about determining the truth of a story?

Here are some excerpts from people who explored the region now known as Yellowstone. Which do you find realistic? Which do you find fantastical?

“Boiling fountains having different degrees of temperature were very numerous; one or two were so very hot as to boil meat.”—Alexander Ross, 1818

“There is also a number of places where the pure suphor is sent forth in abundance one of our men Visited one of those wilst taking his recreation there at an instan the earth began a tremendious trembling and he with dificulty made his escape when an explosion took place resembling that of thunder.”—Daniel T. Potts, 1827

“The general face of the country was smooth and rolling, being a level plain, dotted with cone-shaped mounds. On the summits of these mounds were small craters from four to eight feet in diameter. Interspersed among these, on the level plain, were larger craters, some of them from four to six miles across. Out of these craters issued blue flames and molten brimstone.”—1868 account by Joseph L. Meek of his time in the region in 1829

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Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks trip August of 2017 Day2

The next day my son, his wife, grandson and I did the park loop drive while the rest headed to Jackson Hole Ski Resort to take the gondola to the top then left for the cabin outside Yellowstone.

Stopping for breakfast at the Bunnery Bakery and Restaurant in Jackson we filled up on a delicious meal before heading out of Jackson. My son and I each had a Breakfast Sandwich of two eggs and cheddar or Swiss cheese with choice of ham, sausage or bacon on a homemade croissant. My daughter-in-law had the Croissant Breakfast of 2 eggs, chocolate Croissant and hash browns. Grandson ate off of everyone’s plates. WOW a wonderful place for breakfast, friendly staff, great service, and outstanding food.

 

 

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Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks trip August 2017 Day 1

Day 1 Tetons iPhone-1

Early morning in the desert

Pocatello Best Western

Pocatello Best Western room

Blasting through Southern California, Nevada, Utah and entering into Idaho on my first day I arrive at the Pocatello Inn Best Western, Pocatello, Idaho for a nights stay after an 860 mile (1,384 km) 14-hour driving day. This very nice complex has a indoor pool and spa, seating area, free in room wi-fi and a buffet breakfast. When I arrived at 6 PM I was pleasantly surprised to find an Applebee’s Restaurant within walking distance of the motel to grab a small bite to eat for dinner.

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A little day trip to Joshua Tree National Park

JT map

Park Map

At the end of May I decided to head out to Joshua Tree National Park to visit the Old Dale Mining District on BLM land that is located just outside the northeast portion of the park. Joshua Tree National Park is an environmental melting pot where 2 desert ecosystems meet, the Mojave Desert to the north and west and the Colorado Desert to the south and east. The Mojave Desert ecosystem consists of boulder stacks with pinyon pines, junipers and scrub oaks and the famous joshua tree. The Colorado Desert ecosystem in contrast consists of creosote, spidery ocotillo and jumping cholla cactus. Jumping cactus or teddy bear cactus got its name from the fact it tends to stick to anything within its range and is very painful to remove from the skin.

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