Really nice campground with shady trees and plenty of space.
What a perfect way to round out a glorious summer of mountains and geothermal activity! The four travel days in a row were well worth this three night stop. And one of the benefits of being back in California is that it was hot enough to be able to enjoy cooking outside. I say ‘hot enough,’ but we actually really lucked out by being six thousand feet up. The rest of the area experienced a major heat wave, seeing temperatures in the 100-113º range any place lower than around five thousand. We not only didn’t feel it too bad, but actually got caught in some chilly rain. Camping Level: Expert.
Speaking of being back in California – we forgot about the agricultural checkpoints until we were crossing the border. It was then we remembered we had just gone produce shopping the day before. For a while it looked like we were going to sneak through with no checkpoints in that remote area. But California takes its fruit super seriously, and there is one located 35 miles south of the border where an inspection officer is happily enjoying a full bag of mandarins right now. Camping Level: Fail. We stopped shortly afterwards at a little market in Alturas that just so happens to sell all of the produce that typically gets confiscated. That’s a scheme right there. The produce cartel are making a bundle.
Every descent came with temperatures rising at least ten degrees.
Leaving Oregon Outback, the terrain changed immediately from flat and dry to rolling and shrubby. We were watching the elevation closely, as well as the temperature, because Richard was wanting to get in a bike ride. Plan A was to hop out 20-30 miles before the campground and meet me there. But the 105-107º temps and “Extreme Heat Warning” alerts made that seem like less of a fun idea. Instead, he waited until we got all the way up the the park. At that point it was at least under 100º and falling with the approaching dusk. He rode up the park road for a couple hours while I lounged and prepped for dinner.
The badass blue grill finally gets its chance to shine!
Even though there were some bear warnings, they were half hearted at best, leaving me unimpressed and unconcerned with having cooking equipment left out. The scariest thing reported in this area, besides the Dixie Fire of 2021, was the brutal River Otter attack that left some poor boater with scars and, I imagine, mixed feelings.
As for the fire, the devastation is immense. I know we have heard lots of sources lecturing about the necessity of wildfires in healthy forests, and we attended a ranger talk where we were encouraged to look for the positive signs of regrowth and rejuvenation on the forest floors. But it is very hard to look past so many charred standing dead trees over such an expansive horizon. From the National Park Service literature, 69% of the park was impacted, and that was significantly less than what was experienced outside the park. We did not venture over to the Lake Almanor area, nor the southeastern regions of Lassen, but I’m sure it looks solidly burnt.
Look for the new growth… Life finds a way… Circle of Life… repeat.
But the Manzanita Lake side looked almost unfazed. In fact, the roads throughout the park have been completely repaved and were a pleasure to ride and drive. The campground structures were all untouched and only the malfunctioning chocolate soft serve ice cream maker showed any signs of distress. Nevertheless, I am still all bent out of shape that only the chocolate side was not working. I call BS and suspect someone forgot to restock and simply claimed “malfunction” to avoid customer wrath.
Very specific rain: only coming down on bikies and WLBs.
We got to enjoy two full days in the park, albeit without chocolate soft serve. We commenced with Plan A on Friday, which involved me driving Richard all the way through the park, dropping him at the Visitor Center, and letting him ride his ass back thirty miles. My plan was to return to the campground and spend the rest of the day on the lake. Good plan. Weather had other ideas. He got as far as the summit and got genuinely rained on. This was rain in excess of what I would deem a Whiny Little Bitch drizzle. We quickly executed a Plan B and went hiking in Bumpass Hell, where the cooler temps would work in our favor.
Sure. Extreme Heat. But I’m gonna need a jacket.
We were putting on rain jackets as simultaneous Extreme Heat alerts buzzed on our phones. In fact, we had hardly walked any distance before the clouds passed overhead and it was time to take jackets right back off again. It was perfect weather for hiking around a thermal basin.
Really gorgeous, sulfur rich, valley.
We came prepared to be thermosnobs, having seen the most impressive super massive volcano basin in North America. But actually, this more compact valley has all kinds of fun sights and smells, and certainly does not suffer from an overabundance of crowds. The forest floor was alive with blooming Lupin and baby Manzanita regrowth. We even saw a little deer family meandering in the grassy area beyond the fumaroles. This was our second time visiting Bumpass Hell, so named for the unfortunate Mr. Bumpass, who stepped where he shouldn’t, as opposed to any anatomical innuendo.
Pretty sweet sight
We were able to fully execute Plan A the following day. That made it a total of two complete out and back trips along the park road for both of us. I took advantage of the Visitor Center wifi this time, while Richard got a good long head start. We arrived back at the campground about the same time and he was able to help me get my boat in the water. Temperatures were balmy but not miserable, so a float in a nice chill lake with a spectacular view could not be beat. Manzanita Lake is the perfect size for a couple of hours and was filled with jumping fish and iridescent blue dragonflies.
Water lilies (or something like them) and dragonflies
For our final fun dinner, we had French Toast on the grill griddle and it was perfect. Reminder to me: lowest heat setting and three minutes per side. Start the eggs going on the saute pan at the same time as the toast. YUM. Further note: it is fun to have tiny stolen butters.
Stolen butter and Maple Shots. OMG
Wonderful end to a wonderful summer. We have another stop before home, but that’s just dragging things out another day. This was the fireworks finale and it could not have been any better. Except the chocolate soft serve.
Total miles from Oregon Outback RV: 196.2, 19.2 mpg, 5 hours 14 min. Site B18, no hookups. Some solar. NO cell service (can go to point of interest #14, Chaos Crags, for good cell, or go to Visitor Center at the south entrance for wifi). Water spigots in loop. Good dump with potable water.