Friday, October 1, 2010 Sunny, 78 degrees in the park
When we pulled into the Loomis Museum/Visitor Center, we found it a very busy place. Outside two buses of school kids were gathered around a ranger, and a doe and her fawn were trip-trapping across the parking lot. To make getting into the Visitor Center even more interesting, chickarees, gathering their winter stores, were dropping huge pine cones from the trees above the entrance. I almost got beaned.
Once we were safely inside, we watched a movie and perused the displays. Lassen is home to all four types of volcanoes: shield, cinder cone, composite, and plug dome. It was Lassen, the plug dome volcano, that erupted in 1914, the first time in recent history, reshaping the surrounding area. Benjamin Franklin Loomis, for whom the Visitor Center is named and an amateur photographer, was on site when Lassen erupted. Using his box camera and plates, he captured six amazing pictures which were published in newspapers across the country. Not only were his pictures a gold mine for geologists and volcanologists, but they provided the momentum that led to Lassen being named a national park.
Driving into the park, our first stop was the Devastated Area. The 1914 eruption melted glaciers, combined with rocks and pumice, and created a lahar that destroyed the forests and dropped huge boulders, rocks, and other debris in their place. It has been 96 years since that eruption and the forest has begun to recover, yet along the trail the huge boulders remain as evidence of the devastating destruction.
When we arrived at Summit Lake North, the trail head was closed, but at the South entrance we were able to walk part of the trail along the lakeshore. The surface was very still, reflecting the mountain in its calm waters. We sat on a nearby log to enjoy the peace and tranquility. Not a single sound could be heard. Even the pileated woodpeckers flew through without stopping to disturb the quiet with their drilling. Next we made a quick stop at King Creek to walk through a wooded area to a waterfall, spilling over rocks on its way out of the park.
We spent most of our time walking the trail to Bumpus Hell. This area is a smaller version of Yellowstone NP. Arriving at the site, we walked along the boardwalk to view the park's three hydrothermal features: fumeroles which are holes in the ground that emit sulphur steam, mudpots that are just that, boiling mud (looks like a pot of chili with big bubbles exploding on its surface), and boiling springs which are exactly what they say. It's an eerie setting with steam rising and hissing, mud popping, and water bubbling away. The areas surrounding them are colored with whites, yellows, and blacks, and streams of hot water run down the mountainside. The trail climbed 500 feet on the way over and then dropped 250 feet to reach the features, with rocks strewn in the path to make the hike more challenging. We were tired by the time we retraced our steps, but it was the highlight of the day.
On the way out of the park we stopped at Sulphur Works where more fumeroles and mudpots can be found and at the Kohm-Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the main entrance. Since its information and film were redundant by now, we were soon on our way.
We shelved our plans to drive to Carson City, NV, tonight, and instead we've crashed in Susanville, CA.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Redding, CA 44E to and through Lassen Volcanic NP; then CA 36E to Susanville, CA
TRIVIA: Bumpus Hell is named for the early settler that discovered the hydrothermal features. Leading a group of tourists out to see them, he stepped on a weak area that gave way beneath his feet. He fell into the boiling waters, receiving severe burns, and losing his leg as a result. Hence the name.