The Loneliest Road and Lassen Volcanic NP
Aug 29, 2017
|We’ve seen just about every type of landscape on this trip – we’ve crossed numerous mountain ranges and hills, drove through valleys and forests, crossed rivers and streams, seen lakes, creeks, beaches and snow patches, small towns and cities. But I think my favorite, at least today, is the high desert with mountains as the backdrop!
We left Shingletown on Sunday and drove to Fallon, NV where we spent one night. This trip took us along US 395 to I-80, near Reno, then to Fallon which is the beginning of US 50, known as the Loneliest Road in America. We’ve driven Hwy 50 before and it really is lonely! Its 250 miles of beautiful desert and mountain vistas with very little traffic and only two very small towns. For some crazy reason my mind wanted to count the cars passing us in the opposite direction and I, very loosely, counted around 100 – not a lot for 250 miles.
Today, we’re in Ely, NV and tomorrow we head to Green River, UT for one night, then on to Cortez, CO where we’ll spend some time with Judy and Greg. So that means we’re on the way home!
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Just the facts: Lassen covers 106,372 acres in northeastern California where the Cascades join the Sierra Nevada. Elevations range from 5,605 ft. at Warner Valley to 10,457 ft. at Lassen Peak, a plug dome volcano, which last erupted in 1914 but probably will again someday. There are four types of volcano in Lassen: plug dome, shield, cinder cone and composite. Other features include smaller volcanoes and lava flows, fumaroles, boiling springs, boiling lakes and mudpots.
Lassen is, in effect, a wilderness dominated by numerous volcanoes and dotted with clear mountain lakes, forests, emerald meadows, and freckled with colorful wildflowers alongside bubbling mountain streams. The mountain vistas are breathtaking. Mother Nature did her best work here!
Far below the surface of Lassen nature is still at work. A hydrothermal system lies deep underground. Heated by molten rock, the water rises to the surface creating steaming fumaroles and mudpots. Like a mini-Yellowstone!
There is only one main road through the park, CA 89 which covers 30 miles from the north entrance to the south. On our first day we entered through the north entrance near Manzanita Lake and stopped at the Loomis Museum which serves as an information center. They have an excellent film which is very informative, beautifully photographed and only lasts 21 minutes.
We took our time driving through, stopping to take loads of photos, when we could. There are not many viewpoints as such and hardly any shoulder, just some pullovers to let the faster traffic by. Wildflowers line the roadway, climb the mountains and follow the many bubbling streams that trickle down from the summits.
Since there is only one road, the only way to really experience this park is to hike it. Most of the hikes are longer or more strenuous than we can handle, but we had decided that we would do the Bumpass Hell trail which is 3 miles roundtrip and reaches a large thermal area. When we reached the trailhead in early afternoon the parking lot was filled and people were parking along the roadside so we decided to wait until the next morning. We continued on to the south entrance then turned and drove the 30 miles back. We stopped at Kings Creek Picnic Area and took a walk along a beautiful, meandering stream lined with wildflowers. We were never bored on the drive back to the north entrance, the views are incredible in both directions.
The next morning we got an earlier start, only stopped a few times, and arrived at Bumpass Hell trailhead before 10:00. This is a very rocky trail that is rated “moderate” but the ratings don’t take into account 80 year old flatlanders. The assent is very gradual so we did okay, stopping to admire the breathtaking (and I mean that literally) views. After reaching the trail summit, where we crossed snow drifts three times, the descent to the thermal area was quite steep. As you can see by the photos this area was beautiful but you really need to be there to experience the warm steam and the sulphur smell. We felt like we were at Yellowstone again! It was a hard climb back to the summit but after that it was easy, except for dodging rocks (I’m very careful around rocks since my fall at Acadia). By now the trail had gotten quite busy and we were so glad we had gotten there early. We are grateful that we are still able to take this sort of hike and experience this magnificent country of ours the way it should be experienced!
This is an outstanding park and if you are ever anywhere nearby, be sure to go out of your way to visit it. You’ll be glad you did!