tldr; hot, smelly rocks.
After visiting the coastal redwoods, we drove back inland to spend a week at Lassen Volcanic National Park. We stayed at an overpriced but nice campsite right next to a creek, in Shingletown, California, a small town just 20 minutes from the entrance to the national park. We happened to be there during an unseasonable heat wave and the hot sun was a big change from the chilly fog that we’ve grown used to on the coast.
Our first afternoon after arriving, we headed into the national park and went on a walk around Manzanita Lake to cool off. The lake had great views of the many volcanoes dotted throughout the park and lots of people kayaking on the water.
The next morning, we headed into the park for a long day of exploring. Our first stop was Cinder Cone, one of the many volcanos in the park. To get there, we drove down a long, gravely road through a forest, until we arrived at a lake with the cinder cone volcano rising up behind it. The hike started as a leisurely walk through the forest and ended with us slipping and scrambling up a steep, crumbling pile of ash and bits of volcanic rock.
The views from the top though, were well worth it. We could see lakes and other volcanoes far away from our perch on Cinder Cone. We also got to climb down into the crater of the volcano and imagine what it was like when it erupted more than 300 years ago.
After Cinder Cone, we hopped back in the car and drove to our next destination, Bumpass Hell. The drive was winding and beautiful, with sweeping views of the park and mountains. We knew we were getting close to our destination when an eggy, sulfuric smell started to seep into the car. Bumpass Hell is Lassen’s largest hydrothermal area and it’s full of bubbling mud pots, boiling hot streams, and hissing steam vents. All of the minerals in the soil and water seep out onto the ground, coloring it bright yellow, blue, green, and black. It was a whimsically hellish place.
After our big day exploring the park, we had a week of work ahead of us in the toasty and tiny town of Shingletown. The campsite didn’t have any cell signal so we ventured into “town” to work at the library during the days. The library was a surprisingly beautiful spot in the middle of town. It had a creek flowing through it and a constantly rotating cast of locals showing up to talk about the weather, how their crops were doing, bring their kids to splash in the creek, walk their dogs, or just sit at a bench.
After work, we went back to Manzanita Lake, hung out around our campsite, and made s’mores for dessert, soaking in that camping experience.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, we love your bubbling mud pots, your huge volcanoes, and your peaceful lakes. Along We Go!