Friday, July 23, 2010

Fly Away Home...and Fantastic Lava Beds

If this has the look of someone planning...possibly plotting...there's a reason for it. Just because we needed to go home on Wednesday, I wasn't about to give up on seeing something else awesome on our trip. I'd had my sights set on Boiling Springs Lake or Devil's Kitchen, but the ranger told me that was a two hour drive from Manzanita Lake and I'd promised Daddy we'd get home before midnight. So, we opted instead for the trail to Cinder Cone and a nice little swimming lake just 45 minutes from our campground...or so they said anyway.So, first thing in the morning, we packed up our cheerful little campsite. It always makes me a little sad. We'd had so much fun already and I wasn't ready to go. But between cooking breakfast and loading everything into the van, we were out before 11 o'clock. Not before another cool bug sighting though.I couldn't help noticing the similarity between this:and this:Both taking off for home.

But we had more adventures ahead before we got there. First, we stopped by the visitor's center, where Mam got her Chipmunk Club sticker and Smunch was roundly applauded by all vistors as he was declared an official Junior Ranger. Very cute, but so unexpected that there are no photos. Then we got on the road to Butte Campground, where our next trailhead began. We got confused and thought we were lost. We turned around, then determined that we were just confused, not lost, and turned around again. We missed the turnoff for the campground because I couldn't believe it was a gravel road.

It was.

It was not only gravel, but super bumpy too...for six miles. And I'm sure I'd still be feeling those bumps today if the trip hadn't been worth it and then some.

We arrived at Butte Lake, a pretty lake on the edge of an area called Fantastic Lava Beds, right around lunchtime. It's a very cool lake with green-colored water, forest on one side and massive beds of lava rock on the other.And by massive, I mean unfathomably large.

We began our hike down the cinder trail, alongside the lava beds. They looked more like a construction zone than lava, if you asked me. Smunch said it looked like a big junkyard.But just seeing the kids stand next to the giant pile of rocks made an impression as to just how microscopic humans really are on the grand scale of things geologic.There was no snow here, so it was a warm hike, but not terribly steep and the kids did pretty well. Mam was kinda whiny...again. But Daddy magically placated her by inventing a game where they counted sticks on the trail along the way. I think they counted about 1100 sticks all told.

We saw a bunch of grey jays along the way. I don't know why, but I have a particular fondness for these birds and we hadn't seen any anywhere else in the park. I had to take a picture.The culmination of this hike was Cinder Cone. Which is...well...a cinder cone. It's actually one of the most remarkable vistas I've ever seen and I'm not sure I photo can really do it justice. Cinder Cone itself is more than 800 feet tall and a tremendous moonscape of a thing.And that squiggle up the right side? That's a trail to the top. We didn't go.But plenty of others did.What's even more impressive is that this cone is surrounded by an area called Painted Dunes...sand dunes (or probably cinder dunes, I'd imagine) with really amazing bands of color. And beyond those dunes, you get a much greater picture of what the Fantastic Lava Beds are really like and how truly extensive they are. It's really, truly awe-inspiring. A photo does it no justice.After some snacks, we headed back to the van where we had lunch and changed into our swimsuits for a shorter hike just over the hill to Bathtub Lake.The lake is named for the fact that it's warm...or at least warmer than some. I got cold pretty quickly, but having not showered in a few days, the swim was awesome and refreshing. Having left the goggles at home, Smunch was not at all sure about this whole swimming-in-a-lake thing.He didn't want to put his head in if he couldn't open his eyes. And, well, one can't open one's eyes without goggles on, right?

Mam, however, was eager to give it a try and did pretty well. Daddy swam out to the middle and hauled in a long tree trunk for her to ride on. She had a grand time.She even tried swimming after a bit and did a great job.Tooling around on the bank, I found a little group of reeds where a group of iridescent blue damsel flies had "docked"...for lack of a better description.It was kind of a funny sight and reminded me of some kind of insect space station.

Daddy hung out in the water with the kids for a while. Since he's by far the stronger swimmer, I guess that was appropriate.Although he occasionally walks on water, he's just sitting out on a submerged tree here.

And, after trying for some time, I finally got a shot of this guy...not really as handsome as my own, perhaps, but kind of magnificent nonetheless.Once we were all cooled down and slightly less stinky than we had been, we headed back over the hill to the van.We all changed into dry clothes and bumped back down the road...towards home.

Yeah. I promised Daddy we'd be home before midnight. I know he had designs on leaving Lassen by 1 or 2. It was after 4 when we finally hit the road. We were home at 11:30. Promise kept.


Barrett, Melinda, & Angel Trinity Adams said...

Good job keeping your promise! ;) I sound like a broken record, but I'm loving your pics!!!!

mommien said...

OK I'm sold. We GOTTA go. Hike, views, lake...just today's outing alone sounds totally worth it. (And 6 miles of a bumpy dirt road is a total bonus!)