Lassen NP day hikes (August 26/27)

Posted on September 18, 2016 by Chris Lumens in , , , .

After our backpacking trip, we spent the next five days doing much easier day hikes in and around Lassen NP. Sometimes all four of us went, and sometimes it was just one or two people. We saw a variety of things - waterfalls, summits, thermal features, and lava tubes. This post describes the last three full days we spent in the area.

As a reminder, all posts related to this trip can be read on the Lassen tag page.

Hat Mountain (August 26)

The backpacking GPS track will be helpful for this post again. I was in the exact same area.

Sarah, Lon, and Linda all wanted to give Shasta Caverns another try but I wasn’t all that interested. I wanted to get back into the park and do another SOTA activation, both to get some more points and to do a first activation that I’d been denied while backpacking. The map showed that the easiest unactivated peak to get to was Hat Mountain, basically right behind the Summit Lake campground where we’d started our backpacking trip.

I set off mid-morning by myself to do this activation. I didn’t take any pictures because I gave Sarah the camera for her (definitely more scenic trip to the caverns. By now I was really good at the drive to the park so that didn’t take any time at all. I drove straight back to the Summit Lake ranger station and parked near where I had on Sunday. I got my stuff together and headed off down the same trail.

This time, however, I turned left towards Echo Lake instead of going straight around Summit Lake. I avoided another chance at being confused by the campground as well as a chance to see the fire damage. The trail climbed pretty consistently steep away from the lake. I don’t know that this would have been very fun our first day backpacking. Soon, however, the trail leveled out and views back to Lassen and the Devastated Area opened up. I enjoyed the excuse to stop and catch my breath a couple times.

At the next junction, I turned left towards the Cluster Lakes. This was a nice open stretch of woods. There was no one around, either, which made it more interesting. In fact I only saw people at the beginning and ending of this hike. After maybe another half mile, I started looking for where to start my bushwhack. I knew I didn’t want to go as far as the little unnamed lake, so right where I thought the trail would climb again I jumped off. Really, anywhere along here would have been fine. The woods were all pretty open.

I cruised across the flat part, making sure to make a lot of noise in case there were any bears around. I then got to the steep part. I tried to stay just north of the steep drop off, aiming for the southern part of the rim. Whenever the brush threatened to get thick, I just skipped around it to the north. It was a simple bushwhack, but the week was catching up with me so I knew this would be the last real hike for the trip.

At the top, I found a cleared spot in the undergrowth. It was obvious people came here sometimes. It was also obvious that bears would like this spot, so I kept looking around and made sure to make a lot of noise. The activation was pretty slow and boring. I made just five contacts in a little under an hour, including a bunch with another National Parks on the Air activation happening at the Summit Lake campground.

As soon as that fifth contact was done, I packed up and headed out in a hurry. I was a little creeped out by standing around by myself in the brush. I followed a slightly different line on the way back, trying to follow the contours around the flat spot to hit the trail south of where I’d left it. That kind of worked. It probably made little difference. The rest of the hike out was uneventful.

Back at Summit Lake, I found the site the NPOTA activation was happening from and hung out with those guys for an hour or two. They were having a pretty tough time due to poor propagation but were interesting to talk to. It turns out one of the guys was big into SOTA as well and was surprised to hear me calling from Hat Mountain, as that had been one he was looking to activate too. It’s a good thing I went when I did.

Whiskeytown NRA (August 27)

The next day, Sarah and I went to Whiskeytown NRA which is just west of Reading. There’s not much to say about going here. The centerpiece of the area is a big lake, with some trails and mountain bike paths going up into the hills. There’s also some historical remnants from before the lake was made. It seemed like it would be a nice spot if you lived in Reading but wasn’t very exciting for us. It was at least an excuse to get another stamp in our national parks passports.

One thing we did was hike to a waterfall which would have been a lot nicer if it weren’t so busy. It was a hike of maybe a quarter mile down a gravel road, and the area around the waterfall was just full of people. I managed to get one picture that looks like it was very serene, though.

Aside from that and a brief stop looking at an old house, this was basically just a driving tour for us. We left in the early afternoon and went back to Reading for a late lunch. Then because we didn’t have any more plans for the day, we decided to drive all the way back to halfway between the park and Burney Falls to check out something in the national forest called the Subway Cave.

Subway Cave (August 27)

The Subway Cave is a lava tube - lava begins flowing from somewhere (and everything around here is volcanic) down a river bed or whatever, begins to cool and crust over on top forming a tube, and the lava inside stays hot and liquid. Eventually all that lava on the inside flows out somewhere leaving a hollow tube behind. The result is basically a cave system. It had been on my list of things to see while we were here and while it wasn’t quite worth a completely separate drive, we didn’t have anything else going on.

We parked at the forest service lot and started up the little trail to the entrance, which was down a staircase and into a big hole in the ground. Like I said, it was basically a cave system.

We had headlamps on, which was necessary because once you got away from the entrance and walked around a few corners, it was completely dark. The sides of the cave were curved just like you would expect from a subway system. The walls were very textured from all the lava that had cooled. It was also much cooler inside. A sweater or long sleeved shirt wouldn’t have been overboard but I didn’t have anything like that with me. I’d brought the flash for my camera to get some good pictures but most of them didn’t turn out very well.

We saw a bunch more people in the cave including one guy with lots of camera gear who was probably getting some good pictures (if all the headlamps going by weren’t interfering). After maybe a quarter mile, we got to the other end where we climbed another staircase back to the bright, hot surface. We then took a surface trail back to the parking lot and headed back to Reading. I made sure to tell Lon and Linda to check it out on their way back to the airport in Reno.