Okay, I know it's not advisable to go into the back country alone, but sometimes you just have to get away from it ALL, and this 10-mile wilderness loop from Summit Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park is a perfect weekend trek for solitude.
Entering Lassen Volcanic National Park from the south, I was greeted by one of the great vistas of all time. From the deck of the Lassen Chalet, just inside the park, the valley spreads off to the distance, dominated by Brokeoff Mountain and Lassen Peak, remnants of an ancient volcano that once towered over this area. Driving into the park, I stopped at the sulphur works, an area of bubbling mud and sulphur pools which was the heart of ancient Mount Tehama. There is a short trail through the area with informative placards along the way. Being pressed for time, I skipped the more famous Bumpass Hell, and drove on through stunning scenery to Summit Lake, 16 miles in from the entrance. There are campgrounds here, but I parked my vehicle and was soon settled into my backpack and on the way up the trail.
It is approximately a ten-mile loop through pine forests, past numerous small lakes. The first mile is quite steep, but looking back over my shoulder, the view of Lassen Peak and the park is terrific. After the steep climb, the trail branches left and right. Either way, it loops back around to this spot. I went left and found the going fairly easy. Other than one day-hiking couple I encountered, my only company through the day were mountain jays, marmots, and deer. I made camp by Big Bear lake, a very pretty lake surrounded by tall pines and with plenty of level ground for a camp. There were no people in sight or hearing--only the jays who wanted to share my dinner and several deer which wandered through camp. And I relaxed. Just that--relaxed. As dark settled, the stars came out in their millions, and the quiet was just amazing.
In the morning, I tried some fishing but had no luck. Then I was on the trail again. The going continued fairly easy over gentle rolling terrain, with no people until I approached Twin Lakes. There were a few day hikers here, but by late afternoon, they were all gone. I camped by Upper Twin Lake and again enjoyed the silence of the forest evening. Still no fish, but by this time, catching wasn't important. Just sitting by the lake in peace was fine. Tomorrow, I would be heading on down the trail, back to "civilization", but I would worry about that then. If you are going, be sure to get a wilderness permit from the ranger station. I stopped at the station on highway 36, near the town of Mineral, but there is also a station in the park.