Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in northeast California, and encompasses the southern most volcano in the Cascade Range.
As you can see on the NPS date/location stamps pictured here, I was there on June 25, 2018. (I would encourage NPS visitors to always make use of the official date/location stamps available free of charge at all of our national parks! You can use them to stamp postcards, maps, or other paper items that might be available. Just because you have had an UNFORGETTABLY good time in a national park, does not mean you will always remember the exact date of that memory!)
The modern visitor center is full of interesting exhibits and artifacts, as well as a well-stocked gift shop.
The Visitor Center was opened in 2008, and is situated in a site near the (now closed) Lassen ski area, which ceased operation in 1992. When I was at the Visitor Center, I talked to the staff there about trail conditions for the hike to the summit of Lassen Peak, and they assured me that it was open, and many hikers were using it daily. That was reassuring, since I was going to be making the summit attempt by myself, and the knowledge that it was a well-traveled path was good to know! ( My son and I had made the trip to Lassen in early June 2017, with the goal of hiking to the top of Lassen Peak, but unfortunately, the road that led to the trail head was closed, due to heavy snow accumulation).
When I drove into the trailhead parking lot, I was glad to see clean restrooms, and a lot FULL of cars, meaning there were lots of people making the trek up the mountain.
The parking lot had numerous wet spots, but this was from snow melt, and not from rain, as you can see there was not a cloud in the sky on this beautiful summer day!
I pushed my trekking poles into the snow, in order to get a "X marks the spot" photo, with the summit of Lassen Peak peeping out between the hand grips. (I keep the bright yellow CAUTION take on my poles, because there have been numerous occasions where I have laid the poles down on the ground to take a photo, and then walked off and left them on the ground! By having the tape on them, they are easier to locate, when I return to retrieve them!)
As you can see on my watch, I was starting my ascent at "High Noon", which according to park rangers would give me ample time to make the round trip hike to the top and back.
Because the first part of the trail simply ascends up a glacier-scarred hillside, I spent some time observing the hikers going and coming on the first part of the trail. All the "body language clues" of these hikers, indicated the goal was worth the attempt! Since I was by myself, I could go as slow as I needed to, and my constant stopping to take photos, would not be an annoyance to any "would-be" companions!
After the initial ascent through a "no trees" area, the trail (somewhat) levels out to pass through an area with trees. According to Wikipedia ( www.wikipedia.org ), the parks consists of a mixed conifer forest below 6500 feet. Then between 6500-8000 feet above sea level, the visitor will see trees such as red fir, western white pine, western hemlock, and lodgepole pine.
Although Lassen Volcanic National Park does not currently have any glaciers, there are 14 permanent snowfields around and on Lassen Peak. When you consider that I took this photo from an overlook a short distance up the trail, AND, that it was late June, it should give the reader a clue, that this area gets an abundance of snow fall, if it is still present on June 25!
There are interpretive placards along the trail with maps, that help you get your bearings, and also explain what it is you are seeing around you---both close up and far away.
I am probably one of the thousands of visitors who has photographed this remarkable "Sculpture of Nature" tree that grows beside the trail. Its ancient, twisted, and bleached out trunk could probably tell some interesting stories, if trees could talk! A story it might tell, is that the park gets its name from Peter Lassen, who settled in northern California in the 1830's. He was a blacksmith, and also served as a guide to immigrants, who used Lassen Peak as a landmark, on their journey westward toward the fertile Sacramento Valley.
If you have not experienced much hiking involving mountain ascents, you may say, "Wow, this should be easy---less than a mile to go before the summit!" Let me assure you, a mile of walking on flat ground, is VERY DIFFERENT from a mile of walking at a steep ascent!
I was glad to see this vista point and rest stop along the trail, because it gave me an excuse to stop and do some photography of the landscape (aka, REST and catch my breath!)
When I saw this hiker in front of me disappear as he walked onward, I realized there must be a VERY SHARP switchback in my future!
As I was contemplating the switchback, I looked off to my right, and saw a guy coming down the mountain on skis---in late June!
This photo shows what lay ahead of me, once I made the aforementioned switch back---a trek across a steep snow-covered hillside! I was giving thanks for trekking poles that would help steady me as I traversed through the wet snow!
After a while I encountered this young woman, carrying snow marker flags in her back pack. She said that she and her NPS Park Ranger husband (who was the guy I had seen skiing down the mountain earlier) had made the trip to the summit, with him carrying his skis with him on the trip, so that he could ski down, while she returned via foot, retrieving snow marker flags that were no longer needed.
I also encountered park staff who were diligently working to shovel out the snow, in order to make the trail across the slope easier to spot.
However, there are long stretches on the ascent where snow is not an issue.
Once a trail is dug through the snow, it soon becomes a "water hike", as the melting snow uses the same path downward as does the hiker!
I have a grandson-in-law who is a meticulous photographer, and goes to great lengths to get landscape photos without any human beings in them. I, on the other hand, LIKE to have human forms in my landscape photographs, to give them scale (and remind me that I am not alone in this vast expanse of space!) It was the Visitor Center staff's reassurance that there would be other hikers on the trail, plus God's promise in Hebrews 13:5, that gave me the confidence to attempt this hike. Hebrews 13:5 tells us, "God will never leave me or forsake me."
By the time I returned to the parking lot, it was almost 5 PM, and my car was the only one left! I had managed to "squeeze" a 2.5 hour hike to the summit (according to park rangers) into a mere five hours! But since I did not have any plans for the rest of the day, the elapsed time was not a factor!
The important thing is, I was able to make it to the NPS camp store before closing, so that I could buy a metal hiking medallion that showed the USGS geological marker for the summit of Lassen Peak. HURRAH! Mission Accomplished! (I am a former Girl Scout, and still have the "Merit Badge Mentality" that no doubt indicates some character defect in my psyche!)
It was not until I returned home and was hammering the souvenir medallion onto my wooden hiking stick, that I noticed the year listed for the placement of the USGS marker, is a very significant one in my life!
When I hike with relatives, I sometimes embarrass them when I ask a stranger on the trail to take our photo. However, since I was hiking alone, I asked MANY strangers to take my photo along the trail. (But I would space them out, so that the person who took my photo just a few minutes ago, would not hear me asking another person for yet ANOTHER photo!) This photo of me along the trail, is the best of SEVERAL that were snapped!To learn more about visiting Lassen National Volcanic Park, go to the website www.nps.gov/lavo and you will get many tips for planning your trip, plus the latest information on which park roads may be closed due to weather/fire conditions. A trip to this scenic place will give you MILES OF SMILES! Tricia