Monday, September 19, 2011

Lassen National Park Trip Report - Day 3 - 9/12/11

          After waking up Monday morning I looked up at the sky and saw more dark clouds and potential stormy weather. This would unfortunately cause us to once again abort our hike to the summit of Brokeoff Mountain. With that being the case we did not need to leave as early as expected so I left Sarah in bed while I went down to the lake to catch sunrise.
          I watched the lovely display and contemplated where Sarah and I might like to hike on our last day in Lassen.
          Over breakfast Sarah and I discussed several different hikes and decided to complete my failed attempt from yesterday and hike to Kings Creek Falls. After packing lunch and supplies we set off for a day of adventuring.
(Click HERE to read about our hike to Kings Creek Falls)

Kings Creek Falls

          After a great hike to Kings Creek Falls we still had plenty of energy and an appetite for adventure. From the parking area at the Kings Creek Falls trailhead we drove south along the main park road for a couple miles to the Kings Creek Picnic Area. This is a great day use area for picnicking and barbequing as well as a trailhead for several different hike options.
          We set off from the parking lot in route to Cold Boiling Lake and Crumbaugh Lake. We would make it as far as Conard Meadows before turning back.
(Click HERE to read about our hike to Cold Boiling Lake, Crumbaugh Lake & Conard Meadows)

Conard Meadows

          After getting back from our hike to Conard Meadows we drove back to camp to regroup before possibly going for another outing. We decided to take a drive to Manzanita Lake near the north entrance to buy some ice and take showers.
          Manzanita Lake is the largest of all the campgrounds in Lassen National Park and tends to be the most congested. There is a camp store there that offers everything from firewood to take-out pizza. It seemed as though 9 out of 10 folks walking out of the camp store had an ice cream cone in hand. Next door to the store is a 24 hour shower and laundry facility which is open to the public. The showers take quarters and there was a change machine in the laundry room.
          While visiting Manzanita Lake we experienced a torrential downpour during which I wondered how our camp was holding up. The rain let up before we left and we speculated how long it would hold off. As we drove south gaining elevation along the park road toward camp there was a thick layer of fog hovering just above the road. Sarah thought she noticed hail along the side of the road so we stopped to check it out. We couldn’t believe our eyes as there was hail stones the size of walnuts.

Hail Stones

          As we drove further the road was covered with a thick layer of hail which made my tires spin out anytime I lost momentum. We pulled into camp to find everything covered with ice. How ironic as we just went to go buy ice! Although the hailstorm lasted only about 15 minutes, it was enough for several inches of hail to pile up in places. Our Kelty Carport Canopy had collapsed due to the weight of the hail that had collected on the roof. Our tent was still standing, however, the piles of melting hail around the perimeter was quickly soaking through. We acted fast in emptying and disassembling the tent hoping to finish before the next episode of rain or hail came. We figured it would be easier to take the tent down before it was completely full of water. Besides, we were sleeping in the 4 runner anyhow and only using the tent for storage and as a changing room.

Decrepit Camp

          During all the commotion of getting camp re situated I jogged down to the shore of Summit Lake to admire the icy fog blanketing the waters surface. There was a unique crispness to the air and an eerie silence about the environment that intrigued me. It was definitely the calm before the storm.

Boardwalk along Shoreline

Summit Lake Shoreline Trail

Icy and Foggy Summit Lake

          Back at camp our gracious camp neighbors invited us over to their fire to warm up. We gladly accepted their offer and chatted for a while about their experience with the hail storm. We all agreed that although it caused a lot of extra work, it was an exciting thing to have occurred. I then jinxed us when I mentioned that “At least it wasn’t followed by heavy rain!”.
          Just then the dark clouds that engulfed the skies above Summit Lake began to glow like a burning ember. Again, I ran down to the lake to capture some photos.

Fiery Storm Clouds above Summit Lake

Summit Lake Stormy Sunset

          Lightning flashed repeatedly like a strobe light and combined with the glowing clouds it felt like natures nightclub. A wonderful feeling came over me as the depth of color in the skies grew deeper and the electrical storm drew nearer.

Wind Whips Across Summit Lake

          Then, like the flick of a switch, I watched a violent gust of wind sweep across the lake surface and with it came torrential rain. I scrambled back to camp to secure everything we needed. Like a fire drill we had all trained so well for, everyone took cover and tended to their camps. I watched as the neighbors’ campfire danced in the wind with embers spilling out like firecrackers.
          The rain kept coming with no end in sight. We remained dry underneath our canopy but kept having to tap out the collecting rain water on the roof every few minutes to prevent leaks. At one point I ran out to check on the neighbors but found that the few remaining campers had retreated to their vehicles to wait out the storm. We made the best of the situation by cracking some beers and enjoying the excitement. We skipped cooking dinner out of convenience and just ate snacks and such to hold us over until morning. After hours of enjoyment we eventually crawled into the back of the 4runner and went to bed, the rain dying down shortly afterwards. Sometimes you end up having the most fun while enduring a bad storm!

(Click HERE to read about Day 2 of our Lassen Trip)

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