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…
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.
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 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:
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
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
And provided some spectacular views:
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:
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 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 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.
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:
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:
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:
Just above the brown boiling water pool was another cavity where both boiling water and steam were escaping:
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:
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.