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Lassen

Thursday, 14 August 2003
written by Teresa

The young girl's voice was adamant: "Thereís no more fish in the river, dad." While technically speaking this may or may not have been true, the insistent rain coupled with cloud swirling among the higher reaches of the densely packed pines probably accounted for her reluctance to continue with her fruitless task. Maybe she hadnít accumulated the patience and skill required for fly-fishing but whatever the case, others staying at the Elam campground were certainly having more luck.

We had ventured out of our little box after hours of water relentlessly pouring from the skies. It appeared that the entire campground was promenading during the precipitation interlude and among the hunched shoulders and damp clothing were those striding confidently up from the riverbank holding full stringers of fish. A Misty Peak Now the use of correct terminology here may be somewhat lacking, as we are not fishing folk. I did speculate that the group of dead fish might be known as graduates since they were out of school, but Sterling thought this unlikely.

The cloud was still low as we drove through the National Forest the next morning and into Lassen Volcanic National Park. Heavy gray skies scooted and dipped across the landscape giving an eerie appearance to the existing strangeness of the sulphur fumaroles scenting the air. Bubbling mud is always an enthralling and somewhat frightening sight and despite the small scale of the visible thermal activity, it still has the feeling of a Dr Who set.

Emerald Lake In sharp contrast to evidence of the heated workings just below ground, at altitude snow still lies in sweeping swathes across the bare surfaces of the higher volcanic peaks. Areas not in the direct path of the destructive force of the last eruption are still carpeted with thick coniferous forest interspersed by crystal clear bluish green lakes reflecting the surrounding mountains off a shimmering tapestry of fallen trees resting in the shallow waters.

Lassen Peak itself has the typical symmetry of a classic volcanic vent. Itís bare beauty towers above the park, visible from many trails and touched by the first and last light of the day. The trail to the top with itís promise of views in all directions called to us but an earlier walk in relatively new boots, resulted in gruesome blisters that put paid to our hopes. Lassen Peak over Summit Lake If for no other reason, a return trip will have to be scheduled but itís unlikely weíll get it in this year before the snow encroaches once again.

Two things come to mind at this point. The first is a conversation with the owner of the Old Station Café & Pub just north of the park. Over breakfast, he told us that eighteen feet of snow last winter meant that the park had not opened until mid July. Two seconds later he was commenting on the schools opening again in mid August to allow for up to thirty snow days in the average year. Itís not surprising that some of it is still around. The pub incidentally is for sale and being built in the style of a saloon complete with boardwalk and hitching posts has some appeal to the part of me buried in the old westerns of childhood.

The second is another somewhat embarrassing reason to return to Lassen. Some of you may remember our sad habit of collecting fridge magnets from both states and national parks. A related weakness is our National Parks Passport. We were mortified to find that the visitor center was shut for repairs and hence we had to leave without our cancellation stamp. Now thereís a reason to return if ever I heard one!

Pyro Teresa Both Sterling and I have pyromaniac tendencies and no account of this visit would be complete without mention of the splendid fires that we built here. Lassen is one of the environments in which the park service allows collection of downed and dead wood. At Crags Campground, half the pitches were closed due to "Hazard Trees". We concluded that this was either a species we had never heard of or that the park service had run out of the space to spell the word out fully. Either way, they were in the process of removing said offending vegetation and consequently there were large piles of wood lying about just waiting for the likes of us. This would have been a big enough bonus on it's own, but each site had a fire ring large enough to set a blaze worthy of any Mortello Tower and while there was no danger of invasion, we obliged none the less.


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