Lassen Volcanic National Park
Days 1-2
May 2001
March and April were filled with work, work, work. Annette flew around the US and Canada working with school districts and conferences, while Larry defended and finished his Ph.D. It was time for some old-fashioned relaxation without Internet, cell phones, or television.
This adventure began with a drive from Reno, Nevada to Old Station, California. We enjoyed being back-on-the-move on Highways 395, 36, and 44 through mountains and valleys filled with pine and fir trees. We stopped for sandwiches at a nice rest area on the north end of Honey Lake. After another stop for fuel in Susanville, we began to see signs of the volcanic activity featured in the national park and forests in the area. 
When we arrived at the Manzanita Lake entrance to the Lassen Volcanic National Park, we were disappointed to hear that the campground wasn't open. The road through the park had just opened, but the campgrounds weren't available for another week. Rather than fretting about it, we returned to the small town of Old Station to explore the local campground options. Behind the post office and general store, we found a run-down, but friendly little campground adjacent to the national forest called Hat Creek Resort. Catering mostly to older trailers with seasonal reservations, we were able to find a quiet spot whose summer occupant wouldn't arrive for another few weeks. After getting over the haphazard park layout, trashy trailers, and run-down look, we began enjoying the close proximity to Hat Creek, the beautiful pines, and rustic area. In addition, we had full-hookups (no cell phone or TV because of the trees), a luxury not available in the national park.
Kings Creek Falls
After a couple of months sitting at computers, we were ready to start with a "warm-up" hike. We got up early and started at the Hat Creek Recreation Area Visitor Center. Then, headed to the National Park. After driving by the area devastated by the 1915 earthquake, we began to notice more and more snow. We stopped at a pull-off near the "still closed" Kings Creek picnic area and began to look for the trailhead to Kings Creek Falls. A red car was parked at the pullout, so we guessed we were in the right place. We climbed over the mound of snow next to the road and began to head toward the creek. Based on the trail map, we figured we'd hit the trail eventually. We didn't find the trail, but we did find tracks.
As we followed the tracks through the snow, mush, and pine needles, we hoped that the people in the red car knew where they were going. Soon we began seeing evidence of the dirt trail and yellow trail blazes on the trees. We knew as long as we stayed near the creek, we would eventually find the falls. Picking the best path through the snow and run-off was a challenge. We found that the shady snow was the most firm. The snow in open areas was often soft and resulted in lots of chilly, knee-deep foot holes. Annette found herself face down in the pine needles after being unable to stop her momentum going over a snow-covered log. It look Larry a few moments to realize that she was missing. It took Annette a while to make sure that all body parts were still functioning. Even then, she had a hard time twisting around with her ankles held up by a snowy log and her chest downhill in a pile of pine needles and branches. It didn't help that she was laughing as Larry was trying to assess the magnitude of her injuries. Other than a few bruises, she was ready to continue.

After a short hike through the pines, we proceeded across a beautiful meadow. At this point, the water in the creek was flowing more rapidly as it meandered across the flat open area. We entered a pine forest and enjoyed the cascades as we started moving down a canyon. We continued to follow a mixture of the marked trail and the footprints. We speculated on the people who left the footprints trying to decide if it was a couple since one pair was smaller than the other. An answer came quickly as we met two young men (one tall and one small) heading in our direction. After assuring us that we were on the right trail, we continued our adventure.
At one point the trail became steep and rocky, as the creek experienced a series of small waterfalls called the cataracts. The view became more and more stunning as we looked out over the mountains. After more woods, we finally reached the a beautiful, 70-foot, forest waterfall we had hoped for throughout the hike. During our a snack of water and fig newtons, we enjoyed watching a dipper bird play in the waterfall. On the trip back we photographed mushrooms and wildflowers. We saw the shoots of a big green plant and later discovered that it was California false hellebore, a very poisonous plant. We're glad we took only photographs and left only footprints (in the snow). This 2.2 mile hike was downhill going in and uphill coming back making it feel farther than it actually was.

Backroad Drive
Since the picnic areas were all closed, we stopped at an overlook for lunch. We got out our folding chairs and enjoyed the view. After the leisurely lunch break, we continued our drive through the rest of the park, but were disappointed that most of the side roads were closed. We stopped at the Sulphur Works which contains geothermal activity including bubbling mud pots, boiling water, and steaming fumaroles. The boardwalk was in bad shape and part of it was closed for repair. After stopping at the south entrance, we decided to take a backroad back home.
After driving about five miles on a gravel road we were faced with a snow bank. After three attempts in our 4 wheel drive, we decided to take another route and headed south to Mineral. We then took another gravel road north. Since this one had a name, "17", we were more confident that it would be accessible. The road proceeded through miles of national forest land that had been cut over the past several years. It was sad to see the devastation left by the lumber industry. Very little new growth was evident.

The highlight of the trip was in the last couple miles on route 17. As we drove through a grove of manzanita trees, a cinnamon bear appeared on the road in front of us and began to run. It ran at an unbelievable speed. We stayed back thinking that it would go back into the woods, but each time we rounded a corner the bear continued down the road. Finally, the bear saw a tall pine tree on the left side of the road. It quickly climbed the tree. We didn't want to frighten it, but we couldn't resist a few pictures. When Larry turned back toward the car for another disk for his camera, the bear saw its chance to get away and came down the tree at lightening speed and proceeded into the brush. Apparently it wasn't frightened of Annette, because she continued to roll the video camera (Actually, she was running to the car as the camera rolled).
Be sure to read about out Climb to Lassen Peak.

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 7/01.
Updated 5/02.
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