Monday, August 8, 2011

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic, located in the Shasta Cascade region, is one of California’s eight national parks, although many people (even in California) have never heard of it. The park centers on Lassen Peak (10,457 ft), one of California’s three active volcanoes, along with Mount Shasta directly to the north and Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra Nevada. Previously believed to be extinct, it experienced a series of over 150 eruptions from 1914 to 1917, but has been quiet since 1921.

Like Crater Lake, the main park road (Hwy 89), which climbs to 8,500 feet, is closed throughout the winter and spring; this year it did not open until July 16. Although this main road was designed to take in all the notable features of the park, including volcanic peaks, hot springs, boiling mud pots, and glacial lakes, unlike Crater Lake, I felt like I really could have benefitted from spending more time in the park and hiking a bit. I definitely want to go back when I have the time to do so.

Lassen Peak, south view

Summit Lake--this spot was so peaceful, it almost made me want to camp

Kings Creek Meadow--sadly with no audio because I could hear the frogs from here

Bumpass Hell Overlook

Emerald Lake (yes, in July!)

Little Hot Springs Valley
Little Hot Springs Valley--now with bee!

Sulphur Works

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake is Oregon’s only National Park—but what a park! At 1,943 feet deep, it’s the deepest lake in the United States, and this, along with the purity of the water, leads to the most extraordinary blue I’ve ever seen.

Crater Lake from the East Rim Drive

Phantom Ship (the height of a 16-story building) from the Sun Notch trail

Pine pollen creates pretty swirls in July but eventually settles to the bottom

View of Wizard Island from the mosquito-filled Pumice Castle Overlook

The window of opportunity to fully experience this wonder is quite small. The park receives an average of 500-550 inches of snow annually and the opening of the Rim Drive (33 miles) is completely dependent on when this snowpack finally starts to melt. This past season’s snowfall was a whopping 673 inches, and therefore the complete Rim Drive opened just days before my arrival, on July 24th.

Many hiking trails and side roads were still closed due to snow. Here is the first part of the road to Cloudcap Overlook (a 1-mile spur that takes you to the highest overlook on the lake). Sadly, I could drive no further than this, as the snow soon overtook both lanes completely. However, as long as you can get around either side of the lake, I encourage you to do so. The snows return again in early fall.

Seriously, the lake really is that blue.