Today was just one of the BEST days. We woke in our snug cabin, pleased that Elisa and Eli had also been able to share a warm night.
We watched the early morning reflections on the lake over a cup of coffee and then set off in sunshine and the bluest of blue skies, which stayed cloudless for the entire day. Elisa and Eli got up and went to rejoin their group – much warner than if they had camped!
We were straight into UP as we had a 3000ft climb up to Lassen Summit. At 8500ft the road passes only 2000ft below the summit of the last volcano we will see on the Cascades chain. We were both feeling good and the climb took us up through fabulous scenery as the road wound around 3 sides of the mountain.
The early views of the snow covered northern slopes were just beautiful. We passed the “Devastated Area’ – an area of dead burned out trees following the last eruption on 1916 – then wonderful views unfolded as we rode higher and higher. The vegetation gradually changed to a distinctly alpine feel and we crossed meadows with pretty creeks and twisted around haripin bends. Above 7000ft the air definitely felt thinner as our lungs sucked in what oxygen they could as we neared the summit. Reaching the top was just an amazing feeling as we celebrated with silly photos (which do not appear to have come out)!
Over the summit took us to a new set of views and after a drop of a few miles we reached the very pretty Lake Helen, a real high mountain lake, where we had lunch and then set off on the trail to Bumpass Hell. This 3 mile round trip took us to an active geothermal area, discovered by Mr Bumpass, who unfortunately stepped through a thin crust into boiling mud and lost his leg, ending his hopes of making his fortune.
The trail contoured around giving views across to a ‘collapsed’ mountain and a sneak preview of the road we would be descending down. The trail then turned down to an area where stream was billowing and the sulphur smells ascended! The area, which was described as being like a mini yellowstone but packed into a small area, was full of steam holes, boiling mud holes and boiling lakes, We walked around it on board walks, which following the experience of poor Mr Bumpass, we were urged at regular intervals not to be stupid enough to move off the walkway.
With boiling mud and water and steam holes only a few feet away, we were not tempted! It was an amazing sight and well worth relinquishing our bikes for walking for a couple of hours.
The descent proper then began and was great fun, virtually no traffic and good road surface and late evening sun. Because we had lingered long and deservedly in the beautiful Lassen State Park it was clear that we would not reach Chester in good time so we stopped at Child’s Meadow resort, which offered camping, cabins and motel rooms. As we were still at 5000ft and the skies were still very clear and the forecast to be very cold overnight again we took the soft option of a motel room with comfortable bed, oddles of hot water and a heater.
We enjoyed sitting in the last of the evening sun, cooking our meal outside on our camping stove and sipping beer at the end of a really brilliant day.