Climbing Mt Lassen
On the first day of the Cascade Expedition, I pack all of my climbing gear and backpacking gear into my rental car (a compact Chevy Cobalt), hit the road at 6am, and pick up my friend Geoff who will be camping with me for half the trip. Today we make the long haul down I-5 to California. My goal is to start at the southern most Cascade Volcano, Mt Lassen, and head north, visiting and climbing many of the volcanos from here to Three Sisters in a week.
After at least eight or nine hours of driving, we finally reach Lassen Volcanic National Park, just east of Redding, California. Mt Lassen, at 10,000 feet, is the showcase mountain of the park. We wind our way up to the trailhead parking lot at 8000 feet. There is a well groomed and highly used trail leading to the summit, and even a cafe at the trailhead, which serves expressos and burritos. It's the perfect way for tourists to experience the thrill of making summit on a large mountain in a controlled and safe environment. I fill a bottle of water and we hit the trail, embarking on the 2.5 mile hike climbing 2000 feet to the summit.
Along the way, we pass families, little kids, older retired folks, a couple of runners, and some couch potatoes going for the hike of a lifetime. It's pretty cool to see so many different types of people setting out to climb this roadside attraction. Geoff and I make good time, stopping to shoot lots of pictures, and reach the summit in about 90 minutes or so. There is a fun little rock scramble to get to the true summit, and we spend some time up there soaking up the views. To the north, Mt Shasta is stoically poised, reminding us of where we will be this time tomorrow. The descent is uneventful and the cafe is closed when we get back to the parking lot. No burritos for us. Afterwards, Geoff takes a swim in Lake Helen below the parking lot, and then we find a place to camp for the night.
Mt Lassen is a beautiful park and I'm glad I came here to "climb" this volcano. I think this place can be many things to many people. For me it was a nice way to stretch my legs after an eight hour drive and scope out the weather conditions on Shasta and the surrounding area for tomorrow's climb. For others it is the perfect place to climb their first volcano in a pair of sneakers, stand on top of a 10,000 foot mountain, experience the panoramic vistas and the thrill of high altitude hiking, and even see some snow in August.