As Adult Leaders in our Boy Scout Troop we are always looking for new and exciting places to take our Troop for adventures. After attending several calendar planning sessions where places such as Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Alaska were deemed too expensive or time prohibitive, I started to wonder what we had in our own backyard.
Since the majority of my life had been spent traipsing around the Redwood Forests and Coastal Mountains of Northern California, I was a bit dismayed to learn that my new home would be in the incredibly flat Central Valley of California. When the first snow fell in the surrounding foothills, I decided to do a map search for the closest recreational area. That was when I discovered that 87 miles away there existed a great place called Lassen Volcanic National Park.
For several winters I visited this great place to play in the snow next to the deserted Ski Chalet, but I never ventured back during the summer. You see I had NO IDEA there was a road that travelled through the park! The park road was unknown to me because it is CLOSED during the winter. I guess I thought that the glorious flat snow ribbon extending off into the distance was the most perfect trail Mother Nature had ever laid down. This “trail” is actually Highway 89 and it is a beautiful scenic road that bisects the park.
Of course I did not discover this until my nephew’s Boy Scout Troop decided to set off on a 64 mile trek from Lassen Volcanic National Park to Lassen Boy Scout Camp in Butte Meadows. I had heard that a bunch of loonies regularly marched up to the top of Lassen Peak, but I could not fathom how they did this in four hours when the peak was miles away from the Chalet parking lot.
Well once I realized there was a road and access to over 150 miles of trails throughout this park I began to plan weekend hiking trips to this great area. Of course I also began to discover the many exciting details about the geological history of the area; such as, the fact that there was a volcano in my backyard! Wow, how cool is that?
Besides having some incredibly cool geological happenings, Lassen Park is not as heavily traveled and overused as many other State Parks. This is due in large part to the fact that the park road is only accessible about 3 months out of the year; however, due to the recent attention Lassen Park has merited from the July 2008 Sunset Magazine article, Lassen Peak: California's hidden treasure Uncover the West's most beautiful, least visited wonderland, this may change.
Once I discovered what was in my own backyard I decided to pack up my nephew, dog, and neighbor in order to venture into the unknown and find out what all these “loonies” had been up to. This is how I ended up in the mountains one week last August developing a new love for all things related to climbing, hiking and mountaineering.
Summit Lake Campground
On the weekend we went to Lassen Park we ended up arriving at camp around 10:30pm. We had decided to bring our neighbor (dubbed the princess after this trip) so that she might get out of the house for a little while, but when we arrived at our campground we were immediately reminded why some people should only be allowed to camp in their backyard.
The first thing my nephew and I did was quietly scout out an area where we were going to set up our extremely large family tent that sleeps something like ten people, one couch and twelve small animals. As I drug the behemoth tent out of its storage case and started to set it up I realized that I was going to have to set it up entirely on my own because my nephew had been called away to tote around the princesses luggage and take her Yorkie for a walk. (Our Lab was cowering in the back seat probably wondering if we were getting ready to dump him somewhere.)
We brought the Hilton (as our tent has been so aptly named by friends) because we knew our inexperienced neighbor had a few extra items. What we didn’t realize was how much. Unbeknownst to us our guest brought a queen size blow up double-decker air mattress that needed an extremely loud mechanized air blower to make it properly inflate. After what seemed like 30 minutes of buzzing that probably royally pissed off everyone within a ten mile radius of our campsite, we were ready for bed.
Fortunately we did not get evicted from our campsite and none of our neighbors glared at us for too long the next morning. Of course this is a great advertisement for backpacking out to your first campsite instead of staying at the more readily accessible Summit Lake Campground.
The following links will direct you to the Summit Lake Campground
SUMMIT LAKE NORTH
SUMMIT LAKE SOUTH
SUMMIT LAKE RANGER STATION TRAIL HEAD
Bumpass HellThe next morning we rose bright and early! Yeah right. I awoke bright and early while the princess and the teenager got a few extra winks. After taking the dog on a wonderfully peaceful stroll around the Summit Lake Campground I returned to our camp and roused the OTHERS. Our plan today was to hike around some of the shorter off highway routes while we acclimated to the higher elevation. Tomorrow would be the day I was going to climb the MASSIVE Mountain known as Lassen Peak. (To say that I was a little scared of the unknown would be putting it mildly.)
Once breakfast was finished and the car was loaded we drove up to the Bumpass Hell parking lot for a fun little hike. Being the optimist I am, I figured that the trail would be as horrible as its name inferred and I would be lucky to escape with my life. Fortunately for me I was wrong and despite the terrible smell we had a wonderful afternoon hike. Of course the princess and the teenager argued the entire way about anything and everything, but I didn’t let it bother me as I was concentrating on breathing.
If you live at sea level and would like to travel to a higher elevation be prepared to huff and puff up the trail. It is also very wise to bring water as there aren’t any places to stop along the trail and there is not a lot of tree cover or shady areas. In general the trail is very easy and the surreal sights are worth the trip.
The following links will direct you to information about Bumpass Hell
HIKING THE BUMPASS HELL TRAIL
USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory