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June 25, 2002  (Lassen Volcanic National Park, California)

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After camping for three nights at the beautiful but often-windswept Cape Blanco State Park on the Oregon coast, I packed up the truck on a drizzly morning and continued my southward voyage down U.S. 101.  


As I drove through the small town of Port Orford, I decided to see Port Orford State Park, which is actually an old lifeboat station that was manned up until the 1970s by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Although it's been a State Park for several decades, and although I've driven right by it on Highway 101 at least 30 times, I've never visited it, but I'm not sure why.  However, as I discovered, it's a great place with lots of trails, overlooks, and interesting old buildings. 


Probably the best part of Port Orford State Park is the old dog tag machine that sits in the corner of the the headquarters building.  The machine still operates and, for a few dollars, the friendly caretaker will punch out a 4-line dog tag for you.  I got one for myself and one for my Dad, who probably hadn't seen a real dog tag since his WWII days in the Navy.  Anyway, if you get a chance, be sure to visit this out-of-the-way park and get a dog tag (maybe even get one for your dog).  Yeah, it's a little hard to find, but it's well worth it.


The closer I got to California that afternoon, the worse the weather got.  By the time I reached Brookings, Oregon, just a few miles from the state border, it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs (though without dog tags, I'm sure).  I pulled into the very soggy Harris Beach State Park that afternoon and, after securing a campsite in the crowded campground there, I drove into nearby Brookings with the windshield wipers slapping back and forth.  Being in Oregon's so-called "Banana Belt," Brookings has attracted a lot of retirees from California and Oregon over the past few decades -- which is exactly why I'd never want to retire there. 


It's a nice town, though, and I spent much of the afternoon wandering around the Fred Meyer store in Brookings.  "Freddies" is my absolute favorite store and it's a Northwest institution, with groceries, appliances, plungers, and just about anything else you need, all under one roof.  There are certain places  that I really, really like to shop at:  

  • For outdoor gear, it's REI

  • For computers, it's Dell

  • And for just about everything else, it's Fred Meyer.  

Since I'd already stopped at the Fred Meyer stores in Astoria, Tillamook, and Florence on this particular trip, I figured I'd visit the one in Brookings, as well.  Plus, it was a lot drier there than in the soggy campground.


The sun came out the next morning and, after getting resupplied (yes, at Fred Meyer), I continued south on Highway 101.  As I crossed the California border and entered the Redwood Country, I thought about where to spend that night.  There are a lot of great redwood campgrounds in Northern California, and on this trip, I stayed at my two favorites:  Mill Creek Campground in Del Norte State Park, near Crescent City, and Hidden Springs Campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, near Eureka.  There really aren't many things better, I decided, than camping in a quiet campground surrounded by lofty and majestic redwood trees.


If you visit the Redwood Country of northern California, be sure to get off Highway 101 and take one of my very favorite roads in the the U.S. -- the Avenue of the Giants.  The Avenue is a 20-mile stretch of road that meanders through the redwoods.  It's actually the old Highway 101 and, although I've driven it a dozen times, I never get tired of it.  And it was where, on this trip, my truck proudly turned over 250,000 miles.


2-3665_Truck_in_Redwoods.jpg (53671 bytes)    2-3668_Me_at_Large_Stump.jpg (65179 bytes)    2-3672_Hidden_Springs_Campsite.jpg (53196 bytes)

Above left:  Driving through the redwoods in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, northern California.

Above center:  They grow 'em big up here in the Redwood Country.

Above right:  Camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.


2-3681_High_Water_Mark.jpg (40199 bytes)    2-3689_Truck_at_Pullout.jpg (56591 bytes)    2-3686_Odometer_at_250K.jpg (31640 bytes)

Above left:  This used to be downtown Weott, California.  Weott was wiped out by a mammoth flood of the Eel River in 1964.  This high-water mark is about all that's left of Weott.

Above center:  My 17-year old truck hit exactly 250,000 miles here amidst the redwoods.

Above right:  My odometer at a quarter-million miles, on the Avenue of the Giants.


Lassen Volcanic National Park:  An Undiscovered Jewel

As I've stated many times, I'm a big fan of National Parks.  I've visited them ever since I was in diapers, I studied them in college, and I even once applied to be a park ranger (but was turned down like most other applicants, though, darn it).  I've visited about 200 of the 394 National Parks in the U.S., and I have a NPS Passport book filled with stamps to prove it.  I especially like visiting parks during the off-season, when Park Rangers have time to chat. 


However, I've never understood the popularity of certain parks, and conversely, I've never understood why certain gem-like parks aren't more visited.  Some of the "overrated" National Parks, in my opinion, include Mt. Rushmore, Great Smoky Mountains, and Crater Lake.  I've written a page called My 10 Favorite National Park "Hidden Jewels", in which I've listed what I believe are the most underrated National Parks in the country.


Here's Jimmy Buffett singing Volcano.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


One of the most underrated parks in the U.S. is Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California.  I've been visiting Lassen for 30 years and during that time, I've hiked all over the park from one beautiful side to the other, yet I still haven't figured out why more people haven't discovered this place.  It has geysers, fumaroles, and all kinds of other nasty and interesting geothermal stuff.  It has meadows, alpine forest, and dozens of sparkling, beautiful lakes.  And best of all, it has Lassen Peak, which last erupted in 1915 and was the last volcano in the lower 48 states to erupt before Mt. St. Helens blew its top in May of 1980.  Lassen is a very cool park, with lots of neat things to see and do.  If you go in the summer, though, make sure that the cross-park road is open and free of snow (it's usually clear by mid-June).


I was really looking forward to seeing my old friend, Lassen, again, so after leaving the redwoods, I headed straight east through Redding and made the gradual ascent up Highway 44 to Lassen Park, finally reaching one of my very favorite campgrounds, Manzanita Lake, that evening at sunset.  Lassen has several campgrounds and I've stayed at most of them, but none beats Manzanita Lake.  Best of all, it has coin-operated showers and a little gift shop where I always buy Lassen t-shirts.


One morning, I drove to the south side of Lassen and hiked into a geothermal area called "Devil's Kitchen."  I love "Devils" names in parks and have started a collection of Devil's photos.  Let's see, there's 

  • Devil's Punchbowl State Park on the Oregon coast

  • Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley

  • Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming

  • Devil's Postpile National Monument in California

  • Devil's Orchard at Craters of the Moon National Monument, in Idaho.

One of these days, I'll post photos of all the "Devil" sites I've been to in the U.S.


Anyway, I spent about a week camping at Manzanita Lake and exploring Lassen and enjoyed every minute of it.  The highlight of my visit occurred one afternoon on the south side of the park.  On my way back from a nice hike up to Devil's Garden, I stopped in the town of Chester and went into the busy grocery store.  After about 20 minutes, and just as I was putting a cantaloupe into my shopping basket, all of the lights went off.  No kidding.  Everybody stopped what they were doing, mainly because they could hardly see their hand in front of their face. 


Ever the Boy Scout, though, and always prepared, I whipped out my key chain, which has a handy flashlight on it.  As I walked around with my flashlight that afternoon, going up one aisle and then down another, I was the most popular guy in the grocery store.

2-3715_Lassen_Sign.jpg (59962 bytes)    2-3696_Lassen_From_Devast_Area.jpg (42373 bytes)    2-3732_Eruption_1914.jpg (27681 bytes)

Above left:  Entering Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California.

Above center:  Lassen Peak's "Devastated Area," wiped out during the 1914 eruption.

Above right:  Before the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980, Lassen was that last volcano to erupt in the U.S. -- and the first one in the U.S. seen by whites.


2-3703_Hiking_to_Top.jpg (29031 bytes)    2-3710_View_From_Top.jpg (32293 bytes)    2-3714_Lassen_Park_Road.jpg (55231 bytes)

Above left:  Hiking up to the 10,500' summit.

Above center:  View from the summit of Lassen Peak.

Above right:  The Lassen park road. 


2-3718_Lake_Helen.jpg (44761 bytes)    2-3726_Lassen_Peak4.jpg (94306 bytes)

Above left:  Lake Helen, still frozen in late June, with Lassen Peak in the background.

Above right:  Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake, one of my favorite places in California.


2-3694_Snowplant.jpg (71259 bytes)    2-3740_Campfire_Program.jpg (45180 bytes)

Above left:  Snow plants.  These are saprophytes like mushrooms and don't have any chlorophyll.

Above right:  I've been going to evening campfire shows at this very amphitheatre in Lassen since I was a little kid.  Everybody sing:  "She'll be comin' round the mountain..."



Next News

July 1, 2002  (Looking Glass Rock, Utah)



Previous News

June 18, 2002  -- Part 2  (Port Orford, Oregon)

June 18, 2002  -- Part 1  (Port Orford, Oregon)

May 22, 2002  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 7, 2002  (Sydney, Australia)

April 4, 2002  (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

April 1, 2002  (Hervey Bay, Australia)

March 28, 2002  (Airlie Beach, Australia)

March 25, 2002  (Port Douglas, Australia)

March 16, 2002  (Winton, Australia)

March 13, 2002  (Alice Springs, Australia)

March 11, 2002  (Ayers Rock, Australia)

March 8, 2002  (Coober Pedy, Australia)

March 5, 2002  (Port Augusta, Australia)

March 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Robe, Australia)

March 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Robe, Australia)

February 18, 2002  (Bega, Australia)

February 7, 2002  (Auckland, New Zealand)

February 2, 2002 -- Part 2  (Taupo, New Zealand)

February 2, 2002 -- Part 1  (Taupo, New Zealand)

January 25, 2002  (Hokitika, New Zealand)

January 20, 2002  (Geraldine, New Zealand)

January 16, 2002  (Te Anau, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002 -- Part 2  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002 -- Part 1  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)  

December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bellingham, Washington)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bellingham, Washington)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 3  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

August 18, 2001  (Watertown South Dakota)

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)