When we got up this morning the sunrise was a peculiar shade of orange. When we turned on the news we discovered why. Multiple forest fires have broken out all over California, especially in the Napa Valley area. On the news they named counties and towns involved we had never heard of, but we really couldn't tell how close they were to us or where we planned to go. So we crossed our fingers and headed toward Lassen Volcanic National Park, a two hour drive that became much longer when we encountered a forty minute wait for a road repair that reminded us of many such delays we've encountered in Alaska. Nothing to do with the fires.
Mt. Lassen erupted most recently in 1914 and the volcanic activity continued until 1921. Since white men were already living here the eruptions and damage were well documented. Long before we arrived at the park we drove past yellow fields of dried grass dotted with black rocks. The volcanic explosions hurled boulders the size of garages for miles. When we were here last in the 1970's the lava flows were far more evident than they were today. Fir trees and other vegetation have reconquered the lava fields.
Once again we feel lucky to be here at all. Some years this high elevation park is already closed due to snow. One of its famous hiking paths called Bumpass Hell was closed due to snow until August 26. Bumpass Hell is a thermal area named after a poor soul who brought his friends to the thermal area to show them the fumaroles and mud pots. As he walked he broke through the thin crust and scalded his leg. Today on our hike there we benefited from a boardwalk that the park service has built around the thermal area. The sulphurous fumes have deteriorated the wooden boards and the park staff is repairing it. Going there was a tough hike for us. The 9,500' elevation made for thin air and the forest fires had sent fine particulate matter our way. I was wheezing and Ken's nose started running, running, running. And the park service had gotten construction machinery and supplies there somehow. We admit it; we're wimps.
I imagine the fumes from the thermal features were also not helpful. If we recover, we hope to take another hike to another thermal area tomorrow.