Friday, January 22, 2010

lovely Lassen part three, King's Creek

After our hike to Bumpass Hell the day cleared and warmed up. We were treated to views of snow dusted Lassen Peak for the rest of the morning but the warm day took the frosting away by noon. The most popular features of Lassen Volcanic National Park are the volcano, thermal vents, and hot spring fed lakes, but there are wide meadows with meandering streams and varied forest landscapes resulting from past volcanic activity. From the winding park road we looked down through the sparse forest near the peak to see Upper Meadow and the King’s Creek area. The emerald patch was very inviting so we decided to have our second hike of the day on the creek.We stopped for lunch on the bank and some North American Dippers kept us company. They are entertaining small blue-grey birds that wade and dive into streams to catch food. They use their wings to swim under water too. Perched by the creek side they do a bouncing dance that is the origin of their name. For encroaching on their space the Dippers scolded us with a few bobs and sharp “zeets” then carried on searching for their own lunch.

mrs. a-go-go felt a mild cold coming on so we decided that we had had enough hiking for the day. We spent the afternoon exploring what we could from the road including the Devastated Area to the northeast of the peak. Lassen is at the southern end of the Cascades and has had its share of recent volcanic activity. The last major eruption was in 1915 and it was this eruption and pyroclastic flow that created the Devastated Area. The forest here has a different character due to its young age. The contrast is starkly visible in a patch of old forest that was shielded from the blast by dormant Crescent Crater on the flank of Lassen Peak. Strewn across the Devastated Area are sore thumb boulders laying where the eruption dropped them in 1915. The most fascinating are the puzzle stones. These black rocks are split into three dimensional jigsaw pieces that remain interlocked. Ejected from the volcano a puzzle stone’s surface cooled quickly while the center remained hot, and the outer shell split into wild shapes as it shrank. Near the road side we passed Hot Rock. B.F. Loomis traveling through the area in 1915 noted that this large boulder was still too hot to touch days after the eruption.

As our day was ending we decided to start for home and not stay another night. Many of the sights would require a hike we knew we wouldn’t have the energy, so the rest of Lassen would have to wait for another trip. On our way back to the south entrance we stopped for a snack in a clearing by the side of the road. There we had our once-in-a-lifetime sighting. The swinging arms, furry mane, and, “I’m getting outa here,” gait were a dead giveaway even from forty yards away.

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