Lassen Volcanic National Park

We are currently driving from Portland to Seattle. Here’s a look back when we were still in California…


Day 9: Lassen Volcanic National Park (8/12)

We took our time leaving Yosemite, making a quick stop at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir region of the park, so we arrived at Lassen after dark (which is starting to be a trend for us). We spent the morning driving the main road through the park, checking out the impressive views and spending some time in the museum, which was excellent. In 1914 and 1915, Lassen Peak erupted multiple times including one particularly huge eruption that exploded the mountaintop and devastated a mile-wide section of the mountainside. B.F. Loomis captured the eruption in photos and, as the first major and documented volcanic eruption in the US, his photos captivated the public and made way for it to become a National Park in 1916. Today, the effects of the eruption are difficult to see because the area has recovered over time, but Lassen Peak is still considered an active volcano and there are many geothermal areas.

Lassen Peak


We really liked this meadow, so we spent a decent amount of time taking photos here, but had quite the experience with Katharine’s brand new camera. Here’s Nathan’s version of the story:

As many photographers know, you sometimes have to risk the camera to position yourself for the perfect shot- whether it’s dangling the camera over a cliff or grabbing a quick shot in the rain, it’s usually worth it. But I often remind Katharine to be careful with her camera, afraid she’ll drop it off a cliff or something. For the photo above there was a nice turnout in the road and many people were taking photos from the left side of the stream. As the other people left the area, Katharine and I wanted to get more of the serpentine creek in the foreground, and to do that, we had to cross the stream (10 feet across and a few feet deep) to a higher view point. We looked and decided the log jam nearby would be the best place to cross.  Katharine enjoys taking landscape photos, so her cameras are outfitted with our widest angle lens, so of course she would be the one risking her dry clothes and dignity by crossing the precarious log jam.  Since she needed her hands free to climb across, we decided it would be better for her to cross, then I throw the camera case with camera over the creek to her.

After a few well placed steps Katharine made it across, then came the first camera toss.  I erred on the side of overshooting Katharine and the creek and landing in the tall meadow grass behind her, which it did and the camera survived no problem.  Katharine took a few photos (including the one above), and then successfully tossed the camera back. She underhanded it to me like a softball, but harder than I thought so I sort of juggled it after it hit my stomach with some force. So the camera survived safe and dry and now it was Katharine’s turn to cross back. I set her camera down to watch, but then I got a photo idea in my head of Katharine crossing the sun bleached wood log jam with the water mirroring her and the meadow and volcano in the background… this was going to be great.

I quickly ran down the side of the creek and crouched down to get the best angle… I adjusted my shutter speed and ISO and sat waiting for her to hit the middle of the natural balance beam. Just as she started to cross I noticed a black bag in my frame –  her camera bag was ruining my shot!  I quickly got up and ran to the bag, and like runner tagging up at first, I grabbed the camera bag while changing directions to run back to my photo spot before Katharine passed the halfway point.  As I turned and shifted my momentum in the other direction my hand with the camera bag whipped around.  The weight of the camera in the bag and my long arms surprised my fingers, and I launched the camera bag into the creek! “Noooo”, I yelled as I slid to the water’s edge watching the bag semi-float in the water.  Katharine looked up from her balancing to see me lunging and grabbing the small camera bag, but with enough speed and force to submerge the bag for a half second. I quickly un zipped the bag pulled out the soaked camera, removed the battery, and began feverishly drying off any water I could see.  Katharine was still standing on the log and was yelling and laughing “what is going on?!”  I tried to explain while I was knelt down on my wet knees with her camera in my hands “I wanted to get a photo of you crossing…and the bag…I threw it…I don’t know!”  Of course trying to explain why I sacrificed her new camera to get a photo of her crossing a log seemed silly now.  My adrenaline was pumping and Katharine was laughing at me “you threw my camera into the water…hahhaha.”  Luckily she could find humor in the situation, but I couldn’t bare to smile about it until I knew it worked again.  After letting it dry for a couple hours, we turned it on and thankfully everything worked!  Now all that is lost is my dignity (as well as the chance to get that picture of Katharine crossing the stream!), and Katharine is able rightfully to remind me every time we are near water “be careful you don’t want to throw your camera in the water!”


After the camera excitement, we did a short hike (3 mi) to Bumpass Hell, one of the most impressive geothermal areas in the park. It was named after Bumpass, a guy who discovered it and hoped to make his fortune from the minerals and tourism, but instead just lost his leg when he broke through the ground crust into boiling water while exploring it.

Looking down on the Bumpass Hell geothermal area


The fumaroles were constantly hissing and spewing hot air.

The yellow sulfur crystals made the area very colorful.

As usual, the thermal areas smelled like rotten eggs from the sulfur.

Since the boardwalk limited your path, there was no escaping when certain fumaroles put out an especially bad burst of hot smelly air. This made for some unpleasant moments.

On the hike to and from the geothermal area, we passed through some nicely wooded areas and a couple meadows with some birds (likely grouse) foraging in the lupine.


After the hike we took it easy, set up our hammock (a gift from Nathan’s parents) and stayed up to watch the Perseids. The meteor shower wasn’t quite as impressive as we hoped (or we just didn’t have enough patience), but we always appreciate the dark skies of the national parks and the opportunity to see the Milky Way.


Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 9
  • Nights in a tent: 8
  • Miles driven: 1054
  • Miles hiked: 47
  • Cameras thrown in the water: 1


  1. Rick’s avatar

    Please post whether or not you saw any trout in all of these shots with water (or private message me if they were big) . Inquiring minds want to know.



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