There is almost no evidence of our trip left at this point. Over the last couple of days, I've done countless loads of laundry to get all the campground dirt and sunscreen out of our clothes and worked hard to put everything back in its place...a skill I'll probably never excel at. Judging by the photo above, I might've just scanned a postcard. Hardly any evidence left, except for the 567 photos I took during our three and a half days at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
This trip was potentially one of the most perfect camping trips ever...at least in the history of our family. The only thing that might've made it better is if it was a day or two longer.
We left home on Sunday around 9am and arrived at the park and our campground at Manzanita Lake, right at the park entrance, around 2pm. It was a long drive, aided by several books on CD. Books on CD used to entertain my children without fail. They still do, but now they can't agree on which books they like. They can't agree on much at all, actually.
And that made our camping trip that much more necessary. They were driving me insane at home. I hoped that being outdoors without a TV or iPad (which got no reception at Lassen anyway) would suddenly make them more agreeable. I was wrong. There was still plenty of fighting, but it was definitely better.
Things worked out perfectly at the campground. I'd made a reservation in a loop that was reservable, but I wasn't psyched about. We went to our site. It was right next to the bathrooms, which is good and bad, but we decided it was mostly bad. My real intention was to go check out the D-loop where it is tents only and you get spots on a first come, first served basis. We were relatively early and there were plenty of spots there, so we switched. And were thrilled with our new little spot.We spent much of the afternoon setting up camp and then went out for a drive to the "Devastated Area", which was demolished 100 years ago when Mt. Lassen last erupted. There wasn't a whole lot to see there, except to learn about different types of volcanic rock...and to get a nice view of the mountain.But it gave us some familiarity with the road construction going on and with our surroundings. It was hot, but fun.
We went back, made dinner, and enjoyed the obligatory fire and s'mores before bedtime.Monday started out differently. As soon as we were done with breakfast...and I'd photographed this fine fellow near our tent:we set out on the road to Bumpass Hell. Doesn't sound all that appealing, but it's home to some of the most interesting geothermal features in the park. We also learned that the road construction wasn't really active late on Sunday. There was a lot more waiting to be done this time around. The woman at the end of the road, with the stop sign, asked us where we were going. Then she told us that Bumpass Hell was closed due to snow. Snow? Really? Sure there was snow on Lassen Peak, but it was hard to fathom trailheads closed due to snow in late July. We went anyway.
And sure enough, after an hour or so of driving, we reached the trailhead parking lot for Bumpass Hell. Plenty of snow. Not so much trailhead. But it was a beautiful view, so we stopped for photos, then continued down the road to Sulphur Works. I didn't know what Sulphur Works was, but I figured we'd find out. And I was glad we did. It turns out that it's a little place along the roadway where you can see a boiling mud pot and steaming fumaroles...and as you might expect, it smells a lot like sulphur. Despite knowing, academically, that these are normal volcanic features, it still boggles my mind that these are natural. Maybe it's their proximity to the road or maybe it's just that I've never seen anything like them before.From there, we kept going, with the idea of reaching the trailhead for Mill Creek Falls. It turns out, that's at the opposite end of the park from Manzanita Lake, so we drove the entire park and found the trailhead at the South Entrance. The hike was hot, but so, so pretty. The towering volcanic peaks and the broad swaths of bright yellow flowers instantly brought The Sound of Music to mind.I took too many pictures. It was hard not to.We walked until we thought we must've reached the falls, as unimpressive as they were.I only learned later that Mill Creek Falls is a true waterfall. We must have turned around just steps before we got there.Oh well. It was such a beautiful hike, it was hard to be sad about it. Mam needed some help on the way back. She was tired and hot (like the rest of us), but so much whinier that she got to ride on Daddy's shoulders. The rest of us should be so lucky.We stopped at the visitor's center for some popsicles and air conditioning. The kind lady in the gift shop (from whom we'd bought nothing) offered to take our photo. And then we drove back, stopping here and there for photos, including this one of a frozen Lake Helen, and to check out another trailhead on the way. It was snowy, but open. It gave us a plan for the next day.
Another dinner back at the campsite and we chose the dusky after-dinner hours for a short hike around Manzanita Lake. Our campsite wasn't too near the lake itself, so we drove up to the lake in the van. Every single hike we took was fantastic, but as far as picture postcards go, this one took the cake.Couldn't have been a much better end to the day!