Northern California

Whiskey Town NRA

Whiskey Town NRA

We left the cool weather of the Bay Area behind, and headed north to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, where temperatures soared over 100 degrees.  Most come to Whiskeytown to enjoy the lake, and we were no exception.  We went swimming twice, once at Crystal Creek Falls, and then again in Whiskeytown Lake.  Since the temperature was so hot, it was a welcome relief.  We also took a short walk to a few relics of the mining past surrounding the area.  Even walking less than a mile was taxing in that weather!

Lave Beds National Monument

Lave Beds National Monument

Our next stop took us on a drive up to Lava Beds National Monument.  We spent two nights camping there in the Indian Well Campground.  A smaller park, we had a great time exploring.  Lava Beds is known for the extensive system of caves located beneath the surface of the park.  We trekked through three of them, some of the easier ones to walk through.  We didn’t attempt any of the more serious caves.  Golden Dome is so named for the glowing bacteria on the ceiling.  It really does glow golden in the light!  We also walked the length of Sentinel Cave, and climbed down into Skull Cave.  There is a permanent ice floor when you get all the way to the base.  The temperature in the caves is a cool 50ish degrees all year, a welcome relief from the sun and heat of the rest of the park.  While staying there, we also experienced a hail storm so severe we feared for the paint job and dinging of our rental car.  One night we ventured down to the amphitheater to listen to a ranger led discussion of the Modoc people who have lived in the area for thousands of years.  We also visited the remaining petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point, which were actually created by people on boats, though now the area is dry.  We didn’t know what to expect from Lava Beds, and were greatly impressed by the array of landscapes to be explored within its borders.  Far from other cities, it is also pretty secluded, so we took a ride up to Klamath Falls one evening for dinner and the movies, something we both enjoy doing anytime.

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

While in the area, we were also able to explore one unit of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  A relatively newer site, set aside in 2008, the Tule Lake Unit encompasses sites were both prisoners of war and Japanese internees were housed during World War II.  A sobering part of our history, it was powerful to stand on the grounds where Japanese citizens were kept and basically imprisoned during the war.  As the wind ceaselessly poured down from the hills, we read inscriptions about the difficulties the POW’s and Japanese had adapting to this harsh environment.  The visitors center has a comprehensive museum of the area, that includes many exhibits and relics from this time period.  Fascinatingly, after the war was over, and the interns sent away, many people repurposed the barracks into homes.  As we drove around Tule Lake (sometimes written as Tulelake), we were able to pick out these houses by their characteristic rectangle shape.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Our next drive took us to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Beautiful, remote and not very crowded, Lassen was a direct contrast to other, more popular National Parks.  We were both amazed and surprised by just how stunning the scenery was in Lassen, and by how calm and quiet it was compared to other National Parks.  We camped at Manzanita Lake for two nights, and though the campground was full, it was still pretty peaceful and did not feel overly crowded.  Upon arrival, and acquiring our stamps at the entrance station, we set up our tent, and then embarked on a drive around the park.  There is one long road that goes from entrance to entrance.  Within the park, there are also many miles of backcountry hiking, including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada along the spine of the Sierra Nevada in California.  It is a life-long dream to hike this entire trail, which is 2,650 miles long.  Unable to climb to the top of Lassen Peak (which is only open a few times during the year), we settled for a walk down to Bumpass Hell, a geothermal area.  It is a fascinating, smelly area with steam rising into the air and muddy sludge bubbling out of the ground.  You can hear the hiss of the steam and the burping of the water as it boils beneath the surface, as well as observe the varicolored ground and impressive array of features within a small area – all accessible by boardwalk.

The next morning we went on another short hike, this time to Paradise Meadow.  The climb to the meadow was well worth the effort, as the view was stunning.  We spent some time laying in the meadow, eating snacks, and chatting with other hikers.  It was an absolutely beautiful spot, and I think we could have laid there for hours.  We truly enjoyed our time in Lassen, and we would love to return and spend more time there.

To be continued…

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