On June 29th, 2013, Pauline and I went on an adventure to Lassen National Park, a 3 hour ride north of Sacramento. What we experienced was one of our best camping experiences yet. Why did we decide to go to Lassen? One reason was to see California’s volcanos. Another reason was because of Pauline’s interest in “Vulcan’s Castle”. Another was to escape the scorching 110 degree Sacramento heat. But really, we just wanted to escape from the routine and peek outside our computer screens to see what Earth is really like. So we could touch and smell the things so faraway from the city. Leaves. Grass. Flowers. And everything else.
When we arrived, we were glad that there were still some empty campsites left at the Southwest campground, given that July is peak season for this park. We had the option of choosing from about 5/20 campgrounds available. We chose the shadiest one, and started on a 7 mile hike up Brokeoff Mountain that was reasonably challenging. 4 hours of hiking seemed to be the perfect length for us. Just easy enough to do, but just tough enough to really appreciate the top. Although the top isn’t as large as it seems from the bottom, the way up is quite scenic with the trail crossing a number of crystal clear streams coming from the various snow mounds still left in the summer sun’s shadow. We ate a small picnic snack/lunch of tuna salad and crackers.
At night we cooked fresh sausage, carrots, green beans, canned corn and canned grilling beans. I unfortunately forgot to add the cajun seasoning, rendering the food blander than usual, but we enjoyed it thoroughly. Cooking with fire has an interactive element to it, with the constant possibility of burnout, and Pauline enjoyed keeping the fire going while I did most of the preparation. She ate some smores but I didn’t since I never really liked smores, just ate them when I was younger to not be weird.
The next day we hiked another trail and explored Bumpass Hell, a geothermally active area with boiling pools of water caused by magma 6 miles underneath. It was a humbling experience to walk along such powerful natural phenomena. Then, a trip to the gift shop where we ate an ice cream cone and bought two Lassen postcards. We were going to go on another hike, but because we were both feeling hot and tired, we decided to head home early.
Overall, it was a beautiful park and had a surprising amount of lush beauty considering that the surrounding region is so dry. I was expecting a more Joshua Tree like desert environment, but it ended up being more like Sequoia. Tall trees, streams, and vivid green meadows. We looked back wistfully at the mountains in the rearview mirror and braced ourselves for another two weeks of civilization.