Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lassen Volcanic National Park, 5/22/2016

Before we began our full-time RV lifestyle, I had never heard of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Now, I spend a lot of my free time thinking about (and researching) the places we should visit next. Knowing that Sequoia National Park, Yosemite NP, and Redwoods NP were all on our list, we added Lassen Volcanic NP when we realized it was "sort of" in between our stop in San Francisco and Redwoods. It's about 60 miles from Redding, CA, where we decided to stay for a week. Normally I try to plan for us to drive about 200 miles in a day in the RV and then stay somewhere for a week, so Redding seemed like a nice stop. (And it has proved to be just that, and more.)

Fortunately, I checked out Lassen on the national park service website and learned that the main (and only) road through the park was not yet open for the summer (uh-oh). However, the Northwest Entrance was open to the Devastated Area (about 10 miles from the entrance). The Southwest Entrance and Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center are also open, but the road beyond the visitor center is only open for pedestrians.

Nonetheless, we were determined to see this place where the Lassen Peak began erupting in 1914 (and continued on and off for three years). The largest eruption during the time period was May 22, 1915, when a huge mushroom-shaped cloud exploded 30,000 feet into the air. The area was designated the Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1916

Our first stop was Manzanita Lake that is open for fishing (rainbow, brown and brook trout). It was formed about 300 years ago when a natural dam was formed on Manzanita Creek by a huge rock avalanche. 

We hiked along the loop trail around the lake where we saw fisherman on the banks and on the lake (in these cool one-man tube things). 

Our next stop was the Loomis Museum, Seismographic Station, and Ranger Station. Benjamin F. Loomis was a renowned photographer that made many, many trips to Lassen Peak that culminated in the publication of his book, The Pictorial History of the Lassen Volcano. In 1927 he and his wife built the the Loomis Museum and Seismographic Station in memory of their daughter, Mae. They also built a home and art station here that is currently a ranger station. None of these were open when we visited in May...but are in the summer and fall. 

The Seismographic Station is still operated by the National Park Service for education purposes. There are nine seismometers in the park that transmit data to US Geological Survey geologists who monitor the area.

A couple of trails can be accessed from this location. We only went a short distance on the Chaos Crags Route.

Several thousand settlers and gold miners used Nobles' Emigrant Trail that linked Nevada with the Sacramento Valley in the 1850s and 1860s. William Nobles was a gold-seeker in 1851 that found this easier route through the mountains. 

This rock was still sizzling 2 days after the Lassen Peak eruption. The hot lava caused a snow avalanche that carried this 300-ton rock 5 miles! Many other massive hot rocks were found and photographed by B.F. Loomis in the valley following the eruption. 

The Devastated Area Trail is a loop through a small portion of the 3-square mile area that was dramatically impacted by the volcanic eruption of Lassen Peak. Mudflows were also a major contributor to the changed landscape. Forests were wiped out and huge boulders ended up miles away from the peak. 

As some of the rocks cooled, they cracked from the inside breaking into jagged pieces.

The weather was so cloudy on the day we visited, none of my photos accurately portray the size of Lassen Peak!

The Chaos Jumbles were caused 350 years ago by an enormous rock avalanche that traveled four miles and buried the forest. As you can see, the forest is recovering even though the rocks are 130' thick in some areas. 

We were interested in seeing more of this park, so we followed the directions provided in the park newspaper to the southwest entrance. It was over an hour away because the Main Road through Lassen Volcanic NP is not yet open for the season (due to snow). 

When we arrived at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, we understood why the road was closed...so much snow!

There are exhibits here about the park, a gift shop, and cafe (and a lovely warm fireplace!) Lassen Peak is one of many volcanoes (active, dormant, or extinct) on the Pacific Ocean Ring of Fire. Lassen Peak was (elevation 10,457') formed 27,000 years ago as a volcanic vent to the ancient Brokeoff Volcano

It is one of the world's largest plug dome volcanoes as explained in one of the displays. 

There are informative displays about the natural history and human history of the park. The mountains have been a sacred place of healing and strength to Native Americans for more than 1,000 year. 

The park serves as a natural laboratory for scientists to study volcanic events and the aftermath. The recovery of the forests here is indicative of what can be expected in the Mount St. Helens region. 

Since the road was closed, we walked to the Sulphur Works, one of the hot spots in the park. It was a 2-mile round trip and the area was a winter wonderland. We saw waterfalls, the beautiful red-colored canyon (caused by iron), and snow covered conifers on the Cascade Mountains

The steam from fumaroles and mud pots can be seen quite a distance before you can see them. Plus the smell of hydrogen sulfide gas (rotten eggs) gets stronger as you get closer to the hot spots. We had not seen this kind of stuff since Yellowstone NP!

I found the contrast of the color of the "hot spot" to the snow-covered forest bisected by a stream quite beautiful! Also shown below is a boiling mud pot that is nearby. Heat generated by magma close to the earth's surface here warms the ground water to a boil creating these hydrothermal features. 

We were prepared for the chilly weather and thoroughly enjoyed our time spent here. Yes, the snow drifts were that deep (John is 6' 4"). Honestly, it was very beautiful. 

There are 3 other entrances to Lassen Volcanic NP on the east and southeastern park borders: Butte Lake, Juniper Lake, and Warner Valley. All are accessible by unpaved roads as there are no east-west roads through the park. 

Visit the park's website for detailed information about road openings, visitor center hours, and dates the Loomis Museum is open. Although Lassen Volcanic NP is only 60 miles from Redding, CA, the weather is so very different. Pack warm clothing and be prepared for anything!

Website: www.nps.gov/lavo

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