The Lassen Volcanic Park Snapshots video features a brief, yet smokey tour of one of the most intriguing destinations on earth. The Mt Lassen photos were hastily taken while evacuating the massive 2020 Klamath Wildfire, which was located right next door.
The Lassen Volcanic National Park covers the southern Cascades Range, which is a ring of active volcanos stretching far north into British Columbia. Mount St Helens is in this range, which demonstrates just how dangerous these cone shaped mountains can be. Mt Lassen is indeed active and the last major eruption occurred a little more than 100 years ago. To add even more power to the punch, the Lassen Volcanic Dome happens to be one of the largest in the world, so any seismic activity at Mt Lassen is taken very seriously.
Much of the same geothermal features found at the Yellowstone Caldera can be viewed in Lassen Volcanic Park. There are many steam vents and boiling mud holes on the slopes that are amazing to see. The Sulphur Works and Bumpass Hell are two of the most notable and the latter offers a horrible story about the origins of the name. Further down the road, the Devastated Area is a prime example of a massive pyroclastic flow avalanche caused by recent volcanic activity. This vast rubble pile was fresh and barren not too long ago and the forest is slowly taking over this rough boulder strewn area.
Where there are volcanic mountains, the piles of ash and lava flows cause natural dikes to form in stream beds, which in turn create new lakes. There are several small lakes in the high elevations of Mt Lassen and they all are as picturesque as can be. The exception is when the summer wildfire season is active, since the thick smoke can interfere with the views.
Speaking of wildfire smoke, I was camping next to the Klamath River when the summer wildfire season kicked off in a big way. The forests were bone dry and sappy, which is never a good sign. The summer heat was also intense that year. These are good reasons why I never rely upon campfires and only use an eco-friendly alcohol burner backpacking stove. I also check the weather and wildfire reports frequently when in danger zones.
It is fortunate that I tuned on the radio to hear of a new wildfire in the Klamath National Forest, since this provided early warning. I drove from the riverside campground uphill to a higher elevation viewpoint and could see a very thick plume of smoke rising from a only a few mountain peaks away. At that point I knew the dry conditions would cause the fire to spread rapidly, so I immediately plotted an escape route to Reno, Nevada on the GPS device.
Unfortunately I was so deep in the woods that the only option was to use the old one lane dirt roads through a fair size portion of the mountains. This took a lot of time and awkward situations arose when the huge fire trucks were heading the opposite direction. I had a 2 door Jeep back then, so it was easy to hang it over the edge to allow the fire fighters to pass by. At that time of ever present fire danger, I realized that the photos may possibly be the last pictures of the old historic Sawyers Bar Hotshot Camp while passing through.
The backwoods escape route from the Klamath Wildfire took me to the Battle Creek Campground in the Lassen National Forest next to the big national park. This is where I camped at sunset after the harrowing white knuckle ride through the mountains. The entire landscape was blanketed with a bright orange glow from the wildfire smoke. I was the only person there and it was quite an eery experience.
The Lassen Volcanic Tour got underway well before dawn, since the primary goal was now to head far east in order to find fresh air to breathe. For this reason, the tour of Lassen National Park compared to an abbreviated drive-thru experience. Not many stops were made, but several photos were quickly taken at each roadside location. The views of the volcanic park covered with thick wildfire smoke certainly are one of a kind and I am glad that I captured it on film.
The escape route through Lassen was a good choice because there was almost no vehicular traffic. The smokey landscape photos certainly do convey just how wild and dangerous the west can be. This is a good lesson for those who plan a summer camping trip in northern California. Always check the broadcasted weather and fire reports. At the first sign of fire, that is the time to take action and depart on a planned escape route to safer horizons.
By the time I got to Reno, the smoke was so thick that I could not see the tall buildings downtown from two blocks away. Needless to say, I kept on heading east and the smokey air finally cleared up by the time I got to western Colorado. The journey out of harms way was a special one, since the events definitely created memories that will last a lifetime!
Leave no trace!
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