For someone who is generally pretty organized, I seem to have chosen a highly inefficient route through Northern California. We started up north at Burney, then travelled south through Lassen and to Plumas Eureka, and now we are backtracking the same path, northwards up to Almanor, and next to McCloud. Surprisingly, the inefficiency and repeat route driving is not bothering me, probably because it is very, very pretty up here.
After almost two weeks with no hookups, the North Shore Campground at Lake Almanor was a huge treat. Our site was a waterfront spot with hookups. The only trick was that it was situated in a fully backwards orientation. Like, if we’d just backed in and left it, our door and porch area would be facing our neighbors, rather than the lake. Caravan Mover to the rescue, drawing a crowd and many questions from onlookers as we did a 180. One needs to be careful when doing this since the electric and water sources might end up being too far away, but everything reached.
We got a good view of the lake as we approached the north west corner, near the town of Chester. It was also nice to have some cell service in the campground. It wasn’t great, but enough to get texts and let us know if there were any problems on the homefront. Not enough to upload pictures, sadly. We even tried to use the wifi at a local pizza joint, but it didn’t allow uploading either.
Richard got in a full day’s ride around the lake and I drove it, catching up with him in places. It’s around 37 miles but not too hilly to get around. There are fantastic views of Mt. Lassen on the horizon from all around the lake. The area is described as a “poor person’s Tahoe.” Overall, we came away with a much better impression of the place in comparison, mainly due to the fact that you are not suffocating in a nonstop traffic jam. There might not be as many cutesy little markets or restaurants, but we were quite content. I don’t think we’re high end people.
On another day, Richard headed up Warner Valley Road. This is a woodsy ride that will ultimately take you to a three mile gravel section that enters Lassen National Park from the south. It only recently opened for the season, but the roads were in good condition, albeit a bit lumpy in the paved parts. I picked him up and we drove the last few miles until we came to a staging area. There we hit the out and back trail to Boiling Lake. What a beautiful trail that is! The first bit takes you near a river and parts of it are boardwalked, to keep you above the slushy meadow floor. Then you cut uphill, but not too steep, to get to the lake. Along the way, Richard spied a big ball of brown fluff, silently foraging in the trees. He sort of whisper yelled, “SWEETIE” to get me to halt. Halt I did. Froze. Then slowly backstepped. Yeah, this was for sure a very young bear, which meant mama had to be close at hand somewhere. There was another group on the trail and we sort of clustered with them, loud talking so as to make our presence very well known. I snapped a few long distance blurry pictures as the potentially lethal ball of fluff bumbled its way over a large fallen tree and disappeared. It was simultaneously adorable and terrifying. We waited a good long time before proceeding, and we continued talking nonsense to each other as we went. I’m frankly impressed with our ability to continuously babble while hiking.
After about a half mile of intense scanning and slow walking, we came to one of the weirdest natural phenomena I have ever seen. We’d missed out on all of the thermal attractions at Lassen because of the snow, so it was seriously cool to be able to see this one. You could smell the sulphur as you approach the lake, and once you’re close enough, you can hear the glub glub of boiling mud pots. At the far end of the lake, steam rises up, marking the place where the highest heat energy seems to be concentrated. The entire lake can be seen slow boiling, making the weirdly colored milky green water look like a huge soup pot full of melted opals. The ground around it also had a brightly colored, rusty hue. It was a fascinating little geological anomaly, right in the middle of your typical pine forest. Needless to say, we continued the scanning and talking as we hiked back to the car. No more bear sightings, which was both a relief and a disappointment.
I was able to get in some nice boating on the lake, launching right across from our site. What I discovered was that there are two modes for this lake: super windy, or immersed in a thick fog of tiny flying insects whose only goal in life is to land on boaters and die. After experiencing the windy version, I tried again near sunset thinking the swarming clouds had to stop once you got past shore a bit. I’ll just say, if they do, I was not courageous enough to find the outer rim before I kind of started freaking out. They were not biting (I kept telling myself), but after you are covered in a certain number of bugs and/or bug carcasses, it gets unnerving. I don’t know what specifically that number is, but I surpassed it and paddled back to shore as quickly as possible. Before packing the boat away the next day, I took a brush broom to the whole thing and even that was mildly upsetting.
We stayed a total of three nights and it was great to really charge up all the stuff. When you’re “camping” with an espresso machine battery, projector battery, speakers, iPhones, and all the rest, occasional hookups are awesome. Yes, we can top up with the generator, but that’s just for a couple hours a day, at most. To really recharge, nothing beats a couple days of juice.
Onward and northward. This was a great stop! We kind of checked out all the campgrounds around the lake and this looked like a really good one. Some are more woodsy, but not as close to the lake. Some looked like more typical RV places, with sites crammed together, but right next to the water. This was a nice mix and our site was perfect. Great jump off point for biking, boating, and hiking. I’d come back again.
Total miles from Plumas Eureka: 76.2, 17.6 mpg, 2 hours 15 min. Site 103. Electric and water on site, but orientation backwards. Campground is crowded on the weekend with tons to do for kids. Dump and laundry on site. No wifi but cell service for both, ranging 3g to LTE, but slow.