After discovering our Zipcar had a dead battery and waiting for someone to come pop the lock and “boost” it, Stephanie and I drove up to Healdsburg (along with everyone else in northern California) to pick up Jean-Claude and Sabine and head north to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Getting from Healdsburg to I-5 is not exactly a straightforward endeavor, but from there it was pretty much a straight shot up to Red Bluff, where we exited onto CA-36 towards Chester.
As soon as we arrived at the hotel, I plugged in the crockpot to start heating up the Thanksgiving gumbo we made from scratch the night before. In the meantime we cracked open a bottle of wine and started playing Apples to Apples. The gumbo was good, very hearty, great with the pre-cooked wild rice we’d brought along from Trader Joe’s.
Friday morning we took our time getting up (yay vacation!), bundled up (it’s cold here!), and headed in the direction of Lassen (volcanoes!). Lassen felt practically abandoned. There was no one at the park entrance, and the trailhead/campground parking lot after the entrance was blocked due to construction.
We could only drive on the road through the park up to the Sulphur Works—the road beyond that point had recently been closed for winter, rendering a majority of the sights (including the radly-named Bumpass Hell trail) inaccessible until next summer.
But we did get some neat sights (and smells) of a few steaming and gurgling sulfurous thermal vents. This one in particular sounded like a demonic washing machine, and occasionally burped up some gray goo.
After some indecision about what to do next, we invented a parking spot near the park entrance, and crossed over some “hard hats required” barricades to get to the Southwest trailhead. From there we hiked about 1.6 miles down to Mill Creek Falls, which we caught illuminated in the near perfect mid-afternoon sun.
A perfect spot for lunch, but we didn’t rest long because it got pretty cold when we weren’t moving—the temperature was in the 30s and most of the ground was frozen. And so back out we hiked.
On the drive back to Chester we took a detour to peek at nearby Lake Almanor. Very picturesque at sunset, but very cold and windy in November.