So I left off last time after breakfast on day two. This would definitely be our most strenuous day: 17 miles of hiking at elevation, the first ten with our packs, and the last seven slogging through six-inch deep cinder.
Luckily, it was also the most spectacular, view-wise.
The day’s hike took us up 1500 ft and past seven gorgeous lakes (like the one in the second picture) before we descended to our final destination, Snag Lake. This lake was pretty wacky, because on three of its sides, it looked just like any other lake, but the north end of the lake … wasn’t there. Instead, a monumental 30 ft high wall of volcanic debris had settled right up to the lake, like a giant glacier. You can see it in the last two pictures here. We dropped our packs and set up camp and headed up north, following the volcanic wall to its source.
The going was surprisingly difficult, as the cinder was so deep that even the slightest incline was rendered tedious. Luckily, the delicious vanilla aroma of ponderosa pines kept us refreshed (Kamin especially!). Check out the amazing skeletonized tree in that last picture. We skirted the south edge of the debris wall and followed its western edge for nearly two miles, until we finally found…
… ourselves on the moon. Great sweeps of cinder, and at the end of it, a thousand foot-high cinder cone volcano. The area was so still that we saw several trees that had disintegrated in place, like the one in the third picture here. The various lava bombs that littered the area only reinforced the feeling that we were on the moon.
A short climb brought us to the painted dunes. They were deathly still and very peaceful, and the shadows caused by the dunes and shrubs as the sun set were beautiful. In the fourth picture, you can see Mount Lassen in the distance. On the way down, I took more pictures of the lava bombs as the setting sun lengthened their shadows. Imagine those things raining down on you! In the last picture, Naveen and I are sporting our classic camping wear: my orange windbreaker and black Fogdog hat, and Naveen’s red fleece. I think if I lose either of those items, I might have to give up camping…
We made our way back to camp at the south end of the lake. By this time, the sun had set, and we saw some pretty cool driftwood deposits. The actual view in the second picture here was incredible — straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, perverse yet beautiful — but I jiggled the camera and blurred the shot! Doh. That night several deer walked right by our campsite on their way to the lake, but I didn’t take any pictures of them. Luckily we saw several more on the trail the next day, after a very restful sleep. We walked back past the seven lakes; in the picture, Naveen and Kamin are using a water filter to refill our Nalgenes from one of them. Finally, we got a last glimpse of Mount Lassen.
Tired after three days of hiking, we gratefully collapsed in Ben’s car. On our way out of the park, we came across a lake with a huge beaver damn. It was weird being eye-level with the water and still dry! The drive back to Berkeley took about four hours; we stopped on the way at the Redding FoodMaxx (?), one of the cheapest grocery stores I’ve ever seen. I fell in love immediately. We pigged out on fresh fruits and ice cream. As we neared Berkeley, we were greeted with a classic Bay Area sunset. What a welcome sight!