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Mt. Lassen '09

44.42 mi; +6,395' elevation
Lassen Volcanic National Park
July 9-11, 2009
Dave Sholer, Jared Atkins

July 9, 2009:  19.59 mi; +2,058' elevation
We left Woodland, CA around 5:00am and drove north to Lassen Volcanic National Park. We arrived at the Summit Lake Ranger Station/Trailhead parking lot just before 9am and began hiking almost immediately. We hiked south of Summit Lake towards Corral Meadow. The trail is mostly well-maintained with at least one mid-sized creek crossing required. We found it odd that there were a couple of sections of boardwalk through soggy meadows, yet no bridge over a reasonably-sized creek. We met up with the Pacific Crest Trail and followed it east before heading off to Horseshoe Lake, which is large and peaceful. We took a 20 minute break at the far edge of Horseshoe Lake before continuing on, sometime around 12:30pm. We made dinner off to the side of the trail at around 4pm, enjoying about 45 minutes of the nice afternoon before continuing on toward Widow Lake. We arrived at Widow Lake at just before 6pm, hoping there might be an outlet to the lake for filtering water. Dissatisfied with the swampy water at the edges of the lake, and disinterested in acknowledging the mosquitos, we continued past the lake toward a spring, fully expecting it to either not exist or to be dried up. After another 30-45 minutes we found a place to camp and set up our GoLite Cave2 in a soft patch of sand, probably a half mile shy of Butte Lake.
 July 10, 2009:  16.79 mi; +1,703' elevation
We woke up around 7am to a chilly morning. As we hiked toward Butte Lake, enjoying the first of our daily bar ration, we encountered the noises of chainsaws and lumberjacks. There was, in fact, a trail crew cutting downed trees just north of our camp. After less than an hour's hike, we arrived at an established drive-in campground on the northern shore of Butte Lake. We enjoyed saving time by filling up water at a faucet there. We tried washing our socks as a precursor to what would be necessary on the approaching JMT trip. After staying almost 45-minutes, we continued on toward the Cinder Cone. The cone, made entirely of gravel-like volcanic rocks was bigger than imagined from the topographical map. It seemed most out of place on it's own, but not when compared to its similarly-odd neighbors: The Painted Dunes, which display deep, shimmering purples; and The Fantastic Lava Beds, miles of steep piles of larger lava rocks, laid neatly to the east of the dunes. We hiked up the steep, but mostly loose-grounded, cinder cone, circled around the windy rim's trail, and headed back down the same way, not finding the supposed trail on the south side as planned. The ground for the next several miles continued to be loose lava rock, which we appreciated to part from when we reached the more tranquil and lush green meadows that we found beyond. We took the longer route this day to get a better idea of the park. We got to Badger Flat around 1pm and realized we were too far ahead of schedule. We took about an hour to rest in the meadow, sporting a beautiful view of Lassen. We had planned to stay the night in the Cluster Lakes area, but decided to hike farther, only stopping near the lakes for a short dinner break. We also used the opportunity to dry the well-wetted tarp from the previous night's dew/frost. We found a place to camp just off the trail, past Upper Twin Lake, getting to sleep just after sunset.

July 11, 2009:  8.04 mi; +2,634' elevation
We ended up waking up to the direct sunlight of the sunrise, shining perfectly through the end of the tarp nearest our feet. The night was much warmer and dryer than the night previous, making it easier to get up and break camp, which still took too long--45 minutes. We hiked the 3.55 miles back to the Summit Lake Ranger Station where we had parked and drove to the Mt. Lassen Trail parking lot. We started hiking up to the trail at around 8:45am and reached the summit just after 10am. It was a very windy ascent, with only a couple of section that required trekking through 
an ice field. We found the summit empty, being one of the firsts to have reached it in the morning. After staying on top for about 25 minutes and snapping a couple pictures, we headed back down, encountering the masses, all ascending the same busy slope on this Saturday morning. We were surprised by a few of the upward hikers, including one probably 18-year-old girl hiking in the very windy day in a short, white dress. Her parents and brother seemed almost oblivious to the oddity of the attire given the environment, but even less-so to the incredible wind forces that counteracted the gravity that she had certainly anticipated having on her side. We both looked at each other, confused and slightly embarrassed for her. There were many Europeans hiking up that day, so we decided the strange fashion probably had something to do with that. We got back down in about 45 minutes, having to stop frequently for the upward-traveling mob. We were, however, grateful to have enjoyed the summit in solitude. At the bottom, we hopped in the car and drove back home.