Results 1-6of 6 Reviews
June 25, 2012
From journal Sisters NW Road Trip
Rodeo, New Mexico
August 6, 2006
Subway’s lava came from the Hat Creek flow, originating from a series of large fissures in the earth, about 20,000 years ago. With time, a part of the cave’s roof collapsed, allowing access. Atsugewi Indians were aware of its existence, but may have felt it was not a good place. A sign states they believed an "evil" ape-like creature resided within its depths, but whether this was something they told white men in hopes to keep them out of the cave, or whether they truly believed this, is anyone’s guess.
Old Station is a picturesque little settlement and historic site. Rim Rock Store and Ranch (a bed and breakfast) are found in older well-kept buildings on the south side of the highway. A wooden sign next to the ranch informs that Old Station began as Hat Creek Station in 1856 for travelers on the California-Oregon trail. But after increasing conflicts with local Indians, it became a military post, abandoned shortly thereafter in 1861.
We first check out forest service-run Cave Campground across the highway from the cave. Then we park in the day-use-only Subway Cave parking lot, and climb the steps to the well-marked cave entrance. We meet a couple of guys coming out who confirm that the footing inside is indeed uneven.
Steps lead back down into the mouth of the cave. It’s a big cave, with smooth rounded walls and yes, rough floors. Sturdy shoes a must! In the heat of the afternoon, the constant 46 degree F interior is welcoming as we pull on our fleece/light jackets. Soon darkness and cool envelope us, and we turn on our flashlights, a must in the pitch blackness.
Each section has interpretive signs lit by small red reflectors. Sections of cave named Devil’s Doorway, and Stubtoe Hall narrow into the Wind Tunnel, but ceiling never lowers under 6 feet, and is usually higher. No tight squeezes or crawling in this cave. After a small cul-de-sac, the cave opens up and widens greatly, into a large inner hall called the Sanctum.
Light of the exit becomes faintly visible as we walk down Lavasicle Lane and past a couple of partial collapses. At the exit, lava bubbles are visible congealed and hardened on the floor. The section of well-lit cave at the end is most interesting, because daylight filters in to allow clear visualization of rocks and formations. After traversing its 1300 feet, I almost regret climbing the steps back up into bright light and heat. A short trail leads back to the beginning, this time aboveground. Phone:530-336-5521
From journal Lassen Volcanic Delights
Bob could smell the odor of hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell) even before we arrived. Austrian immigrant Mathias Supan began extracting sulfur here in 1865. He named his mine Sulphur Works, and for the next 20 years, sold his medicinal sulfur products in Red Bluff. His bathhouse, situated over steam vents, was popular with locals, who could combine healthful steam baths with an overnight stay in Supan’s cabins, and a hearty family-style meal in Supan’s dining hall. Unfortunately, late heavy snows had damaged the boardwalk leading to the loop trail around Sulphur Works remains and other geothermal features. Orange net barricades and trail closed signs were prominently posted. I could have kicked myself later, when I saw on the national park brochure that this 1/3 mile loop trail comes out just up the road and likely could have been accessed, all but for the boardwalk portion.
Nevertheless, there was plenty of geothermal activity to keep us occupied right there on either side of the road. Steam wisps upwards from fumaroles downslope on the east side of the road. Below that, a milk-colored stream bubbles over reddish rocks, flanked by patches of snow.
A large mud pot on the west roadside is eloquently guttural. Its low rumbling rhythmic voice booms and sputters expressively as its hot subterranean spirit spits out bits of gray mud. Completely mesmerizing, listening to the earth speak. A low rail fence and caution signs border the geothermal areas, and for good reason. The crust around the fumaroles and mudpots is so thin and unstable, it can easily break through.
Bumpass’s guide found that out the hard way, even though he knew better, and tourists to Lassen who ignore these precautions have been severely burned. Another mile and a half on the trail past Bumpass Hell lies the most unusual Cold Boiling Lake. Though cold, it looks like it’s boiling due to gas bubbles rising from underneath. Another reason to visit Lassen well past snow season; Cold Boiling Lake was also inaccessible to us.
More geothermal features: From Chester, California, you can enter Lassen from the southeast (State highway 36). Now known as Warner Valley, the area features Hot Springs Creek, Boiling Springs Lake, Terminal Geyser, and Devils Kitchen. Accomodations are available at historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch at the end of the road, or NPS Warner Valley campground, along Hot Springs Creek.
This easy but fascinating loop is a wonderful introduction to some of Lassen’s flora and geology. We first thought it would simply take us around Reflection Pond, but about halfway around the pond, the trail veered deeper into the forest and then led into the fringes of Chaos Jumbles. The nature trail guide can be purchased at the Visitor Center for 50 cents, or picked up at the trailhead.
Almost immediately we spied snow plants, those spectacular waxy-looking flowers resembling bright red asparagus spears. They’re saprophytes, meaning they don’t photosynthesize, but use decaying organic matter in the soil to grow and reproduce. Their botanical name, Sarcodes sanguinea, means "blood-red flesh". We spotted snow plants all along this walk, no doubt due to the recently receded snow.
Thinleaf alder and Pacific willow (with fluffy willow-down) grow alongside the ponds, but the surrounding old-growth forest contains a diverse population of evergreens, from white and red fir, to Ponderosa, Jeffrey, lodge pole, and sugar pines. The sugar pines are the ones with the long, massive cones. Years ago a squirrel used one to bomb (and shatter) our one solar panel on top of our camper, in Sequoia National Park (California). That taught us to avoid camping under sugar pines.
Past a marshy flower-filled meadow, surprisingly free of mosquitoes, we climbed a short rise and came to lovely Lily Pond. Cow lily plants, also known as spatterdock, filled the pond leaving but few spaces where water was visible. Bright ball-shaped yellow lilies were just beginning to bloom. The roots and seeds of this plant have nutritional value, and roots and leaves were used in wound healing and to stop bleeding, by indigenous cultures. Despite the shortness and ease of this trail, we only met one other walker, a forest ranger who passed us at this pond.
Circumventing Lily Pond, we found other smaller ponds and bogs, but as we trod on the rocky fringes of Chaos Jumbles, the landscape dried up and changed. Douglas fir, incense cedar, and mountain hemlock began to predominate, with manzanita bushes beneath. Pink dacite rocks and boulders, products of the avalanche that created Chaos Jumbles, line the trail here, and the trees grow more sparsely. The rocks are pretty when you look at them closely, composed of pink volcanic glass, clear quartz and feldspar crystals, and black hornblende crystals and mica, the trail leaflet tells us.
The trail loops around to end at an old CCC building that we’d seen through the trees as we started. It’s built of local volcanic stone, and a wooden sign in front of it says "Discovery Center". But it looked closed, so we didn’t discover much more about it.
"What great sounding names" I thought, combining alliteration with affinity for chaos theory. Each time we drove between Crags Campground and the Visitor Center, we glimpsed this cluster of dramatic dacite domes through forest cover, enticing me to get closer and see more. Bob joined me on this hike, taken our last day at Lassen.
The first half climbs steadily through fir/pine forest, with lower limbs of evergreens sporting thick moss growth. Eventually we emerge into a more open landscape, as forest thins and greenleaf manzanita ground cover prevails. The Crags become visible, and in their jagged unevenness, it’s hard to imagine that they’re plug dome volcanoes like Lassen Peak.
But they’re much younger. Violent eruptions and pyroclastic flows created Chaos Crags 1000-1200 years ago. The Crags are composed of five domes, three of which collapsed in hot-dome avalanches. About 300-400 years ago, Chaos Jumbles was formed in a series of three cold rockfall avalanches. Original visitor center and campground have been moved out of this unstable area.
Other hikers are settled on the boulders of Chaos Jumbles along with scurrying squirrels as I round the final bend to the incredible vista: high up Chaos Crags sweeping down to bluegreen Crags Lake below. It’s just a skip-hop-and jump further down to the lake, but I wait for Bob, who soon arrives. The gold-mantled ground squirrels are curious as we munch on our sandwiches, and we try to get shots of them between bites.
We’re sitting on Chaos Jumbles, the product of an "air-cushioned" avalanche. It fell so fast that the air became trapped beneath it, acting as a lubricant and speeding the avalanche up to 100 miles an hour as it ripped downhill. It crossed Manzanita Creek, blocking it to form Manzanita Lake, and its momentum pushed it 400 feet further up Table Mountain. The Jumbles are aptly named, a wide sloping field of sharply-edged boulders all jumbled together.
Crags Lake lies in Chaos Crater. Fed only by snowmelt, evaporating as summer lengthens, it sometimes dries up entirely by summer’s end. Three young guys who’d passed us hiking, stripped down to shorts and took a swim. I found myself wishing I’d brought something to swim in after making my way down to the lake and feeling the water with my fingers. Not as cold as I’d expected of a snowmelt lake.
At lake-level, the water appears more intensely turquoise, with myriads of pollywogs swimming in its shallow reaches. When I got down, the swimming dudes were gone, and only one other solitary hiker was enjoying the peace of the place under shady pines. I could easily have stayed much longer.
The hike back is consistently and relaxingly downhill, easy hiking on soft duff. Red pentstemon line the trail. Bright green mosses flourish on lower portions of evergreens, blazingly chartreuse in afternoon sunlight as we finish our hike.
by Beltway Buddy
April 8, 2005
After returning home, I learned from an ex-Californian that Lassen Volcanic Park is nicknamed "The Forgotten National Park" because it simply doesn’t get as much press as Yellowstone or Yosemite. However, it’s got the geothermal oddities of Yellowstone and (I understand) the scenic beauty of both its sister parks.
What Lassen Park has that Yellowstone and Yosemite don’t have is (1) mobs of tourists and (2) an active volcano, Lassen Peak – in fact, it has one of only two active volcanoes in the continental United States (the other, of course, is Mt. St. Helens). The last major eruption at Lassen Peak was in 1915 (smaller, sporadic eruptions finally petered out in 1921). The park boasts 106,000 acres of wilderness and old-growth forests, eight camp grounds, and 150 miles of hiking trails (including 17 miles of the "Pacific Coast Trail." Not being a serious hiker myself, I can only guess that it’s a particularly scenic trail). My next trip to Northern California will definitely include a visit to Lassen Park.
From journal Northern California Dreamin'