Thursday, July 2, 2015

Photo Blogging Challenge (June 2015): Anything goes

So this is a little late this month, but I've been waiting until the photos publish in the Sharpshooters International Photography Club's weekly album.  Surprisingly, June was majorly busy, since usually it's less busy, being my first month of summer vacation.  I had things planned, most of which got done and that just kept me from a lot of things, but the one thing that I really wanted to do, I got done.  P.J. has his monthly photo challenge, so here's the story of how I checked off something off of my Bucket List.

Because my daughter is getting married in July, I figured the best time for me to get out on my annual camping trip would be to go in June before it got really busy.  My wife doesn't camp, my older two aren't around anymore and my youngest had school and Jury duty about the only time I could go camping, so I emailed a geocaching friend of mine and talked with him about a geocaching road trip.  The trip had several purposes.  Get as many different caches as possible while having fun, get a couple of specific caches for challenges that I was working on and climb to the top of Mt. Lassen in Northern California.

Several of the geocaching challenges I've been working on involve finding caches on each page of a particular atlas.  The DeLorme atlases are really detailed maps and people have put together specific state atlas challenges for almost every state in the country.  California actually has three challenges because there's a state atlas, a Northern California atlas and a Southern California atlas.  Living in Southern California, I'm closest to completing that one, but I'm getting very close to the other two as well due to my extensive traveling within the state over the last fifteen years.

So my friend Craig and I worked out a plan to travel up the eastern corridor of California up to Lassen Volcanic National Park and then come down through the great valley of California and home.  Highway 395 runs up through Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  It's pretty hot in the summer, but it was early June, so it wasn't really bad.  We actually ended up partially in Death Valley National Park for a part of the run, but we didn't stay, just sort of traveled through.  

One particular geocache we ended up finding was Have You Found What You're Looking For?  And yes, go ahead and start humming or singing along, because this took us to THE Joshua Tree featured on the cover of the U2 album.  Unfortunately, the Joshua Tree is dead as evidenced in the first shot, but it's become a shrine to U2 out in the middle of the desert just outside the boundaries of Death Valley National Park.  Yeah, the song's going through my head right now as I'm writing this.

Eventually, we got up to Lassen about day four of the trip.  Before Mt. St. Helens blew its top in 1980, Mt. Lassen was the last volcano in the contiguous United States to have erupted.  It began erupting in 1914 and continued off and on for the next three or four years.  During that time span, it also became a national park.  These if a lot to see there and a lot of great hiking opportunities.  

One of the hikes we took was a hike out to Bumpass Hell, a thermal area that looks very much like the thermal areas in Yellowstone.  The only thing that Lassen doesn't have that Yellowstone does are geysers.  Bumpass Hell is named after Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a local miner, who, in 1865 had the misfortune of breaking through the thin crust of one of the boiling mud pots.  He ended up losing one of his legs due to the scalding mud.  Bumpass Hell is not very pleasant to be in if you have a sensitive nose since it has a sulfur smell to it, but it's an interesting feature.  

But the first hike of the day was the one I really wanted to do.   We got up had breakfast our first full day in Lassen and got ready for a hike to the top of Mt. Lassen, the centerpiece of the park.  This hike has been on my Bucket List, probably since before the term Bucket List was coined.  My first adventure in Lassen happened when I was 8 years old on a camping trip with my family.  Because we did mostly things together, the hike didn't happen that year, but I decided then that I wanted to climb the mountain.  When I graduated from high school, two of my buddies and I traveled all around the state during that summer.  We ended up in Lassen, but couldn't climb to the top because of extensive snow cover.  We ended up hiking through five foot drifts of snow just to get to Bumpass Hell.

Five years ago, my youngest and I went up there on a camping trip, but this was after an incredibly wet winter, the last wet winter we've had in the state.  The road through the park still hadn't been plowed and so to even get to the trailhead, we had to exit the park and drive all the way around the outside and come back in through the southern entrance.  The trail to Bumpass Hell was even closed that year.  There were ten foot drifts above the bathroom's room in the Lassen trailhead parking lot.  That's right, you read that right - ten feet above the roof of the building.  And this was in July.  Apparently, the mountain did not want me to climb it.

This year was different.  One thing that actually helped us immensely was the drought we've been suffering through in California.  We caught a tremendous break with that, because the snowfall has been minimal for so many years that the trailhead opened up early.  As you can see from the fourth shot, the snow field my friend Craig is walking through was about the extent of the snow on the trail.  We had about 6 or 7 of those crossings, but none of them were very treacherous.  

The trip to the top was fairly easy, but the elevation gain of over 2000 feet in just about 2.5 miles of hiking can cause problems.  There were two people we encountered on our way up who never made it to the summit because of altitude sickness.  One was smart enough to rest and head back down while the young girl was prodded by her family to continue on.  She made it almost to the summit, but never quite to the top.

As you can see, the views from up there were phenomenal.  If you look closely, on the left hand side of the last photo, along the cloud line, you can see Mt. Shasta about 100 miles away.  We probably lingered up there for about an hour, eating lunch and just taking in the views.  I ended up taking about two other group's photos and one of those groups we employed one of their party to take our shot at the summit.

Elevation gain? - 2000+ feet
Miles of hiking? - 5 miles round trip
Checking off something on your Bucket List? - Priceless

There's my five photos for the Anything Goes theme for the month of June.  Check out P.J.'s page to see his interpretation of the theme and then scroll down to the bottom to see the link for others who have participated in this month's challenge.


  1. What a story to go with the photos! It's very cool you got to cross something like that off the bucket list. The views do look amazing. The colors and everything are awesome. Love the last photos, too. Shows some real accomplishment. The story on the Joshua Tree is interesting. Especially how it's a shine... at a dead tree.

    How many caches did you end up with on the trip and how many squares did you cross off? I completed the New York Delorme and the final was my 3,000th find. Very cool to get it done.

    1. Thanks P.J. Congratulations on completing your New York DeLorme. I'd like to discuss with you a cache that I'm contemplating.

      150 cache finds.
      10 pages for the state challenge checked off.
      20 pages for Northern California checked off.
      3 pages for Southern California checked off. I only need 7 more to complete this one.
      2 new counties and pages for the Nevada DeLorme.
      1 new county and page for the Oregon DeLorme.
      21 benchmarks found and logged as well.

  2. I've been to Mt. St. Helens, but never to Lassen--though I've wanted to see it. Thanks for the photo tour, and congratulations on your daughter's upcoming wedding.

    1. Thank you very much Kristi. It seems like they just got engaged, but in two weeks, they're going to be married.

  3. A little behind on my viewing but I'm glad I didn't miss these. I always enjoy your photos. Thanks for sharing.