change of plans.

I went to Lassen National Volcanic Park yesterday. I didn't call ahead; I didn't do much reading. I wanted primarily to get out of town, figuring if Lassen didn't work out, surely I could camp somewhere. I got lucky in a few ways: not only were there campsites, but it turns out they just opened the road through the park on Thursday. This is not a scheduled event: last year they apparently had so much snow that the road didn't open until July. I didn't take pictures of their snowblowers, but they're five or six feet high, mounted on Caterpillar front-end loaders, and possessed of their own diesel engines. I had originally planned to stay until tomorrow...

First I got a splitting headache. I attribute this to my sinuses exploding at the higher altitudes of the campsites (5000-6000 feet). I took my time treating this with decongestants, figuring it was too much driving in sunlight without sunglasses. I got my tent pitched, I heated up a can of chili for dinner.

One of the things I missed in my lack of research: it's still wintery up there. The ambient nighttime temperature Saturday hovered in the low 30s. Now, whatever my ghetto surplus-store sleeping bag claims to be rated for, I now know that it's only useful to about 50F, below which no amount of warm clothing will help you. So I slept until midnight, woke up for a few hours, slept another 45 minutes, got the occasional nap before all the heat leeched out of my body again. I decided during the night that I would go home today, stopping to see all the stuff in the park, then be back in my nice house and I could spend tomorrow relaxing and making jewelry. I woke up, cooked a couple of eggs, and actually got my tent to fit into its stuffsack.

I started driving out through the park the long way, stopping at the Sulphur Works and Bumpass (BUM-pəs) Hell, and I thought I'd see if the Lassen Peak summit trail was open. It looks interesting on the map: 2000 vertical feet in 2 miles or less. (If you're not clear what that means, that's really pretty steep.) The Marin County Search & Rescue team, out backcountry skiing for the weekend, said it was climbable without gear, and something in me decided I was going to the top. So I went, with maybe a 20-pound duffel bag of cameras and clothing, and my ordinary Merrell sneakers. It was an adventure, and an exercise in pacing myself, and pushing to keep going for no particular reason...I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that my ability to focus and push my limits extends outside the aikido dojo. It does, and I reached the top, including the upper summit, which involved some fun bouldering on sharp volcanic rocks. I managed to keep my breathing steady and rhythmic, but along with everyone else, I coughed for a few hours afterward, due to the altitude (about 10,500 feet at the top).

At any rate, I took some nice pictures.

I decided I wasn't really interested in walking down, and since my socks were already wet and my shoes pretty damp, I just slid as much of the way down as I could, knowing that the sooner I got down the sooner I could get into dry clothes.

I had a good time, and now I get to be home and spend tomorrow nursing my sunburn and making jewelry.