Lassen Volcanic National Park
Days 3-4
Lassen Peak
Our challenge for this trip was the hike to Lassen Peak. The five-mile round hike to the top of this 10,457 foot peak is considered "mountain climbing" but does not require any technical climbing skills. Although the trail is open in May, it's not recommended for hiking until July because of the deep snow pack. This year a lighter than normal snow accumulation made a May ascent easier, although we mushed through snow about half the time making the hike very tiring.
We didn't get up as early as we had hoped, but we got to the base of the mountain by 10:45 a.m. and began our hike. The first four people we saw going up the trail were carrying ice picks. Three people were dressed in snow boots, gaters, jackets, gloves, packs, and poles. Needless to say, we were intimidated as we looked up at the snow-packed trail. We were dressed in long sleeve shirts, pants, and carried our jackets. As we put on our hiking boots, we talked to two hikers who had just returned from the top. They said that we might get a little wet, but that we were dressed fine. We felt a little more confident and decided to give it a try. The hiking guide said the trail would be steep and strenuous, but we thought we could handle the 2000 foot ascent. The key to a strenuous hike in high altitude is regular rest and lots of water. We were already acclimated to a 5000 foot altitude from our time in Reno.

The trail began with a warning sign indicating that it would be snow and ice covered, duh! Snow covered everything as far as we could see. Within a few hundred feet up the trail, we stopped to talk with a park worker who was working on the trail. He was attempting to reroute hikers to the original path as indicated by pink flags in the snow. As we proceeded through a meadow area we talked to another park worker. Soon we found ourselves in endless switchbacks that slowly made progress up the mountain. At first the snow cover was only interrupted by a few pine trees and large rocks. As we made our way higher, we left the tree line and saw more exposed, bare ridges. It was windy and cold on one side of the mountain, but when we switched back to the other side it became calm. The views were spectacular. As we caught our breaths, we enjoyed gazing at the ice covered, blue lakes of Helen and caught an occasional glimpse of Emerald Lake in the distance. In the other direction, we could see Crumbaugh Lake. In all directions we saw magnificent mountains.
About half way up, we reached the first interpretive sign talking about the origins of the mountain. As we looked up, we discovered what we thought was the top of the mountain. It was still a long, long, way up. We were already tired and realized we had a long way to go. The switchbacks began to get shorter and steeper. We stopped for a rest on the calm side of every switchback and speculated on which mountain in the distance might be Mount Shasta. We had been told that on a clear day you could see this magnificent mountain in the distance. The mountains all looked somewhat the same to us.

By now the trail snow was almost gone from the trail, but we could see the glacial snow on the side of the mountain. The trail became more rocky and we had to watch our footing. We were encouraged by meeting a few people coming down who said we were getting close and that Mount Shasta was visible.
After a final traverse through some glacial snow and a few more switchbacks, we reached the top. Wow! Mount Shasta was huge and wasn't visible until we crested the mountain top. There was no mistaking this magnificent mountain. The other mountains were dwarfed by comparison. The view of this snow capped peak was well-worth the huffing, puffing, and damp feet.
We talked to a group at the top from Chico who were using this climb as practice for Mount Shasta. We let them know that this "was the climb" for us. Mount Shasta and the other 14ers will have to wait. Rather than heading down, we decided to try the hike to the "jumbles." This rock formation was a brief hike across the snow to some huge boulders and a cone-shaped radio transmitter. The snow was no problem, the boulders were. Only a snow-covered ledge stood between the boulders and a sheer cliff. With no climbing gear, we took our time and clung to the rock face. When we reached the top, we were rewarded with an even better view of Mount Shasta, as well as the devastated area from the 1915 eruption. The mountain was unusually calm and sunny. We stopped for some yogurt and 'nilla wafers before beginning our descent down the mountain.
As we headed from the jumbles back to the peak, we saw a hiker putting on his snow skies. He and a companion on a snowboard were planning to sail down the mountain the fast way. We decided the trail was the best route for us.
The trip down the mountain was fun! We were able to smile and say hi to everyone trudging up the mountain. Boy, it's great to be able to breathe. The melting snow and loose gravel presented a bit of a challenge as we flew down the mountain. We both slipped a few times causing our pants to become a little wet and our socks and hiking books to become saturated. By the time we got to the bottom, Larry was able to ring water out of his socks.
As we celebrated our success, we began to realize that our muscles were tired and our faces were very red. Even with hats and sunscreen, the hot sun reflected off the snow causing sunburns. After changing into shorts and fresh socks, we were ready to head home to a hardy meal of chicken stew in our Dutch oven.

Hat Creek
The goal for our final day was relaxation... no hikes, no climbs, no schedules. After sleeping late and eating a brunch of bacon and pancakes, we headed down the road to the Hat Creek Campground where we found a quiet place in the shade to relax.
We read, sketched, snoozed, and generally goofed off. This was a major achievement since we spend so much time working. Other than a brief setback when Larry did some brainstorming for an article based on his dissertation, the day was spent relaxing and recovering from our vacation.
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Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 7/01.
Updated 5/01.
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