Mt. Lassen

Nicole on the shore of Saint Helen Lake

Nicole on the shore of Saint Helen Lake

The last time I visited Mt. Lassen I was just a young kid and had come with my dad and a father/son group from church. I can’t remember where we camped but I think we stayed in the park. I remember visiting the sulfur ponds, hiking to the peak and sightseeing through the park. On this trip, we didn’t have the luxury of staying more than a few hours. We left home on Friday, stayed with the Carlsons in Clearlake that night and left their house around 8 AM. We drove up I-5, stopped once or twice looking for a sporting goods store because the next day I had a 10K race in Folsom but had left my running shoes at home! Brought the camera, computer, reading material but forgot the running shoes for the race! The drive became much more enjoyable 45 minutes outside of Lassen. We could see both Shasta and Lassen from I-5 and Shasta was still covered in snow. As we exited the interstate and started driving into the mountains, the rolling grassy hills started to turn into large mountains covered with all types of pine trees. Unfortunately this was about an hour after the mapping software I used had taken us off course. Already in a time crunch I cost us another hour. Stick with the paper maps. Every turn that wasn’t clearly marked at the side of the road I had to pull out the laptop from the trunk, boot it up and find where we were on a screen that was too hard to read in the sunlight. So back on track we found the entrance and paid our $10 to enter the park and right away the memory of the sulfur ponds came back. It must have been the smell since it is a smell that’s hard to forget. We decided to skip this stop and continued to drive into the park.

Driving into the park, we passed a couple of beautiful small lakes. About 30 minutes later we parked at the base of the mountain and started up the trail. The hike could take between 3 and 4 hours and since we hadn’t found a shoe store I wasn’t sure we had enough time to make it all the way to top. I needed to make it to Roseville before the stores closed at 9 PM. Sure enough about halfway up the trail, we had to turn around but even at that point the view were amazing.

Along the way we passed dozens of other hikers making their way up or down. To the south you could see Lake Almanor which we would soon pass on our drive along Highway 89. Unfortunately it would have taken another hour to make it to the summit and we just didn’t have the time but it was still a memorable hike.

On our drive back through the park we stopped at Lake Helen. I can’t remember seeing a more clear lake in my life. This would have been a nice stop to pull out a picnic basket and just spend an hour sitting by the lake and taking in the scenery.

Soon after our stop at the lake we were back on the road to catch Highway 89 on the other side of Lake Almanor. The rest of the drive took a long time but much of the scenery was amazing. (This is a road trip I highly recommend and will probably take an entire day but is well worth the scenery and it will be a day you won’t forget.) It took a couple hours to reach Graeagle and from there we took Highway 49 (a winding and slow drive) into Nevada City (a beautiful town), through Grass Valley and finally catching Interstate 80 in Auburn. We stayed the night at the Ramada Inn in Rocklin after getting a reasonable rate on Orbitz. The only thing left to do was find a pair of running shoes, preferably New Balance 764, but at that point anything would have been better than the sandals on my feet. We drove a few minutes to Sportmart in Roseville and didn’t find my size in the recently discontinued 764’s (why when they are so comfortable) and the new 765’s looked like black and red cleats instead of running shoes. So I settled for some $40 Sauconys which have been pretty comfortable.

By the time we left Sportmart it was 8:30 PM and we hadn’t eaten lunch or dinner. Around the corner sat our favorite restaurant, Claim Jumper, so we enjoyed a late but filling dinner and then made it back to the Ramada in time for a quick couple mile run to test the shoes.

Sunday morning we got up too early for the race in Folsom and then headed home.

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