Lassen Volcanic National Park

Published by Jenn Laredo on

This summer we embarked on an Epic Summer Road Trip, traversing two states, four national parks (and seashores), and visiting several new campgrounds. After just one successful camp weekend with our cats, we decided they were definitely ready to tackle twenty nights in the Alto and away from home. This was by far our longest trip in the Alto, and also the longest road trip our family has ever undertaken. We were ready for some serious adventure.

Our first stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park. We visited at the end of July, and were in the park two weeks before it closed due to the Dixie Fire. We visited the northwest corner of the park, and the fire was burning in the southeastern corner, and though the fire was active while we were in the park, there were no restrictions during our visit and conditions were still very pleasant. This is the second summer, however, where we’ve enjoyed a particular park, and then been crushed as it was damaged or destroyed by wildfires just a short time later. As I wrote last September, the videos we’re about to release are from a time before the fire, and we are very hopeful that Lassen will reopen safely, and that you’ll be able to enjoy this amazing place again.

We set up camp at the Mt. Lassen Shingletown KOA, about 20 miles outside the park. Temperatures were in the 90s at the campground, and we were not sure yet how to keep the cats cool and safe in the trailer. They grew to tolerate the air conditioner, but the first few days of our trip, we kept them with us, so we could be sure they were cool and comfortable. Rather than planning lots of hikes, we took a drive through the heart of Lassen Volcanic National Park. We covered the western half of the Lassen Volcanic National Highway, driving up to the base of Lassen Peak. We had downloaded some episodes of the park’s “Then and Now” podcast, so we got some bits of history about the park as we drove. The park was nearly empty, which is strange for a National Park midsummer, but Lassen is beautiful and sometimes eerie, so fewer folks made it even more spectacular.

The boys and I did take the 1.8 mile Manzanita Lake Trail. We hadn’t done much hiking this spring, and it was so warm, this seemed like a good re-entry hike. The lake is lovely, and we saw plenty of cool creatures to keep us interested. The boys tried to guess how deep the lake would be, as measured in Canada Geese, as in “here the lake is three geese deep.” At 5800 feet, the air by the lake was much cooler than it was at our campground. If we were only going to take one hike in Lassen, this was a great first summer hike.

We really enjoyed the campground as well. This was the first time we had a campsite with no sewer hookups, so we experimented with keeping our water usage down. We used the campground restrooms during the day, and washed our dishes at their dishwashing station, and after three days our tanks were less than half full. The Mt. Lassen/Shingletown KOA has a small pool, and we swam each day. The boys loved the merry go round at the playground, the old school spinning platform that’s probably too dangerous to be installed in modern play areas. I started my day off at the Birder’s Corner, a first time campground find for me. I didn’t see many birds I wouldn’t find at home, but it was a peaceful way to start out the day, and a jackrabbit did wander by to say hello. Though the camp map had warned the wifi was limited, we found it to be just fine. We watched a YouTube video and the boys played Minecraft without too much lag.

By far our favorite feature of the campground was the Cat’s Eye Hike. When the sun went down, we went to the Dog Playground, where a sign directed us to point a bright light into the nearby trees. A glowing pair of eyes looked back at us. We went to stand under the eyes, and shined our lights again to find the next marker. This quick adventure around the campsite was so much fun we repeated it a second time the next evening. We all agreed the first time was just a little spooky, since we didn’t know what we would find in the woods, but the second time was plain awesomeness.

Cloud and Solar enjoyed this campground as well. Solar particularly enjoyed rolling in the dirt outside our trailer, turning his normally white and orange fur a dusty brown each and every time he went outside. They made several new friends, lounging around the campsite in the evenings. In the warmest part of the day, they would find nooks and crannies in the Alto to hide in. Their favorite spot was the space under our back bench (the part that folds down when the top of the Alto closes.) We’d have to stick a camera into our storage cabinets and reach around a corner to shoot a short film to confirm they were in there and doing okay. I guess this was a cool and quiet spot to relax in, just right for two cats.

Watch the first video of our summer series here:

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