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In September 2002 I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park after I visited Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada. It was a beautiful drive going Northwest from Lake Tahoe and through National Forests.
Driving to Lassen Volcanic National Park
I soon arrived at the entrance of the Park and as always I stopped to get a picture.
Just ten years after Lassen Peak erupted, the twenty nine mile Main Park Road was constructed between 1925 and 1931. Making it the highest road in the Cascade Mountains, near Lassen Peak the road reaches 8,512 feet. Near Lake Helen, it is not unusual for forty feet of snow to accumulate on the road. I stop to get a picture of Brokeoff Moountain.
Exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park can be a rewarding and exciting experience, whether canoeing or kayaking. Nonmotorized boats must access Juniper, Butte, and Manzanita Lakes, at their designated boat launch spots.
To enjoy the lesser known areas of the park, hiking or backpacking is an excellent way. For all overnight stays in the wilderness, a wilderness camping permit is required. Before beginning any trip into the wilderness, please be sure to review the regulations and wilderness camping information.
Where numerous trail loops provide opportunities for week long to single night trips, the majority of backpacking trips occur in the east side of the park.
Another Nice Lake!
Hydrothermal areas are not a safe place to camp, but they provide a wonderful insight into the inner workings of the park. Within 0.25 mile of any hydrothermal feature, camping is prohibited. Consider setting up camp nearby, and making a day trip to the area, if you would like to visit a hydrothermal area on your trip.
All four types of volcanoes are represented in Lassen Volcanic National Park, that are found in the entire world. Volcanoes found in the park include Composite (Brokeoff Volcano), Cinder Cone (Cinder Cone), Plug Dome (Lassen Peak), and Shield (Prospect Peak).
The trail begins at the Lassen Peak parking lot at about 8,500 ft. elevation. The trail is 2.5 miles one way to the summit. There are many great views of the park from this trail. The summit provides one of the best views of the Devastated Area.
The Devastated Area shows the destruction from the 1914-17 eruptions! The rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide at the summit reminds everyone that the volcano is still active but dormant. The trip can take three to five hours and is steep and rocky at times. You should wear a pair of good sturdy hiking boots.
The dominant vegetation community is the mixed conifer forest at elevations below 6,500 feet. White fir, sugar pine, ponderosa and jeffrey pines form the forest canopy for this rich community that also includes species of ceanothus, gooseberry and manzanita. Wildflowers include lupine, violets, pyrola, spotted coralroot, and iris.
The major community of the red fir forest is above the mixed conifer forest. Lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock, western white pine, and red fir dominate a community less diverse than the mixed conifer forest, between elevations of 6,500 and 8,000 feet. Some plants include pinemat manzanita, woolly mule's ears and satin lupine.
Including the upper limit for the growth of standing trees, are subalpine areas. Plants are fewer in overall number with exposed patches of bare ground providing a harsh environment, from 8,000 feet to treeline. A few of the rugged members of this community are penstemon, Indian paintbrush, lupine, and Rock spirea. Trees in this community include Mountain hemlock and Whitebark pine.
Including fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds, Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to approximately three hundred species of vertebrates. Found within Lassen Volcanic National Park, the richness of species contributes to the variety of habitats.
Comprised of mixed conifer forest is most of the park below the 7,800 foot level. Species that are typically found in these forested areas are a wide variety of bat species, long toed salamander, white headed woodpecker, mountain chickadee, brown creeper, marten, mule deer, and black bear.
The habitat becomes one of limited stands of Mountain hemlock, above 7,800 feet. Species that occur here include various chipmunk species, deer mice and Clark's nutcracker.
Comprised of no vegetation to very sparse is the subalpine zone which is above the Mountain hemlock zone. Species found in this habitat include golden mantled ground squirrel, pika and gray crowned rosy finch.
Also, other minor vegetation communities grow in the park. Found at drier aspects and lower elevations, Montane chaparral, in scattered stands. Low stands of pinemat manzanita connect individual stands of red fir and lodgepole pine, dispersed within forest communities. Species that can be found in these habitats include sagebrush lizard, montane vole, and dark eyed junco.
Along lake margins and streams, seasonally wet meadows are also common in valley bottoms. Mountain pocket gopher, common snipe, Western terrestrial garter snake, and Pacific tree frog can be found in these areas.
Bald eagle is currently listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act and Peregrine falcon was taken off the endangered species list in 1999, in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Found in all of the habitats listed above, Lassen Volcanic National Park is also home to a variety of invertebrate species. The California Tortoise Shell butterfly is one of the most noticeable species. Especially on the tops of peaks where wind currents have carried them, these butterflies can be seen by the thousands at times and are orange brown in color. In search of a food source, these population explosions are believed to be movements from areas that have been defoliated to new areas. Due to windshields becoming plastered with dead butterflies and slick pavement, these mass movements can make driving conditions hazardous.
I want to return someday to this park and see more of the thermal features. Also, I would like to hike more of the trails. Lassen Peak trail is opened sparsely and as of 2011, is under construction. If you decide to go, you can hike up Brokeoff Mountain. The trail features spectacular views and is open!
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