Friday, November 20, 2015

Odds 'n Ends from Lassen NP

As you can imagine, I took hundreds of photos during my visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Quite a few of them didn't really fit into a particular theme, so I've combined these stray shots into a final catch-all blog post.

Panoramic forest view

After climbing Lassen Peak, I made a few additional stops on the road back to Manzanita Lake.  One was to check out Kings Creek Falls.  Although I'd heard reports of a lovely cascade, by the time I reached the falls, late afternoon backlight created poor photographic conditions.  So I took photos of the grand forest panorama instead.

Kings Creek

And meandering Kings Creek was quite lovely too.

Sulphur Works

I also drove by a roadside mud pot called Sulphur Works.  Sulfurous clay was mined here in the late 1800s, but now this active hydrothermal area has been presevered within the park boundaries.

Don't be like Mr. Bumpass

This warning signs made me chuckle.  The small stick figure in the lower sign reminded me of poor old Mr. Bumpass.  (If you missed that post, read about it here)

Bubbling mud pot

A mudpot right at pavement's edge was bubbling furiously.  I didn't get very close!

Colorful hill

Sulfurous minerals leaching out of the soil over time have created some striking colors.  Kind of makes up for the barren landscape.

Fall colors just getting started

Lassen Peak's NE side was the portion of the mountain that collapsed during the May 1915 eruptions.  The initial lava dome collapse and subsequent ash clouds and release of hot gases sent a high speed flow of gases and lava down Lassen's slope, devastating everything in its path.  Not only the lava, but high temperatures instantly melted mountain snow, creating massive mudflows.  This NE side is referred to as the "Devastated Area" and some remnants of the great eruption are still visible today.

Golden meadow

Huge car-sized boulders can still be found perched between the regrown Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines, hurled miles by the force of the blast and mudflow.

Car sized rock from 1915 eruption

Although this entire NE side was laid bare in 1915, you wouldn't know it today.  Tall aspens, Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine forests cover most of the former devastated area.

Sparkling stream

Gazing across Lassen's broad expanse, I wondered to myself if this is what Mt. St. Helens will look like on the 100-year anniversary of its eruption.

Lassen reflection

Nearby golden marshy meadows produced some great fall colors, and a surprise Lassen Peak reflection.

Loomis Museum

On Manzanita Lake's northern shore lies the Loomis Museum, home to historic photographs and other National Park information.  It's unique rock building makes a great photo subject.

B.F. Loomis famous photograph (scanned postcard)

The museum got its name from photographer B. F. Loomis, who captured several photographs of Lassen's many eruptions.  His most famous photographs were of the largest blasts, occurring in May 1915.  A series of five images, depicting the various stages of the explosion, are prominently displayed in the Loomis Museum.  Extremely impressive, considering the primitive camera equipment of the time.

Reflection Lake shoreline

Across the road from Loomis Museum was a nature path.  It passed by Reflection Lake's shoreline, noting the different varieties of pine trees.  Although I'm usually not one to explore developed nature trails, this one was well done.

Lily Pond

I passed by a very large lily pond.  Not only was it's surface covered with an impressive amount of water lilies, it's blue waters reflected the nearby forest quite nicely.

Giant pinecones!

Some of the local pine tree species produced extremely large cones.  They were are big as my size 9 feet!  (Sorry, I can't remember which variety of pine tree produced these)

It's called Reflection Lake for a reason

Since my nature hike had only briefly passed by Reflection Lake, upon completion of the trail, I headed back for a better view.

Lovely Lassen reflection

Boy, was I glad I did!  I thought the prior day's mountain reflections from Manzanita Lake were good. Well...let me just say they call it Reflection Lake for a reason.  The mountain images reproduced in it's still, blue waters were nothing short of marvelous.

Almost like a painting!

A good way to end my time at Lassen Volcanic National Park. 

Sharing with:  Weekend Reflections and Through My Lens

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bumpass Hell

You're probably thinking to yourself, "What kind of place is this to have a name like Bumpass Hell?"

Morning mountain reflections in Lake Helen

Lassen Volcanic National Park is known not only for a recently erupting volcano (Lassen Peak, 1915), it's also home to a wide array of unique hyrdrothermal features.  Steaming fumaroles, gurgling mudpots, and boiling hot springs all exist in a 16-acre site known as Bumpass Hell.  It's like a miniature Yellowstone sprung up in the heart of in Northern California.

Trailhead sign - proof that I'm not making this name up

One of the most popular places in the park, a short 1.5 mile trail takes scores of visitors to this unusual land of hot springs.  My campground neighbors advised an early start if I wanted solitude.  So the next morning, I rose before daybreak.  Arriving at the trailhead by a quarter to eight, I was the third car in the lot.  Briefly delayed capturing some picture-perfect reflections in Lake Helen's calm waters, it was time to check out this place with a funny name.

First look into the valley

The trail itself was unremarkable, save for a fantastic viewpoint of the nearby mountains about halfway.  Fifteen minutes later, a small gap in the trees revealed a bird's-eye view of my destination.  Steam rising from a barren clearing, Bumpass Hell spread out below.  I felt a shiver of excitement - not only was I excited about seeing (and photographing) this land of sulfur and steam, it appeared I had it all to myself!

Lots of steam rising

A long descent down a steep hill took me to the first boardwalk.  Because the temperatures of these hot springs and mud pots are well above boiling, contact would result in serious injury.  Sturdy walkways provide visitors safe close up views.  Because - no one wants to suffer the fate of Kendall Vanhook Bumpass - the man responsible for this area's unusual name.

Boardwalks protect visitors from being burned

A cowboy and early explorer, Bumpass stumbled upon these hydrothermal features in the early 1860s.  This discovery came at a cost - he badly scalded his leg after accidentally breaking through a thin crust above a mud pot.  Upon returning to civilization, Bumpass characterized this area as "hell."  Hearing his story, a newspaper editor convinced Bumpass to take him along on a return visit.  Some people are slow learners, and poor Mr. Bumpass fell in a second time, burning the same leg, which eventually required amputation.

Squeaky chipmunk

Standing on the boardwalk's edge, gaping at this wondrous place, I noticed a tiny chipmunk (or maybe it was a golden-mantled ground squirrel...) standing quite close.  He was on his hind legs squeaking loudly.  The little guy let me get within inches, and my large camera lens didn't seem to faze him.  I got a great shot of Mr. Chipper with his tiny mouth wide open, before he finally noticed me and scampered away.

Interesting colors

Time to check out the boiling pools!  I traveled to one end of the boardwalk that offered great views of a robins-egg-blue hot spring.  Dark orange patches of sulfur lined the adjacent banks.  Steam rose from nearby fumarole vents.  (And as you can imagine, it smelled pretty nasty)

I took a short video so you could all enjoy the scenery.

Boiling water

Informative signs along the boardwalk's railing provided explanations of the odd, boiling landforms.  There were fumaroles (steam vents), boiling springs, and mud pots, which were an intermediate phase between the fumarole and boiling spring.  The amount of available water determines whether you'll have a boiling spring, fumarole, or mud pot. 

Interesting sediments

Deep under Lassen Peak, a body of hot molten rock is responsible for these strange, bubbling features.  The deep magma chamber heats ground water to temperatures well above boiling.  As the water nears the surface, it erupts through fissures, creating steam clouds and mud pots.

Boiling mudpots make cool patterns

The place was far from quiet, as the belching mud pots and boiling pools made all sorts of strange gurgling sounds.

Silty mudflow tracks

Big Boiler, the largest and hottest fumarole in the park, hissed and grumbled nearby.  Steam temperatures have been measured as high as 322 degrees F (161 C) here, making it one of the hottest fumaroles in the world.  The constant churning and heat have enlarged Big Boiler over the years, requiring a recent reconstruction of the boardwalk, when part of it eroded away.

Another video of this fascinating place!  (Just because)

Sulfur makes bright colors on the landscape

Walking along the boardwalk, I was disappointed to find the upper portion blocked by an orange fence.  Apparently this reach was under construction.  I peeped around the barricade, tempted to step around and continue across the closed walkway.  But not wishing to suffer the same fate as Mr. Bumpass, I wisely decided to turn back.

Steam rising from many fumaroles

The trail continued past Bumpass Hell, continuing another 2.5 miles to Kings Creek picnic area.  Although I wasn't planning on hiking that far, I did climb the adjacent hill to get another look at this steamy valley.

The hot landscape didn't bother this chipmunk

And I spotted another chipmunk/ground squirrel perched on the side of a hot spring.  The little critter didn't seemed at all bothered by his proximity to scalding steam and water.

Another geothermal pond

From my high perch, I got some great views of geothermal features adjacent to the closed boardwalk.  Another large mud pot/hot spring was directly below, and it was as spectacular as the others.  I relaxed, had a snack, and enjoyed the solitude.

Hot mud makes interesting patterns

I was extremely lucky, and had the entire place to myself for the better part of an hour.  But all good things eventually come to an end, and as I sat upon the hill, people started to arrive. 

People are starting to show up

I'd heard by midday the boardwalks get crowded with visitors.  Not wanting to fight for viewing space (especially so close to all that hot mud and water) I decided I'd collected more than enough images.

Loved this blue-gray pool

The day was getting warm anyway, and I still had to climb back up that steep hill. 

A look back up the valley

But not before snapping just a couple more photos of this fascinating, unusual place.  Having visited Yellowstone National Park many times, (one of my favorite National Parks) I was totally wowed by the geothermal features in Bumpass Hell.  They're on par with anything you'd see in Yellowstone.

Last look at this unique area

Glad I got up early and experienced Bumpass Hell without the crowds.  A great way to spend a glorious fall morning!

Hang in there, I've got one more Lassen post coming up (hopefully you aren't tired of this place yet).

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Climbing Lassen Peak

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet."  - William Blake

Lassen Peak devastated side

(**Ahem**  I'd like to amend the above quote:  Great things are also done when WOMEN and mountains meet.)

On the second day of my Lassen Volcanic National Park trip, I got the opportunity to achieve greatness by tackling the trek up Lassen Peak.

Golden fall meadow

After a night of sound sleep, I awoke to a beautiful clear morning.  Perfect mountain climbing weather!  Following the only highway that snaked through Lassen Park, I drunk in spectacular scenery while driving to the trailhead.  The winding road provided many wonderful viewpoints of this massive mountain. My arrival at Lassen Peak Trailhead was slightly delayed for a few (okay, many) photo stops along the way. 

Trailhead parking lot

The park road climbed relentlessly, from 5900 feet at Manzanita Lake, to 8200 feet at the Lassen Peak Trailhead.  As I parked my car in the huge lot, I realized this trailhead's elevation was almost equal to Mt. St. Helens' summit (MSH is at 8365 feet).

Beginning my climb

I was really high up!  Lingering snow patches still lined the parking lot edges and clung to the tops of nearby peaks.  Folks in the neighboring campsite had warned me that the upper reaches of Lassen Peak might be impassible due to snow and ice.  Feeling a little apprehensive about trail conditions, I fretted about being forced to turn around near the summit.  But I'd traveled too far not to give it a try.

Three mountains all in a row

The trek up Lassen Peak is short and steep, rising 2000 vertical feet in 2.5 miles.  The trail starts climbing right from the parking lot, and it didn't take long before I was huffing and puffing.  But this quick ascent meant rewards came quickly, and the stunning landscape began to spread out below me.

Lake Helen

Shimmering blue Lake Helen appeared below the mountain's rocky cliffs.

Faraway views to the east

And to the east, Juniper lake and surrounding hills emerged from the misty horizon.

A bit of snow on the trail

About a third of the way up, snow began to partially block the trail.  At first, it was easy to bypass most of it.  But as I climbed, the white stuff began to get deeper, and covered more and more of the path.  Finally, I had to start wading through.  Luckily, the temperatures were warm enough to make the snow soft and slushy, so it was relatively easy to traverse.

Lake Helen is getting smaller...

I had my trekking poles for balance and stability, and tried to place my feet in the steps made by others.  When the steps weren't in the right places, I merely kicked some of my own.  Because I ski a lot, I'm used to traveling in snow, and hiking in it didn't bother me.  But I watched many others who were having a hard time navigating the snow patches.

Almost there!

For a steep climb this trail attracted crowds, even in mid-September.  I saw many people who didn't appear to have the necessary fitness to tackle such a strenuous hike.  Lots of families with young children, and quite a few older people were struggling in some of the steep, snowy places.  Quite a few folks weren't wearing proper footwear (I saw one lady in leather dress shoes!) or didn't appear to be carrying enough water (or any water).

Made it!

I'm not a very fast hiker, but I passed quite a few parties.  Although the high elevation slowed me some (well...that and photo taking), I was pleasantly surprised when the final summit pitch came into view.

Spectacular panoramas

Oh were the views glorious!  Northern California stretched out in all directions.  I could even see Mt. Shasta on the northern skyline.

Actual summit elevation is 10,457 feet - my gps is close

There were quite a few people on top.  One nice man offered to take my photo, and of course I took him up on it.

Victory photo

The actual true summit was a rocky pinnacle to the northeast of where most people stopped.  I saw a few hardy hikers scramble up its steep slopes, but decided to pass.  The ascent and altitude had tired me a bit, and I wanted to save energy for the trip down.

My little snowman

I ran into a nice family from - of all places - Oregon!  Their kids were having fun rolling snowballs, and this gave me the wild idea to make a tiny snowman.  I packed three fist-sized snowballs together and added a couple of rocks for eyes. 

Someone else liked my snowman too

My little snow-guy was a hit!  Not only did the kids like him, I caught this man snapping a photo as I was heading back down.

Heading back down

After climbing all morning, it was time for some sweet downhill!  I happily glided down the trail, casting sympathetic looks to all the people still grunting their way up.

Navigating the snow

Reaching the snowy patches, I found them quite trampled from the morning hiker traffic.  Footing had become uneven, and the snow packed into slippery icy patches.  That, combined with my downhill momentum made for some treacherous passages.  But I took things slow, used my trekking poles, and got through just fine.

Snow is starting to melt

The views coming down were just as grand.  I felt lucky to have such perfect weather - clear skies and moderate temperatures.  There's not much shade on this trail, and I'm sure it can be a hot trek in summer.

Close up look at the devastated area

At one point, the trail switchbacked around to give hikers a view of the "devastated area," the side of Lassen Peak where mudflows and hot gases traveled during the 1915 eruption, obliterating everything in their path.

Rock formation near the trailhead

My return trip took half as much time as my ascent.  It wasn't long before I was rounding the final switchback, the massive parking lot in full view.  Although it was now mid-afternoon, a constant stream of people still marched up the trail.  But I was most happy to be done.

Post hike relaxing at Lake Helen

I celebrated by munching potato chips on Lake Helen's shoreline, whose blue waters I'd admired during my climb and descent.  Lassen Peak reflected in the lake's surface, and I gazed at the summit with satisfaction.  An amazing hike, I was glad the weather and snow conditions had cooperated.  Yes indeed, great things had been accomplished today.

Next on my Lassen list was hiking into Bumpass Hell, a unique hydrothermal area.  Photos and story in my next post!

Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends and Our Beautiful World