Monday, September 19, 2011

Lassen National Park - Trip Report - 9/9/11 - 9/18/11

          Leaving the house by 2:45 PM on Friday seemed to make all the difference in the world when it came to traffic. We breezed through HWY 37 and only hit a little congestion for a few minutes in Vacaville. From there it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. The car thermometer read 105 as we exited I5 onto HWY 36 East from Red Bluff toward our destination Lassen National Park. Shortly after exiting we noticed some signs for the Sacramento Bend Recreation Area which looked like it could be worth checking out in the future. Several miles further volcanic pinnacles rise out of the golden foothills which add to the already beautiful landscape.
          There were magnificent clouds in the sky and the godly rays of sunlight penetrating through were something spectacular. I wanted to stop the car, however, we also wanted to reach camp before dark, so on we went. I was able to snap the following picture out the window of our moving car.

Sun Ray Highway

          We turned off onto HWY 89 toward Lassen Park and were soon at the park entrance. It was a little before 7 pm and there was nobody manning the booth. There is a $10 entrance fee with self registration required after hours. We only had a $20 bill and there was no way of making change. I noticed a Ranger walking to his car in the lot and asked what we should do. He told me to write a note saying that I only had a $20 bill and to come back and pay when the booth was open. Fair enough!
          The sun was setting as we continued our drive along the main park road where we were greeted by lush scenery and delightful colors. With the sun sinking in the sky, the low light showed off every crisp detail of the surrounding landscape and it was hard to resist pulling over at every bend.
          While driving we noticed a particularly interesting looking peak with irregular rock features and even a natural rock window.

Diamond Peak with Natural Window

          It turned out to be Diamond Peak, which we would end up hiking the next day.
          I was greatly surprised to see each of the pullouts for the parks main attractions completely deserted. This place really is less traveled! We ended up pulling over briefly at the Bumpass Hell Overlook where vibrant mats of Lupine were foreground to Mt. Brokeoff and Mt. Lassen.

Lupine Fields & Lassen Peak

          We also couldn’t resist pulling over at Lake Helen which is a picturesque lake set in a small cirque beneath looming Lassen Peak.

Lake Helen & Lassen Peak

          The sun was setting and although the display of colors was intensifying by the minute, we had to set up camp and get situated. I snapped a few pics out of the car window as we wound our way further up the park road.

Sunset over Lake Helen

          After passing the parking lot for the Lassen Peak Trail the road heads downhill past gorgeous Upper Kings Creek meadow which got me excited as we drove by.
          We pulled into our site D10 at the Summit Lake South campground which happened to be the best site of them all with privacy and broken views of the lake. I could not speak more highly of Summit Lake Campground. It is quiet, quaint and has close access to the lake. The campground seemed smaller than most State Park campgrounds let alone a National Park!
          We unloaded the gear and then set up our canopy and tent expecting the possibility of rain. With a big week ahead of us we relaxed a short while before turning in.

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