|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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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