Friday, July 25, 2008

Scenes from Hell

One of the places I took my aunt and cousin on our recent vacation was Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is one of the five least frequented of all the California National Parks, and gets only 10% of number of visitors that Yosemite gets. This is one of the reasons we came here instead. I hate crowds. And I've been here a couple of times before and found it fascinating. The area is volcanically very active. There are four major types of volcanoes (cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, and lava domes), and all four occur in the area. Lassen Peak is one of the largest lava dome volcanoes in the world.

Mount Lassen last erupted in 1915, and is definitely very much not extinct. Here is a big (~4 ft. diameter) mudpot at Sulfur Works, right near the park entrance. I took this picture over the chain link fence...

And then I followed my Aunt Jayne around the fence and the sign that said it was dangerous to go beyond this point to take this picture... Note from the end of this post that it runs in the family.

This fumarole is across the street.

Further along the Highway to Hell is Emerald Lake. Here is my cousin Gwen playing in a tiny patch of snow. The green color is caused by algae growing on the bottom and very clear water. Lassen is one of the snowiest places in California, and snow often doesn't melt until late July in wet years. My ex-husband and I were here during early June of 1987, and there were still 10+ foot snow drifts. We didn't see much on that trip. This year was a dry year.

At the top of the trail to Hell, is Balancing Rock. Gwen had to go and prop it up again for the picture. This boulder was carried along by a glacier during the last ice age and then left perching as the glacier melted out from under it. The peak in the background is Brokeoff Mountain, part of the giant Mount Tehama that collapsed in on itself about 350,000 years ago. Note the brown haze. The smoke from all the Northern California fires was getting thicker by the minute. We had some nice views in the morning, but by afternoon, visibility was down to a couple of miles.

Along the Nature Trail to Hell, there was still quite a lot of snow, so of course there was a snowball fight. Here is Jayne being tagged by Gwen. Note I am hiding behind Jayne - to protect the camera, of course. I think I hid behind a tree a bit later.

Further along, the road to Hell was paved in snow. I think there was almost too much for even Gwen.

Checking out how warm the water flowing out of Hell was. Bathwater.
Finally we made it to Hell. Bumpass Hell. Full of mudpots, fumaroles, and boiling springs. And a very strong smell of sulphur. Bumpass Hell was named after Kendall Vanbook Bumpass, who in 1865, broke through the crust into a boiling spring (twice) and lost his leg. The story used to be posted on a sign at the trail head, but the National Park Service signs don't even mention it anymore. Maybe they thought it would dissuade too many people from visiting this part of the park, but when my family and I were here in 1980, I think that it was why we decided to make the hike.

Fumaroles are surprisingly loud.

Even in Hell there are green spots. Yes, the water was teal. Or maybe aquamarine.

One last climb around in the snow before we went back down into the Sacramento Valley where temperatures were in the upper 90s.

Lassen Peak


Kia said...

Very nice pics. I just visited Yellowstone, and it had bubbling mud and a definite hydrogen sulfide aroma too. Plus hordes of people.

Laurie said...

Thanks! Post some pictures! I've never been to Yellowstone. I'm jealous.