Lassen Peak P5K WSC

Thu, Jun 21, 2007

With: Ryan Burd

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile
previously climbed Fri, May 24, 2002

Continued...

It had been a pretty busy previous day, so today we took things a little easier. We woke up at the Emerson Campground around sunrise as the sun began filtering through the trees and into our van. We drove out of the Warner Range to the east side, then north around the range to the town of Alturas where we had breakfast at the Black Diner Inn. Our plan today was to climb Mt. Lassen, the highpoint of Shasta County. I have been to the summit three time previously, but this would be Ryan's first visit, and with 2,000ft of gain, one of his hardest to date.

Enroute from Alturas, we stopped at the beautiful Burney Falls, only a few miles out of the way. I wanted to show Ryan this incredible display in which much of the water flow comes out the cliff walls where the falls have cut through an underground aquifier. While viewing the falls near their base, we watched another father-son team fishing in the deep pool at the bottom, or rather watched the dad snag one hook after another on the rocks below the water line. The son seemed indifferent to the moment, playing about the rocks along the shore. Ryan didn't think they were having much luck, but started getting the itch to go fishing again. Back up at the parking lot, we drove a half mile further into the park and found a place next to Lake Britton.

Setting up shop, Ryan found a place along the shore that was teeming with blue gill near the water's edge. This was fishing at its finest according to Ryan, because not only could you catch the fish, you could watch them as they swam up to examine the bait. Switching off between salmon eggs and PowerBait, Ryan managed to catch 3 1/2 fish in the three hours we were there (we counted the one that got hooked but not landed as a half fish). He was getting better at tying on hooks, putting on his own bait, and casting about in the lake, only needing my help when the line got snarled in the reel or entangled in a tree, or to help land the fish with a net. I found it much more relaxing and enjoyable when I could spend more time reading my book and less time worrying about him getting a hook stuck in his eye. I'm sure we could have stayed there another three hours without Ryan getting bored, but I finally decided we'd better get going if Lassen was going to be climbed that day.

There were probably a dozen vehicles in the large lot when we got to the trailhead for the Lassen Peak Trail. A new feature was a gift/snack shop that had been recently (in the past few years) errected at one end. There were a couple dozen folks already on the trail when we started out around 1:30p. The trail is short (5mi RT), but steep, switchbacking a good deal to ease the grade. We found most of the trail free of snow, but there were a few places where snow still covered short sections. Years of cutting the trail have frustrated the Park Service, creating use trails and short cuts that blemish the scene. My first reaction was sympathy for the governments plight, but that weakened as the hike went on.

Rant: Several signs were posted threatening to stop free access to the trail if the abuse wasn't stopped. "It's in your hands," the signs warn. I couldn't help but wonder which wouldn't be more effective: Allowing only guided ascents (which will require some additional full-time employees), or handing out a few fines to demonstrate the seriousness of the infraction. I imagine that word of mouth would soon put an end to the trail-cutting, and parents would more seriously instruct their children (I watched one pre-teen cut the trail with only a minor admonition from the parent). And if you're trying to reduce the impact of overuse on the trail, why in the world would you allow the construction of the gift/snack shop in the parking lot? That made no (non-financial) sense to me.

There were butterflies all over the mountain, looking like an insect invasion or some sort of sex-crazed breeding ritual. Ryan would try to swat them as we hiked on, but they were always too adept in their flight manuevers and could easily avoid him. He was unable to hit a single one, though he may have tried a few hundred times. Where the trail finally eased near the summit, we found a dozen folks lolling around the open area with additional information signs describing the last volcanic action from 1915, the landscape, the geology and the fragile ecosystem. We left the confines of this plateau after reading the signs, heading north to the highpoint. Aside from the two government employees we met there, we were the only two to make the class 2 trek to the highpoint. The two employees were swapping out batteries at a communication tower located near the summit. A helicopter that we had seen earlier from the trail had been delivering new batteries to the summit to replace the old ones. Ryan and I scrambled around the two highest pinnacles (not sure which was the highest) before taking a break for a snack and some additional photos. We could see Mt. Shasta looming large to on the horizon to the northwest, and we talked about the day we could tackle that one together. It was fun to see Ryan's enthusiasm for mountaineering growing steadily.

We made the descent without incident, once again Ryan was happy to find that going down was far easier than going up. The five mile roundtrip hike took us just under three hours. We got an ice cream at the snack shop as our reward for the climb, then headed out. Before leaving the park we stopped at the Sulfer Works south of the mountain to check out the bubbling pots and steam vents. There used to be a trail that wandered about the various features, but that is all closed to the public now, with the only access found in the short paved sections along the road. Undoubtedly, more well-meaning safety regulations to protect the public from harm. Sigh.

Ryan passed out in the van shortly after leaving the park, he'd had a full day of fun. I've always envied his ability to nap virtually at will - he simply closes his eyes and is asleep in minutes. We had dinner and took a room in Quincy that night, the same Gold Pan Motel we had stayed at on a trip a year ago. Ryan particularly liked the idea of staying at a place we'd been to before. I think the familiarlity of it brings some contentment and satisfaction. He also liked being able to eat dinner (Subway) on the bed while watching TV, something he'd never be able to do at home. :-)

Continued...


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