01 Aug Up the Volcano and Into the Night
For the entirety of my internship, Mount Lassen has loomed over the park and as well as nearby cities like Redding and Chico. Along all my hikes, whether across the park, or right next to the peak’s trailhead, Mt. Lassen 10,457 foot stature has always managed to peek into my field of view and greet me. The Vulcan’s Eye is settled atop the volcano’s south face, making it a notable characteristic when viewing the mountain from afar. When close, one can see the people scaling Lassen like a line of ants. After 8 weeks of experiencing the volcano through taking its photographs, I finally took on the challenge of hiking its 2.5 mile uphill, switch-backed trail. Starting the trek at 7pm, my roommate and I were determined to beat the sunset at the peak. Starting at the parking lot, Lassen looks like an intimidating 2,000ft climb, but having seen small children go up the trail, it’s definitely a doable one. The first 400 feet had my blood pumping, and soon I was able to enjoy the relatively level trail. We had already gained plenty of elevation and our eyes were at level with many other mountains in the park. After 20 minutes, I was falling behind my roommate who carried on so as not to tarnish his steady pace. 25 minutes, I listened to music and continued trudging through the switchbacks. 15 minutes later, 1000ft was reached and the views were already breathtaking: disparaged snowfields were scattered below us and the setting sun was making its last-ditch efforts to shed its ailing rays across the park. Minute 50 had my lungs begging for oxygen as the air thinned with elevation. The trail went from fairly level to steep and flooded with chaotic volcanic rock. I was at level with the famous Vulcan’s Eye and took a brief water break to ease my laboring lungs. 1 hour into the climb and I was 1500 feet up the volcano. Surprisingly, at this elevation there was plenty of cell phone service so I gave my friend a call to distracting me from the increasingly-rigorous hike. 15 minutes later, I reached my roommate, who was waiting for me so that we could walk to the peak together. I looked back – even the tallest of mountains in the park were far below us and the sun, now a brilliant red, was giving its last hoorah for the day. We sat on top of the peak, enjoying the views and the harsh winds that were cooling us off. The sky darkened, and the stars were revealed to the park. Bright satellites moseyed across the sky and the Big Dipper and Orion dominated the north. Every here and then, a star would shoot across the sky and would be gone like a short gasp of air. At 9:30, the moon was nowhere to be found, allowing the Milky Way to be visible to the naked eye. Living in the city all my life, I had never seen a sky this crowded with stars, much less have seen the Milky Way, which I never thought was possible to see prior to coming to Lassen. Words cannot come close to fully describing the amazing experience I had that night; I can only recommend my audience that they experience a completely dark sky for themselves. I promise you, it’s worth it.