Puzzle Rocks Lassen Volcanic National Park

There is a 0.5 mile loop trail at the Devastated Area at Lassen Volcanic National Park (CA) appropriately named the Devastated Area Trail. The trail is an easy hike with a number of information signs teaching about the rocks left behind from Lassen Peak’s 1915 eruption. One of the most interesting of these I found were the puzzle rocks which had the following description sign by them:

After the May 19 avalanche carried hot lava rocks, the surrounding air temperature quickly cooled them. As they cooled — from the outside in — some of the rocks fractured internally, breaking into pyramid-like shapes. Like a jigsaw puzzle, many of the pieces could easily be reconfigured — solving a hot puzzle from the past…

Puzzle Rock Lassen National Park

Puzzle Rocks at Lassen Volcanic National Park

As the description indicates and the photos show, these rocks really do look like puzzles that could easily be shaped back together with a bit of effort. I always enjoy finding tidbits of information like this when I travel to the various National Parks.

10 Oldest National Parks

I received an email asking me “what are the 10 oldest national parks?” The first National Park was Yellowstone created in 1872. Number two was Sequoia National Park in 1890 along with Yosemite National Park the same year. While Kings Canyon National Park was established in 1940, it’s included with Sequoia National Park (they are connected) because Kings Canyon National Park incorporated General Grant National Park when it was created. General Grant National Park was established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias, the same year as Sequoia National Park.

Yosemite National Park established in 1890

Here is a list of the 10 oldest National Parks in the National Park system:

1. Yellowstone National Park (1872)
2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Sequoia 1890)
2. Yosemite National Park (1890)
4. Mount Rainier National Park (1899)
5. Crater Lake National Park (1902)
6. Wind Cave National Park (1903)
7. Mesa Verde National Park (1906)
8. Glacier National Park (1910)
9. Rocky Mountain National Park (1915)
10. Haleakala National Park (1916)
10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1916)
10. Lassen Volcanic National Park (1916)

Bumpass Pass Boardwalk and Creek Lassen Volcanic National Park

When you reach the end of the Bumpass Hell trail at Lassen Volcanic National Park (just a short walk after you get a glimpse of the hydrothermal activity at Bumpass Hell), you reach the Bumpass Hell boardwalk. Just to the right of the boardwalk, you’ll also see Bumpass Hell creek where all the water that is part of the hydrothermal activity drains out of Bumpass Hell:

the boardwalk at Bumpass Hell with Bumpass Hell creek

Bumpass Hell creek at Lassen National Park

The Bumpass Pass boardwalk allows you to get a much better view of all the different types of hydrothermal activity taking place and it has a nice variety of information signs to explain exactly what hydrothermal activities are going on:

information sign at Bumpass Hell boardwalk

Molten rock — magma — lies miles below your feet. The magma that is chambered there is the same that fed the eruptions of Lassen Peak and other dacite-dome volcanoes like Bumpass Mountain. The magma superheats a reservoir of groundwater deep within the Earth. Steam, as hot a 464 degrees Fahrenheit (240 degrees Celsius), rises and condenses into water again, mixing with the percolating groundwater nearer the surface. The mixture produces sulfate water that escapes through park hydrothermal features at temperatures about 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius)

Bumpass Hell is the largest “escape valve” for the underground boiler or hydrothermal system and is the main upward vent. Lesser upward flows exit as Sulfur Works, Devil’s Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake and Little Hot Springs Valley. One Furnace, One System

Lassen National Park Photo Contest

Get those photos out from your recent visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park (or head out to the park right away) Lassen Volcanic National Park is having a photo contest that is ending quite soon (entry deadline is September 9) to select the image which will grace the 2012 Lassen Volcanic Annual Pass. The rules are pretty straight forward and simple:

1. Photos have to show some aspect of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

2. Photo entries must be submitted no later than September 9, 2011.

3. The winning photographer will receive photo credit along with a $50 gift certificate compliments of the Lassen Association.

4. Photo prints must be no larger than 5 x7 and printed on quality paper.

5. There is a limit of two photos per household.

6. Photos will not be returned. The photo becomes the property of the U. S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service.

7. Photos should be mailed to the following address:

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Attn: Fee Office
P. O. Box 100
Mineral, CA 96063-0100.

8. Along with each photo submitted, a separate sheet of paper with the photographer’s name, address, phone number, the photo subject and the photo location must be included.

Bumpass Hell Lassen Volcanic National Park

The reward for hiking the Bumpass Hell trail at Lassen Volcanic National Park is reaching Bumpass Hell. If you enjoy hydrothermal activity, you will definitely enjoy the mudpots and fumaroles that Bumpass Hell has to offer. As you come off the Bumpass Hell trail, you round a corner and get a grand view of the hydrothermal activity and a beautuful turqoise pool as your first glimpse of what is to come:

Bumpass Hell at Lassen National Park

Turquoise blue pond at Bumpass Hell Lassen National Park

You also get the first whiffs of the sulfur “rotten-egg” smell that is so familiar with hydrothermal activity:

The lava rock that once filled this area has been eaten away and altered into clay by sulfuric acid. The acid can be linked to a high temperature form of sulfur (sulfur dioxide) released from the magma body that fires Bumpass Hell. The rotten-egg smell that fills the air can also be linked to sulfur. It is hydrogen sulfide gas, a forerunner to the formation of sulfur — yellow, pyramid-shaped crystals that form on the ground here.

From the first look at Bumpass Hell, it is a short walk down to the Bumpass Hell boardwalk which allows you to see all the different types of hydrothermal activity taking place at Bumpass Hell.

Bumpass Hell Trail Lassen Volcanic National Park

I had made a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park in June to find that most of the park was still closed to snow. Since I was in the general area again on a trip to visit a friend, I decided to make another stop knowing that a lot more of the park would be open.

The main goal I had was to hike to Bumpass Hell since I heard good things about it. It’s never good when you go to the trailhead of the hike you are planning to take and see the following sign:

Bumpass Hell hazardous trail sign Lassen Volcanic National Park

Since starting this blog I have become much more aware of all the deaths that take place in National Parks, many of them due to people doing stupid things that they have been warned not to do. At the same time, there were quite a few people taking the trail so I was torn on what to do. I eventually stopped a couple of hikers that were coming back and asked them how the trail was. They explained that there were still areas of the trail covered in snow and ice that were slippery, but passable if you took your time. I decided to give the trail a try figuring I could turn back if it ended up being too dangerous. In the early going, the trail was clear and it didn’t seem there would be any issue:

Bumpass Hell trail August 2011

And provided some spectacular views:

view hiking along Bumpass Hell Lassen Volcanic National Park

Diamond Peak from Bumpass Hell trail Lassen Volcanic National Park

It wasn’t long, however, that the reason for the warning sign became apparent. Despite it being mid August, here were several long stretches of the path that were still completely covered with snow that would have made the path quite difficult for anyone that wasn’t very sure footed:

Bumpass Hell trail covered with snow at Lassen Volcanic National Park

While the trail was definitely passable, there were quite a few people on the trail that were struggling and having to take the trail at an extremely slow pace. This was especially true for those that were in tennis shoes rather than hiking boots and families that had younger children. While the trek would have definitely been a lot easier had all the snow been cleared, it still may be a few weeks until that happens. If you happen to be in the area, I think it is worthwhile making the trek despite the snow — just be sure that you are wearing the proper hiking equipment.

Lake Helen Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lake Helen at Lassen Volcanic National Park, much like Emerald Lake (which is just below it), is still covered with a thin sheet of ice even though it’s the middle of August. In fact, it has quite a bit more ice than Emerald Lake:

Lake Helen at Lassen Volcanic national Park

ice covered Lake Helen at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lake Helen can be seen both from the Main Park Road and while on Bumpass Pass trail, but with all the snow it was a bit too dangerous for me to go down to the lake edge (there are a lot of “thin ice” hazard warning signs all around) since in many areas it’s difficult to tell where the snow on the ground ends and the thin lake ice begins. I’m sure this is another beautiful lake with crystal clear water that delivers a magnificent reflective photo opportunity when all the snow is gone and the sky is blue and I hope I get a chance to get back in the near future to see it this way as well.

Emerald Lake Lassen Volcanic National Park

Being August, I knew that Lassen Volcanic National Park would be much more snow free than it was on my last visit. Even so, the park was definitely not snow free. Driving Main Park Road, I reached Emerald Lake to find that half the lake still had a sheet of thin ice covering it:

Emerald Lake covered with ice at Lassen Volcanic National Park

I’m sure that when Emerald Lake is free of ice and it’s a clear day, the reflection in it is absolutely beautiful. I was able to get a small glimpse of this on the side that was somewhat free of ice:

reflection in Emerald Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Manzanita Lake Lassen Volcanic National Park

Although most of the trails at Lassen Volcanic National Park remained closed to hiking due to an abundance of snow, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid visiting the park. The short 2 mile hike around Manzanita Lake in itself makes a trip worth it. It would be a beautiful hike any time of year, but it’s especially so now with snow capped peaks in the distance.

Upon entering the park from the Manzanita Lake park entrance, you immediately see Manzanita Lake on your right. There is parking on the right side of the road so that you can begin the hike immediately if you are so inclined. I would recommend driving to the visitors center about a quarter mile past the entrance so you can ask the park volunteers any questions you may have first. Then you can hop on the trail by taking a path directly behind the visitors center which leads to the Manzanita Lake loop trail.

Manzanita Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park

One of the assets of this hike is that the view of the lake change quite dramatically as you circle it. There are definitely some gorgeous views with Mount Lassen and Chaos Crags in the background:

A Snowy Mount Lassen is mirrored in Manzanita Lake at Lassen volcanic National Park

There were quite a few people on the lake fishing (you can rent boats on the side of the lake). For those who enjoy photography, there are plenty of interesting shape and light opportunities around each bend:

A tree trunk on the shore of Manzanita Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Even after the trails in other areas of the park open up, this short hike is well worth making time to do. For those interested, here are more photos from the hike.

Sulphur Works Lassen Volcanic National Park

While there wasn’t a lot open due to the large amount of snow still on the ground in mid June at Lassen Volcanic National Park, one area that was accessible to visitors was Sulphur Works. You could immediately tell that this part of the park was active due to the “rotten egg” sulphur smell that was apparent even all the way down at the visitors center. The main attraction was a large pool of boiling, bubbling brown water:

brown bubbling water at Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Just above the brown boiling water pool was another cavity where both boiling water and steam were escaping:

steam and boiling water at Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Several active steam vents could be found across the street on a hillside which was notable due to it being the only one void of any snow:

Steam rising from the ground at Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park

While not the most picturesque example of volcanic activity, Sulphur Works was worth stopping at to get a taste of what might be found at the currently inaccessible volcanic activity areas in the park. It was a nice preview which makes me want to come back when the trails are clear of snow so I can explore the other hotbeds of volcanic activity within the park.