Lassen Volcanic – Post 1 of 2

Wednesday morning I drove about an hour east of where I had been staying in Redding, California to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park.  This Park was the main reason why I left the coast of northern California and traveled inland (only to be greeted by 100+ degree temperatures!).

Lassen Volcanic National Park was created by Congress in 1916 after a series of volcanic eruptions of Lassen Peak in 1914 and 1915.  Scientists and seismologists are particularly interested in Lassen because it is one of the few places in the world which contains all four types of volcanic, or hydrothermal, formations.  They are Composite (or stratovolcanoes), Shield, Plug domes, and Cinder (or Scoria) Cones.

I arrived at the northwest entrance of Lassen at around 830am local time and the Visitor Center didn’t open until 9 so I had time to take a leisurely walk around Reflection Lake:

This is Lassen Peak.  It now has a maximum elevation of 10,457 feet.  The park entrance is at around 5,000 feet elevation and most of my time in the Park was at that elevation or higher, so the temperatures most of the day were very pleasant compared to what I experienced while in Redding.

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Walking around the lake you can now see formations called Chaos Crags to the left of Lassen Peak.  While they appear to be about the same height they are actually shorter (only 8,530 feet) but are much closer to where I was taking these photos.

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And here are just Chaos Crags (actually a series of 6 “plug dome” volcanoes).

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I then went to the Visitor Center and learned more about the history of the Park.  To look at a map of Lassen, Google “NPS Lassen Volcanic Map” and on the first page you will see the brochure map which you may then print locally.  The main, paved road only curves through the westernmost side of the Park.  As was the case at Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks, which I visited earlier this trip, I can only see a very small percentage of the Park from the main road and to get to most areas you must hike (which I don’t) or travel on unpaved roads (which I am reluctant to do).  I should also mention that, generally on the eastern side of this and the 3 Parks mentioned earlier, the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,600 mile-long trail similar to the “Appalachian Trail” in the East, traverses these Parks taking hikers north and south along the western side of the country, from Mexico to Canada.

I left the Visitor Center and the first place I stopped at was Chaos Jumbles, a huge rockfield created over 300 years ago by a series of avalanches which resulted from the collapse of the northwest face of Chaos Crags.  The thing that impressed me the most about this was the incredible distance these (substantial) rocks traveled just by the massive force of the avalanches.  The initial release traveled more than 4 miles and stopped only after CLIMBING over 400 feet on another hillside!

These rocks came from Chaos Crags, which is in the distance.  The rockfield continues a considerable distance behind this vantage point as well.

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Further up the road I came to the “Devastated Area,” this one caused by the series of eruptions of the northeast face of Lassen Peak just over 100 years ago.

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I continued on around the Lassen Park Highway until I got to the closest point the road gets to Lassen Peak (and also the highest point the road reaches, at 8,511 feet).  This was the snow still on the ground just off the left side of the road:

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I was now looking at the “backside” of the mountain which gets longer exposure to the southern Spring and early Summer sun and no longer has much snow left on it.

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But I did have a very nice view looking down at Lake Helen, with Mount Diller and Pilot Pinnacle off in the distance:

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