Monday, September 19, 2011

Burney Falls to Medicine Lake Highlands - Trip Report - Day 4

          On our final morning at Summit Lake in Lassen National Park we awoke to sunny skies and nearly all of the hail from the previous night’s storm had melted away. We crawled out of the car and began slowly breaking camp as we were off to our next destination Medicine Lake Highlands with a detour to Burney Falls.

Smoke Rays

Smoke Rays

          Some of our gear was soaked through so we loaded most of it onto the roof rack with intentions of drying everything out at our next camp. After packing up we said goodbye to our camp neighbors and set off for McArthur-Burney Falls State Park.
          The drive north along 89 was beautiful as we followed Hat Creek through rural towns and ranches. We passed the turnoff for Thousand Lakes Wilderness, a place I’d like to visit within the next couple of years for a short backpacking trip. After about an hour of driving we arrived at Burney Falls State Park.
(Click HERE to read about our time at Burney Falls)

McArthur-Burney Falls

          After exploring the falls we then drove down to Lake Britton which is accessed within the State Park. We pulled up to the marina where there is also a nice swimming and picnic area.
          The sun was shining and we contemplated going for a swim but decided instead to head back to the town of Burney to re-up on ice and food for the next few days. Burney is a small town but offers full services. We had a bite to eat at a drive in joint before stopping at Safeway to buy supplies.
           Again we contemplated going back to Lake Britton for a swim but daylight was burning and we still had some driving to do before reaching our next destination in the Medicine Lake Highlands.
          We continued northwest on HWY 89 for about another 35 miles before taking a right on FR15 Harris Springs Road. We then came to a junction with FR49 which marks the start of an interesting self guided geological auto tour. The tour is a loop that starts and ends at the junction of FR15 & FR49.
          We took a right on FR49 which brought through the Giant Crater Lava Flow and past such features as the Jot Dean Ice Cave and the Deep Caves. Countless other interesting features are there for exploring, but we were on a mission to set up camp at the Little Mt. Hoffman Fire Lookout.
          Throughout our drive the weather was shifting and more and more clouds were rolling in.
          Once we reached Medicine Lake we followed the north shore up a dirt forest service road for a few miles to the top of Little Mt. Hoffman Fire Lookout. We noticed that the ground was freshly moist and still steaming from a recent rain. It was a blessing as it kept a lot of the dust down as we traveled up the dirt road. We unlocked the gate and drove up the final few hundred feet which consisted of crushed red pumice stone.
          We pulled up to the lookout with ear to ear smiles as we knew the next few days would be bliss. All encompassing 360 degree views commanded our attention. To the west is Mt. Shasta, Pumice Stone Mountain and the unique Little Glass Mountain with its large obsidian deposits. Far to the south and temporarily out of sight due to cloud cover was Mt. Lassen. To the east were Mt. Hoffman and Glass Mountain and to the north were Lava Beds National Monument and the arid southern desert plains of Oregon.
          We unpacked our gear and watched as an electrical storm made a b-line in our direction. Our things would not be drying out any time soon!

Approaching Storm

          Looking out over the storm was an interesting perspective and it got exciting as it drew nearer. We only felt a few rain drops before the swath of dark clouds moved west and began to scatter.

Little Mt. Hoffman Fire Lookout

          We relaxed at the lookout enjoying some cold beers and a view that could captivate one for an eternity. Evening came and we prepared dinner while enjoying the colors of sunset. The leftover storm clouds were illuminated with a surreal orange glow.

Sunset over Medicine Lake Highlands

Sunset with Mt. Shasta Silhouette

Sunset from Little Mt. Hoffman Lookout


Intense Color on Western Horizon

Mt. Shasta Silhouette

Fading Light

Little Mt. Hoffman Fire Lookout at Sunset

Shasta Welcoming the Night

          With the sun setting to the west, we watched as lightning bolts flashed in the dark skies to the south. Simultaneously the near full moon was rising in the east practically as red as the sun itself. It was as if Mother Nature was performing at a talent show and we had the best seat in the house!

Rising Moon Hides Behind Shrouds of Clouds

          Having a mountain top to ourselves in pretty much the middle of nowhere was probably one of the most serene feelings we’ve had in a while; Even more so than most of our backpacking trips.
          At night the moon illuminated the scattered cloud cover and made for some fun long exposure shots. I used two headlamps to paint the lookout cabin with light.

Little Mt. Hoffman Fire Lookout Night Shot

Little Mt. Hoffman Lookout at Night

Moonlit Lookout

          I can’t remember the last time I spent the night in such a quiet place!

(Click HERE to read about Day 3 of our Lassen Trip)

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