Lassen Volcanic National Park...
Oct 26, 2008
|Met the family for breakfast this morning, including the bride and groom, and even though sister Lori planned on being on the road by 10am, it was closer to 11:30 before we were done visiting. Since moving to Nevada, she doesn't get to see son Scott near enough. (He lives in the San Diego, Ca. area). After hugs and kisses and tons of good wishes, we ran back to the house to pick up Onyx and a few snacks for our drive today. Destination, Lassen Volcanic National Park and Burney Falls. The drive up California 36 was quite pretty, though sometimes steep and very windy. We arrived at the park about 2:00pm to begin the 34 mile park loop road.
Checking in at the Ranger Station (saved $10 with Golden Age Pass, again!) we were given a driving map and Park News. We learned that Lassen Volcanic National Park started as two separate national monuments designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument. The dominant feature of the park is Lassen Peak; the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southern-most volcano in the Cascade Range. The area surrounding Lassen Peak is still active with boiling mud pots, stinking fumaroles, and churning hot springs. And, Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the few areas in the world where all four types of volcano can be found (plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and strato). I didn't realize there are four, did you?
White immigrants in the mid-19th century used Lassen Peak as a landmark on their trek to the fertile Sacramento Valley. One of the guides to these immigrants was a Danish blacksmith named Peter Lassen, who settled in Northern California in the 1830s. Lassen Peak was named after him.
On May 19, 1915, molten lava filled the crater and poured through a notch on the northeast rim of the crater on the top of the mountain. This melted the deep snowpack and triggered a 20 foot high wave of mud, ash, boulders, and debris which ran down the northeast flank of the mountain, battering trees on the slopes and pouring down the valleys of Lost Creek and Hat Creek. It cut a swath which ranged from few hundred yards to a mile in width, carrying 20 ton lava boulders up to 5 miles. Wow, bet that was a sight to behold!
Three days later, an even more violent eruption occurred. A column of vapor and ash rose 30,000 feet into the air and could be seen for 50 miles in northern California. Several inches of ash fell and some ash reached as far away as Reno, Nevada. A pyroclastic flow--a blast of steam and hot gas--swept down the same flank of the mountain which had been covered by the mudflow earlier, clearing all trees, vegetation, and wildlife in its path and scrubbing the landscape bare.
The 29-mile Main Park Road was constructed between 1925 and 1931, just 10 years after Lassen Peak erupted. Near Lassen Peak the road reaches 8,512 feet, making it the highest road in the Cascade Mountains. It is not unusual for 40 ft of snow to accumulate on the road near Lake Helen and for patches of snow to last into July.
The western part of the park features great lava pinnacles (huge mountains created by lava flows), jagged craters, and steaming sulphur vents. It is cut by glaciated canyons and is dotted and threaded by lakes and rushing clear streams, while the eastern part of the park is a vast lava plateau, more than one mile above sea level, where you find shield volcanoes and cinder cones.
It is the only national park in the contiguous 48 states containing a volcano which has erupted in the twentieth century (as Mt. St. Helens is a "Volcanic National Monument").
After the Mount St. Helens eruption, the USGS intensified its monitoring of active and potentially active volcanoes in the Cascade Range. Monitoring of the Lassen area includes periodic measurements of ground deformation and volcanic-gas emissions and continuous transmission of data from a local network of nine seismometers to USGS offices in Menlo Park, California. Should indications of a significant increase in volcanic activity be detected, the USGS will immediately deploy scientists and specially designed portable monitoring instruments to evaluate the threat. In addition, the National Park Service has developed an emergency response plan that would be activated to protect the public in the event of an impending eruption. After the tragedy of Mount St. Helens, a good idea to be sure!
We spent over 3 hours in the park today, taking a few of the many hiking paths, checking out a small part of the crystal clear streams and over 50 mountain lakes, just taking in the beauty all around us. At the end of our loop, we continued the 35 miles or so on Hwy 44/89 to Burney Falls. But I will save that for another day. I took 197 photos, so I will split this into two posts. I don't want to bore you to death! You won't want to miss the Falls, so please check back... Absolutely spectacular!