Lassen Volcanic National Park

“We took up the line of march with Mr. K.V. Bumpass as guide…On touring the ridge, all the wonders of Hell were suddenly before us.” Editor Red Bluff Independent 1865


Yesterday, we explored one of the least visited national parks. With geothermal features, all four kinds of volcanoes and views that take your breath away, it’s a shame more people don’t get to see this gem of a park. On our hike, Janie was climbing up through the snow one minute and being steamed just a few minutes later.


This summer, I rode into Niagara Falls with someone who had never been there before and got to experience it as a new experience all over again. One of the reasons I love working with small children, is that chance to see things through a fresh set of eyes. Although I had explored the steaming fissures of hot sulphuric gases and mud pots at Yellowstone, Janie had never seen such things before which made our descent into Bumpass’ Hell all the more thrilling.

We arrived at the park early in the day under a brilliant blue sky. As we were up in the mountains, the day started with some frost on the car, but by the time we arrived at the visitor center, it was a perfect day, sunny and in the low 70’s. Since there were only 2 other people there, we got an almost private showing of the movie explaining the features of the park. What a gorgeous place! We learned about the different kinds of volcanoes and how they shaped the park and then set out to explore them.

Once again,we were driving up twisty mountain roads, marking off the elevation signs (up to over 8000 feet) We chose our hike for the day to be the trail to Bumpass Hell, named after Mr. Bumpass, a guide who lost a leg when he fell through the thin crust of mud in that area. We headed out along a ridge trail up a mile or so with views that, once again, gave us continual pause.

As we descended into “hell”, the smell of sulphur was very strong. We could hear the roar of the steam as it made its ascent from the magma about 6 miles below us. The stream we crossed was grey with clay and still lukewarm. On the boardwalk, we stared at the bubbling mud pots,marveled at the colors of the water and listened to the gurgles and whistles from just below the fragile crust.


Not yet content to head back, we continued on the trail further uphill to follow the winding trail around the next few curves. We chose another ledge for our lunch stop, this time doing the descent first (it’s always easier for me to go up than down). We enjoyed the views as we munched our trail mix and felt the gratitude for having the chance to be in such an amazing place on such a perfect day and without seeing another person on the whole stretch of trail.

As we climbed back up out past “hell”, I could feel the effect of the altitude. I’m glad we hadn’t chosen to hike to the top of the volcanoes. Reluctantly, we got back into the car for our drive through the park. We stopped several times to see the views of alpine lakes, streams, volcanoes and views back down the valley.

As we left the park, we started our descent back into California civilization. The altitude numbers descended by thousands and before we knew it, we were back down to under 1000 feet and on an interstate highway heading north into Oregon. It wasn’t my usual experience of an interstate,though, once we passed through the usual mall sprall. The road climbed and descended through beautiful mountains (lots more altitude signs), then range land and then through more passes. We caught a glimpse of Mt. Shasta, one of the gorgeous volcanic mountains always covered in snow that you can see in the Pacific Northwest.


It was just dark as we found our home for the night in Medford, Oregon. I just keep counting my blessings for days such as these – gorgeous scenery, incredible weather, good company and a chance to explore.

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1 Comment

  1. Janie

     /  October 23, 2011

    I am so glad to see that we are writing about doing the same things!


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