As the local temperatures in Tucson start climbing into the 110 range in July, and the humidity readings begin to climb, it is time to head for more hospitable weather. Our motto is “Chasing the 70s”, degrees that is. We headed out and up towards the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon/Washington coast. As we say, getting there is half the adventure so we made a short stop in one of the lesser visited national parks. Lassen Volcanic National Park. We drove through this area on our way to the PNW a couple of years ago and vowed to stop if we were ever through here again.
The journey takes us through the high deserts of Arizona up through Las Vegas and on up to Reno before finally getting to cooler temperatures. The trip up to Las Vegas is a hot one. 117 degrees when we arrived, thank goodness for AC! But we did enjoy driving through Arizona’s own Joshua Tree forest. Really amazing. Followed by an early morning start up U.S. Hwy 95 to Reno. We call it the ET highway. For one thing, it is totally barren. There is simply nothing there. The other is you drive right through the metropolis of Amargosa Valley and the Little A’Le’Inn, just south of Beatty, NV. We did pull in for a photo op, but did not get to go in.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is set in an area where Mt. Lassen, now named Lassen Peak, erupted back in 1915. There are some wonderful geological features and tons of hikes. It was “cool” as temperatures were in the mid to upper 80s for our visit. Not quite our target yet, but still also not 110! We spent two days here doing early morning hikes, driving to see the sites, and just enjoying being back out on the road again. Our two primary hikes were Bumpass Hell Trail and King’s Creek Falls Trail. Both were wonderful and offered a unique contrast in landscape and scenery.
Bumpass Hell is a geothermal area much like the boiling springs and mud pots in Yellowstone, but a smaller scale. But still very surreal. It is one of the most popular hikes in the park. We were on the trail by 7:00 after the 1-hour drive to get there from our campground. We only saw about 4 groups of hikers until jour return trip to the trailhead. The first part of the hike goes by Helen Lake, which is like a reflecting pool for Lassen Peak then around a ridge and down into the Bumpass Pass geothermal “bowl”. There is a short boardwalk across it. You know you are getting close when you start to get the whiff of sulfur.
After our hike, we drove down to the south entrance and stopped at Sulfur Works, a bubbling pot of sulfur, hot water and mud. It is right on the side of the road. We took a leisurely drive along the rest of the scenic byway and headed for home.
King’s Creek Falls is also one of the very popular hikes so once again we were up at the crack of dawn and on the trail before the crowds show up and the parking lots fill. The falls are at the end of a 1.6 mile trail along King’s Creek. This hike was a complete contrast to the geothermal bareness of Bumpass Hell. The trees and underbrush were lush. The creek was full and running and the air was cool. We hiked along King’s Creek and stopped at little side trails to see the running creek and cascades of King’s Creek. The trail splits into “Y” with a one-way return trail, we opted to take it on the way back. As the trail wound down to the top of the main falls we could hear the water and the roar of the falls. There is a nice viewing area at the end of the trail where we spent time just enjoying and listening to the falls. The entire hike we only saw two other couples hiking.As we started our return trip, the hike got truly exciting. The other couples had left ahead of us, but were returning back, quietly. As they were telling us there was a bear on the trail, we looked up and saw a good-sized momma brown bear and her little cub walking down the trail ahead of us! We slowly backed up and stood still with the other couples as they walked off and up the hill digging in the rotting trees and looking for food. They were only about 75 yards away. They did not even seem to notice we were there. It was quite the sight. Never before in all our years of hiking had we had bears for companions. After about 20 minutes, the pair continued up the mountain and moved on. We all decided it was also time for us to move on.Our entire time we had been working to avoid crowds, now all of a sudden, hanging with a group of people seemed like a good idea! The hike back was quiet. We took the one-way return which was carved rock steps along the side of the mountain and beside a ladder of cascading water. For some reason, we sure seemed to be hiking at a faster pace than before but still managed to appreciate the beautiful scenery.
We drove on to hike Cold Boiling Lake trail. A lake that was obviously named a long time ago when the features were much different than today. It was a short flat hike to a quiet meadow with a small lake surrounded by trees. There was no “boiling” water which originally was gas bubbles escaping from the thermals below. Apparently, it has all pretty much died out. All that remains is some small bubbling areas in the feeder stream. Still, it was a very peaceful and serene spot so we found a log and sat for a snack.In all, it was a great visit and a perfect start to our summer trip. Looking forward to our next stop; Redwoods National Park.