And, Speaking of Volcanoes ... Audio Story at Lassen Volcanic

Lassen Peak as seen from Eagle Peak; NPS Photo, Russel Virgillo.

Lassen Peak as seen from Eagle Peak during the month of June 2006, NPS Photo, Russel Virgillo

On the heels of yesterday's story about Mt St Helens, I have another story for you about a National Park Service managed volcano in the Cascade mountain range. This one is about hiking in the wilderness of Lassen Volcanic National Park. It comes from a favorite source of original material about parks and the wilderness on the web, the WildeBeat. I've mentioned this website before, but if you haven't had a chance to visit yet, take this opportunity and listen to the latest production about Lassen.

WildeBeat #96 Lassen National Park, part 1

The story makes a couple of points I particularly agreed with. Point number 1, visiting the most popular sites within a park can be fun, despite the crowds. By far the most popular activity at Lassen Volcanic park is the 2.5 mile hike to the top of the mountain. According to Steve Zachary, the park's education specialist, thousands of visitors make this trek each year. The opportunity to summit a mountain and experience the views and unique features of Lassen is special, even if you have to share it with a lot of other folks. I've encountered something similar at the base of Yosemite Falls. There are a ton of people there to view the falls at the same time, but standing below the awesome power and spectacle of the falls, it's easy to get lost in your thoughts, oblivious to the crowd around you experiencing the same thing.

The second point I agree with, is that avoiding the crowds in a park can lead to an equally special experience. Jean Higham in this story takes a four day hike into the Lassen backcountry to explore the area of the park which sees much lower visitation. It's an opportunity to "get away from it all", and experience the unique volcanic landscape. I've experienced something similar, in a sense, at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Nearly all visitors to the monument head to the base of the tower and walk the 1 mile loop. But, there is a 5 mile loop that is virtually ignored. I've hiked that longer loop, not encountered another person, and experienced views of the tower that offer a better perspective for photographing the monument that one would get on the shorter loop.

The audio production at the WildeBeat is top-notch. I'm already looking forward to next week's Lassen story.

Comments

I have not been to Lassen yet, but I completely agree with your Devils Tower comment. The 5 mile loop is terrific. The beauty of these "hidden trails" is that you not only you see more of the actual landscape, flora, and fauna than on the well-traveled trails, but you can also put the entire park into context. For example, at the bottom of that DT loop, near the river, you can easily visualize the erosional forces that shaped the entire region, leaving only an escarpment, something you can't quite experience from the tighter loop.

Back to vulcanology, the same can be said about Craters of the Moon. A long hike through there can also put the whole thing in a context not seen by simply flitting about the cinder cones.

So two thumbs up for remote trails :-).

Jeremy:

Thanks for the recognition.

To follow up on your remarks, and Barky's comment, I find over and over again no matter how spectacular the main front-country attractions are in a park, there are always things you can see and experience in the backcountry that make it well worth the extra effort.

For example, if you had climbed up the 3.2 mile Yosemite Falls Trail, you'd follow the cascade all of the way up to where Yosemite Creek appears rather slow and lazy. The most amazing sight is looking down from where the water starts it's descent. From there, you get the most impressive sense of the power of the falls, and a fuller sense of why they're so spectacular.

So do explore your parks and public lands. Discover that the harder some experience is to get, the more rewarding it'll probably be.

I've been a year-round park ranger (interpreter) at Lassen for 2 and 1/2 years now I have to say no matter how many times you've visited the park, it will always leave you wanting more. I've hiked Lassen Peak at least a dozen times this year and everytime I see something different: thousands of butterflies near the summit, a peregrine falcon swooping around Vulcan's eye, or just last week a powerful dirt devil on the summit that was whipping dust hundreds of feet into the air. I enjoy the smiles on peoples faces as they reach the top of the "tallest mountain they've ever climbed." I met a 80+ year old man who has climbed Lassen Peak every year for the last 50 years. It is true the park's namesake trail can be a busy, but if you look all around you, the beauty of this world and the people who inhabit it can be found up and down the trail.

Lassen's backcountry is another world alltogether. I've been out on 4th of July backpacking trips and seen less than a dozen people a day. I can't wait to listen to Wildbeat's part 2 of the Lassen adventure.

For the next program i'd recommend a visit to the backcountry in the winter. I moved to this remote area after spending 9 years in Atlanta, Georgia. The winter peace and quiet and vastness of the area will humble the most humble of visitors. A moment of silence in Lassen in the winter will ring true in your ears for eternity.

-Russell

That is so freakin awesome