Cinder Cone Nature Trail (Lassen NP)

October 24, 2020

Arrival at Butte Lake

California lays claim to nine national parks, as of 2021—more than any other state. Some parks attract millions of annual visitors: Yosemite and Joshua Tree clocked 4.4mn and 3.0mn visitors, as of 2019. Luckily for NorCal adventurers, Lassen Volcanic flies comparatively under the radar. The park has seen just over half a million visitors, annually, over the past few years.

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Sun Notch Trail towards Phantom Ship (Crater Lake NP)

August 23, 2020, Sun Notch Trailhead

A stroll along the Sun Notch Trail

I spent a day last August exploring Crater Lake National Park en route to Bend Oregon. After a sunrise hike to Garfield Peak, I began a drive along East Rim Drive. A recent spate of wildfires had left the lake quite smokey, and sightlines would continue to deteriorate into midday. Beyond this COVID-19 had dashed any plans of taking a boat tour around the lake. But some other short hikes were still on the docket, including this little gem!

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Garfield Peak (Crater Lake NP)

Aug 23, 2020, Rim Village


I arrived just before sunset to Rim Village, having driven that day north from the Bay Area. The summer and Fall of 2020 will forever be known for two things on the West Coast: COVID and fires. Evidence of the latter hung in the air over Crater Lake, which seemed visibly thick with smoke. I felt as though I were standing on the edge of a massive cauldron.

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High peaks trail (Pinnacles National Park)

California condors soar over sandcastle rock formations in Pinnacles National Park.

June 30, 2020, Pinnacles National Park

Google Fail

The day began long before sunrise, with a 2-hour drive to Pinnacles National Park. This outing would mark my second national park visit in California in only a few weeks. I aimed to arrive at Pinnacles around sunrise, so I could enjoy a multi-hour hike before the temperatures in central California inevitably climbed into the high 90s.

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Kings Creek Falls (Lassen NP)

Kings creek winds through a meadow surrounded by greenery and spring snowmelt.

June 20, 2020, King’s Creek Falls trailhead

I found myself with time to kill in Lassen National Park, having hiked to the summit of the park’s main volcano well before noon. being mid-June, many of the park’s signature attractions were still closed, due to snow, including the signature Bumpass Hell area with its steam vents and bubbling mud pits. That said, Kings Creek Falls caught my eye as a fun cool-down hike.

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Lassen Peak: an entry-level Cascade volcano

Blue skies over Lassen Peak

June 20, 2020, Lassen Peak Trailhead

Lassen National Park

I began the day an hour southeast of Lassen National Park, in the town of Red Bluff. The road to the park undulated through the rolling foothills of the northernmost expanse of California’s Central Valley. Through the haze, I could see the Cascades rising to the north and east ahead of me. First, Shasta came into view, still covered in snow along its uppermost flanks. Then Brokeoff and Lassen Peaks rose over the landscape, dead-ahead, both silhouettes against the morning sun.

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Mt Rainier (PNW)

August 14, 2018, Paradise WA

“The Mountain”

In summer 2018 I signed up for a guided mountaineering seminar on Mt Rainier, in the gorgeous Cascade Range in Washington.  My first trip to Washington, four years earlier, was to visit a friend getting her Ph.D. from U Washington in nearby Seattle.  While roaming around town, I caught my first glance of Rainier, towering over the landscape.  It was unlike any mountain I had seen before, clearly taller and more isolated than anything in the Rockies, let alone the Northeast.  I asked my friend if we could hike it.  She looked at me like I had three heads and said “What?! No!  You need to like, train for that.  And acclimate.  It’s like a real mountain.”  I decided then and there that the next time I was in Washington, I was climbing Mt Rainier.

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