Lassen Volcanic National Park
3-7 July 2003

4 July, 12:47 am.  Butte Creek Campground Lassen National Forest.  So I worked a full day today with Eric, and I managed to get out of the hospital at about 4pm, just in time to hit all the rush hour traffic, but I figured it'd be the best time to leave for a national park on this very busy camping weekend.  I've wanted to get to Lassen for the past 3 years now, and finally I decided it was time for a little respite and relaxation in the woods... again.  Like I always said, some people spend a fortune on therapy, I find camping much like submersing myself in prozac.  Work and life isn't remotely stressful, really, but battling all these personal demons lately was call enough to get me into the wilderness.  I left the Prince with Clay, since National Parks are very dog-unfriendly.  He LOVES Clay, his babysitter, so the expense was worth it, just to get away.  I found this campground in a book, and the best part about it is it's free.  But it's only 3 miles from Lassen NP boarder, so it's a great spot, too.  And there's a bubbling, loud creek I managed to get a spot right next to, so I'll be hearing this all night :)  My greatest concern here, is that thhere are no bear proof lockers to sotre food and smelly things in, so maybe I will get eaten by a bear.  who knows.  If I disappear and this is all that's  left of me, you'll now know what happened.  I have my mace, and a knife, but I'm usually more worried about wild animals of the homo sapien variety than of the bear variety...  ha ha.  I tried to get spots at both Craigs and the Southwest walk-in in the park proper first, but they were all gone by the time I got here, and so here I am, in the wilderness, just for free.  That's probably better anyways.  
This park is an attraction for all its geothermic phenomena, which I like so much- the mud pits, the sulfer springs and hot springs...  and the wildlife.  Robert from work says there are bald eagles out here in this area, making a comeback.  I really would be SO lucky to see one.  So far tonight I saw a lot of deer, and one lone coyote run across the road in front of me tonight.  I've actually decided to do the responsible thing this time, and map out an itinerary since I really want to do some serious hiking in to see the good, more remote stuff in the park.  So Erin and Dan have a copy of the plans in case I get eaten, disabled or lost out there.  Not funny, but in case...  you never know.  And it's really a smart thing to do.  
i had a talk with Gitlin, my nemisis this evening which was not so very good- i flaked out and got teared up since I was so upset...  i'm not sure why i'm such a failure to communicate when I'm upset...  Bradshaw would undoubtedly say it's my fear and defensive "non-disclosure" issues.  Talking is bad, talking about bad things when I was upset or angry about got me into trouble when I was a kid, so to this day I'm something of a communicative cripple.  I'm trying, though.  I just wish I hadn't acted like a flake.  Maybe I'm getting my period.  Hormones suck.  I really believe women got the short end of the deal.  ha ha.  Well.  I just managed to inflate my bed, and I'm going to try and get some sleep...  this is a really nice spot, the stars are out in spades and the moon is a quarter crescent tonight.  Not a cloud in the sky.  I can't really see the milky way or anything, since it's obscured by the tree tops, but the smell of pine and the fresh alpine creek behind me and the distant lingering of smouldering campfires should be enough to induce some shut eye...  good night, forest.  I'll be off to Devil's Kitchen geothermic area tomorrow morning.  I figured I'd do the most exciting thing first, since I might die or get eaten or something, so at least I'll go with the bubbling of the mud pits behind me :)  I miss Charmey already :)

I slept like the dead last night, it was great.  I woke up feeling relatively unmotivated in the morning, sleep seemed like a better idea.  I got up around 11, though, and drove through the park one more time, stopping at the Manzanita complex for a breakfast sandwich at the little cafe in the store there.  I bought a book about Lassen geology and the volcanic activity, and made a mental note to come back when I needed a shower...  
Then I drove south through the park to the Sulphur Works geothermal area.  It's right off the road, and basically a tiny little walk around some mud pits and a few hotsprings.  You can smell the sulphur as you get there, i love that smell personally..   I did a fast ramble around the boardwalks, taking a few pictures you see above...  (this is my crappy quality digital camera which is the Charmey Cam webcam...)  I have SLR pictures, of course, which I might scan in later...
Farther south I dove all the way through Chester and around the southern end of the park to the Drakesbad resort area to find the Devil's Kitchen trailhead.  It's in a lovely valley- Drakesbad Guest Ranch, that is, with a horse corral (guests can ride these through the trails, a coveted idea when I was in there) and pool.  There's a little stream running aorund you most of the trail, which takes you through a large, gentle meadow sprinkled with California Pines.  I saw a red-tailed hawk fly into its nest overhead, it was totally awesome, I stood there looking at it for five minutes totally stunned, and paused for 10 minutes waiting for a monarch butterfly to cooperate for the camera and open its wings while it paused for a drink on the trail.  There were a million little butterfiles swarming all over- these virbarnt powder blue ones I've never seen before were especially lovely.  A little white one followed me near the stream for 50 feet or so, probably smelling the sweet sunscreen I had on.  
The trail to Devil's Kitchen is moderate as a hike, about 2.5 miles into dense forest up and down hill after hill.  I was expecting cold temperatures since the elevation here is about 5500 feet, but the heat soared above 90 to my great disappointment.  There was reprieve in the shade, though, as a cool alpine breeze was abundant.  I sucked down my camelbak in no time, reminding myself that I'm in very bad shape to be climbing through the wilderness at altitude in this heat...  huffing and puffing, I'm sure I scared all wild animals off in a 3 mile radius with all the heavy breathing :)
Anyhow, before long I cought a whiff of the familiar sulphur odor, and over one last crest in the trail I was looking down on Devil's Kitchen.  The familiar white washed soil dipped and rose and there were numbers of steamy columns floating up out of the earth.  There was a telltale thumping noise I remember from yellowstone while one of the fumaroles belched out steam in a persistent chest-rattling "bump bump bump" like those pimped-out cars with the bass cranked drving by at 3am.  My lungs rattled in my chest with the dull reverbarating noise.  

The hike is really worth it, although I may risk sounding like a backpacking, granola-crunching snob here, I really think these are nothing to the vast numbers of geothermic phenomena at Yellowstone.  Yellowstone will always be my very favorite american park of all time...  *sigh*
anyhow...  it's worth the hike, and it was relatively nice as there weren't too many people doing it with me- once I got into the trail a ways, there were onely maybe 10 other people I saw the whole 5 miles.  
Had I been in better shape, I would have gone on to the terminal geyser, but instead I heeded the screams of my plantar fascitits and took the short trek the opposite direction to boiling lake.  It's about an extra mile, over a beautiful alpine stream and up up up a distance to a large lake of boiling mud.  It was pretty cool.  I think the springs here are not as hot as the ones in Yellowtone, as you don't see as much color.  These are white and orange, the cooler temperatures as far as hotsprings go, you miss the vibrant blue and emerald green of the ones in yellowstone.  Cool none-the-less.
Around the lake, and then back to the car- back through that beautiful meadow near Drakesbad again- lassen peak in the far distance...
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