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Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park, in northeastern California, is sometimes listed as one of the “least-visited” National Parks, with fewer than 400,000 visitors in 2007. Lassen Peak is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southernmost volcano of the Cascade Range. Lassen is also one of the few places in the world where all four types of volcano (plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and strato) are found.

Our family visited Lassen a number of years ago, during the last week of July and the first week of August. We camped at Manzanita Lake. It was an unusual year, because the road through the park had been opened only a week or two before our visit, as the result of deep SNOW! Ice-covered lakes at 8000 feet (2438.4 m) of elevation were just beginning to thaw, and over 15 feet (4.6 m) of snow was still present at the parking lot for the trail to Lassen Peak. Our kids joined others in the parking lot, sliding down the mounds of snow on boxes. The snow was still so deep that an active thermal area of the park, Bumpass Hell, was CLOSED. Hell had “frozen over” and we took a snapshot of our children standing at the closed gates of Bumpass Hell. Bumpass Hell was named after Kendall Vanbook Bumpass, a cowboy who worked in the Lassen area in the 1860’s. One day, while exploring the area, his leg broke through the thin crust above a mudpot and was badly scalded. Later, while showing a newspaper editor the location, Bumpass’s leg again broke through the crust and had to be amputated. The temperatures at Bumpass Hell are around 198 deg F (92.2 deg C ), around the boiling point of water at that altitude.

Lassen Volcanic National Park began as two separate National Monuments. President Theodore Roosevelt designated these monuments, Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument, in 1907. Cinder Cone is a 700-ft (213-m) cone of loose scoria and has a crater with a double rim. I hiked up Cinder Cone with my children and was thankful that I had a hiking stick with me. The climb on the trail was much like hiking up a steep sand dune, one step forward and a sliding-half-step backward! The USGS, working with the National Park Service, established that Cinder Cone was formed during two eruptions in the 1650s. Flows of basalt lava erupting from the base of the cone formed the Fantastic Lava Beds and dammed creeks to form Snag Lake and Butte Lake. Lassen Peak erupted in May of 1915! An area of the park called the Devastated Area still shows the effects of that eruption. High-speed flows of hot ash and gas (called “pyroclastic flows”) blew down trees and combined with snow to form mudflows. Volcanic ash rose to 30,000 feet (9144 m) and fell as far as 200 miles (321.9 km) away.

Much more about Lassen Volcanic National Park can be found in park literature and USGS publications. We enjoyed our stay, from floating around in an inflatable raft on Manzanita Lake, to hikes, to playing in the snow at higher altitudes, to listening to bears make their way through the campground at night, surprising campers who were not used to camping around bears! All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip!

If you have the opportunity, visit Lassen! Boost the statistics! A unique adventure is waiting!

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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