A Little Heaven, A Little Hell

Last weekend, the Beloved had a business trip to the way north of California and we decided to make a long weekend of it and see a little more of the Golden State. Her business was up in Eureka, but we’d spent some time exploring there a few years ago and opted to make a trip about four hours east to the area around Mt. Shasta.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

Our base was the tiny town of McCloud, which was essentially right under Mt. Shasta and could have doubled for the town that Linda Hamilton was the mayor of in Dante’s Peak. Fortunately for us Shasta didn’t erupt while we were there and we did not need Pierce Brosnan to save us.

Mt Shasta

Mt Shasta

After a hearty breakfast, we set out for McArthur Burney Falls State Park, which was about an hour outside of McCloud and on our way to Lassen. It was suggested to us as a stop by a couple of the Beloved’s colleagues. Near as we could figure it, we were pretty much the only people there — and were treated to one of the most spectacular waterfalls that you’d ever hope to see.

McArthur Burney Falls

McArthur Burney Falls

Sunlight and Falls

Sunlight and Falls

Happy!

Happy!

There was a mile-long trail that went down to the falls, crossed the stream a little downriver, switch-backed up the other side and crossed back again above the falls.

A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It

Golden

Golden

I suppose there are more beautiful places in California, but on last Saturday morning? I doubt it.

After tearing ourselves away from the Falls, we headed south to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen is one of the most least-visited Parks in the system, getting about 10% of the number of visitors that the “big parks” get, including its geothermal cousin, Yellowstone.

Lassen North Face

Lassen North Face

Lassen is dominated by the the volcano that gives the park its name. In 1914, it became the Mt. St Helens of its day, exploding out its north face. The remnants of that eruption are still visible a century later in a landscape strewn with volcanic rocks. We stopped at great ranger station and picked up a lot of the history of the eruption and the park.

Lava Rock Jumble

Lava Rock Jumble

Pretty Nice Day

Pretty Nice Day

The road through the park winds up and around the volcano. The trail to the summit was closed for maintenance, so we chose to go on a hike that was about 3 miles each way to a thermal spring called Bumpass Hell. It’s named for a man (Bumpass) that guided people to the area in the 19th century that lost his leg during one trip in which the thin mantle he was standing on collapsed and he fell into a bubbling mud-pit.

Whoops

Whoops

Otherworldly

Otherworldly

Boiling

Boiling

The area seems like another planet. Or maybe it’s a backward glimpse at primordial times. The rotten-egg reek of hydrogen sulfide is thick in the air. Steam pours in great gouts from fumaroles in the ground. Pockets of elemental sulfur dot the ground. Mud pits burble and small ponds boil, their waters tinged green with metal salts. It is awful. And it is awesome.

Primordial

Primordial

Metallic

Metallic

And as an added bonus, I didn’t poison myself.

We wound our way through the park stopping at a few other places for views or geothermal oddities. As we made our way back, I kept thinking how few people were here enjoying these wonders on a beautiful Autumn day — and I want to tell folks “Go here!”, but maybe we’ll just keep it to ourselves for a while longer.

21 thoughts on “A Little Heaven, A Little Hell

  1. My sister and brother-in-law went to school at Humboldt State University in Arcata. After they were married, they lived for awhile in McCloud. Now they live in the town of Mt. Shasta. The grousing they make about the winters there made me wonder why they stay, but your photographs do highlight the beauty of the place. (My sister works in the visitor’s center at Burney Falls, by the way. Maybe you ran into her. :-/ ) It’s been a long while since I’ve been there, and I completely missed Bumpass Hell by Mount Lassen. Who knew we had a bit of Yellowstone here in the state?

    I’m glad you didn’t suffer from volcanic gas poisoning this time. I’ve heard of climbers suffering from it, but since Mount Saint Helens has made me a volcanophobe, I don’t think I’ll ever get close enough to experience the effects. :-o

    • HG — who knew you had so many connections to the Lassen-Shasta-Trinity area!?!? We didn’t run into any park staff — and the visitors’ center was closed for the season. It’s last weekend “on” was the one before.

      I wholly endorse a trip there when you get a chance — I mean, what are the chances of an eruption?!?!?

  2. Holy crap Steve, that is seriously amazing. I love the Golden photograph, how the trees frame the picture. The waterfall is magical! See any gnomes or fairies down there? :)

    Great primordial clay soup! I would love to visit that park. Strangely enough it looks a bit like Central Mass. We have a rift valley that has some columnar basalt.

  3. I usually dislike travel posts, since I end up being insanely jealous of the writer for having gone somewhere and then rubbed salt in my sedentary wounds by writing about it. I managed to push aside my petty feelings and enjoy your post. Thanks for the road trip.

  4. I *love* NorCal but I haven’t been these places. I think that you’d have to move there and venture out every weekend and other break to see everything. So lovely!

  5. Great pics Steve. The comparison to St. Helens is natural, but the picture of the north face (excellent shot BTW) conjures the Central Oregon Cascades. Mt. Bachelor and Bend. Did you know, that area you were in once dabbled in breaking away from California and forming the 51st state? They were going to call it Jefferson.

  6. Pingback: Sasquatchin’ | Stevil

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