A Beautiful Lake, Fires and Trees… The PCT though Mt. Lassen National Park

Hiking the PCT is tough, no question about it. But the rewards are numerous. Lower Twin Lake was one such reward. I camped beside it on my hike through Mt. Lassen National Park.

Today, I continue my ramble along the PCT. This time I will finish off my hike through Mt. Lassen National Park. I’ve been posting on our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta. There’s plenty more there, and lots left on the PCT. I intend to continue to mix my posts to provide a variety. And, of course, I am hard at work on my book about this past summer’s adventures and other tales from my 50 years of backpacking. My goal is to have something in hand when I attend the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in mid-February. 

Lower Twin Lake was one of those places you don’t want to leave. I was fortunate to arrive in the afternoon and experience its evening and morning beauty before having to hike on. 

Late afternoon. I came back to camp after this photo and found a chickaree sitting on my journal. I suspect he was more interested in my food than in reading what I had to say. He scurried up a tree and proceeded to scold me for interfering with his search.
Early morning.
The sun comes up. Note the mist rising off the lake where the sun was hitting it. I felt it was almost magical.

Forest fires had devastated the east side of the park and I hiked for miles through the burned out area, which isn’t unusual for the PCT in these times. Global warming and draught has taken its toll on the west from California, through Oregon and on into Washington, making forests vulnerable. The horrendous Campfire that just caused so much loss of life and property in Paradise, California is one more example. 

Mile after mile of land looked like this on the east side of the park. Not all is bad news, however. Nature is powerful and new growth is beginning to cover the area. This growth supports a substantial wildlife population.
I found this scene beautiful in a threatening sort of way. Dark thunder clouds hovered above drought killed trees. Thunder was rolling across the sky and lightning was striking a nearby mountain. I counted, 1001, 1002…Reaching 1007 means the lightning is a mile away. Once I barely made it through 1001. There is good reason to fear being hit by lightning. There is even more reason to fear that it may cause a fire. These trees would light up like kindling.
I often here the argument that thinning the trees, i.e. logging, is the solution to forest fires. Mainly it is used as an excuse for more logging. But the Collins Pine Company may actually have a solution. For one, it is committed to selective cutting, leaving a  healthy forest filled with a variety of trees. It also cleans out dead debris lying on the ground and uses the wood to create energy. The debris under the trees is one of the major reasons for devastating forest fires. A group of 50 or so forestry students from the University of California was in the area studying the company’s forest management practices when I hiked through.

I love trees. Who doesn’t. Here are some of the beauties I found on my backpack trip through Lassen.

I had lunch under this magnificent Jeffrey Pine.
It’s bark resembles puzzle pieces. If you put your nose next to the bark on a warm day, you will be rewarded with a delightful smell of vanilla, or possibly pineapple.
This is one of its gorgeous cones. An easy way to tell the difference between a Jeffrey Pine and a Ponderosa pine is you can pick up a Jeffrey pinecone without pricking you hand. Not so with a Ponderosa pinecone.
The king of pinecones grows on the the sugar pine. Some of these giants were approaching 20 inches in length. You don’t want to be standing under a sugar pine when a squirrel is harvesting its cones! Pine nuts from a sugar pine are delicious, however, and easily cracked. Ask the squirrel.
Sugar pines reach high into the sky and have wonderfully wild limbs.
Unlike these two fir trees that were practicing close to perfect symmetry.
Cedars also provide forest giants.
Here’s a view looking up at the same tree. 

I met lots of through hikers in Lassen Park. The halfway point between Mexico and Canada is just south of the park. Hikers needed to be in the area or through it when I was there if they hoped to complete their hike during the 2018 season.

A stone left behind by Bohemian Jess near the town of Chester marked the halfway point on the PCT.
I met Hillbilly when Peggy dropped me off at the trailhead. She enticed him over with an apple. He lived in North Carolina near the Appalachian Mountains that gave birth to the hillbilly name, but he was far from being one. His name was Bill and he lived in Chapel Hill. Thus the name. He owned a company that installed solar farms. Bill had already hiked the Appalachian and Colorado Mountain Trails. Like me, he preferred to camp alone, away from the noise and partying of younger hikers.
There was no chance of escaping from trekkers at Boundary Springs. (So named because it is located on the southern boundary of the Park.) It was a major source of water. These three camped next to me, so Bone came out to visit with them. They were quite amused. From left to right their trail names were Too Slippery, Bottomless, and Bodhi. Slippery and Bottomless were friends from Truckee, CA. Bodhi was a meditating type of fellow.
Shrek, Pepper, Bessie (the cow) and Chewy were also camped within about 30 feet. So, Bone had to visit them as well. I’d found Chewy looking for a lake where there wasn’t one, even though her map and a ranger had said there was. She had followed me down to the spring to get water.

Here are a few other photos to wrap up my trip through this section of the PCT.

A snag and a thunderhead.
A closer look at the thunderhead.
I found this fungus growing on a sawed log interesting.
What the fungus looked like up close.
A bee hung out among some thistles.
A bear left his claw sign for me to see…
You know you are in a National or State Park when walkways are built across swampy areas.
This meadow reminded me that summer was nearing its end. So I will stop here for the day.

NEXT POST: A very strange pelican. And some iguanas.

35 thoughts on “A Beautiful Lake, Fires and Trees… The PCT though Mt. Lassen National Park

  1. Close-ups, panoramas, people … overall a very convincing case for the outdoor life, Curt! Plus some interesting observations on sustainable forestry. A gift for those to come … what could be better?

    • A subject I never tire of promoting, Dave. 🙂
      We are now spending billions and billions on fire suppression. Much of this could be reduced if we seen spent more on prevention. But prevention is always a hard sale. –Curt

  2. It seems there must be a sustainable forestry solution between those who would just cut and those who oppose all cutting. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there were those on both sides of the issue arguing Collins Pine had it wrong. We are having the problem with water near the Everglades with people arguing for the perfect solution that may never be achieved while blocking good things that can be done now.
    Loved your photos as always.

  3. Oh these are indeed some lovely trees. The sugar pine-cones are as good as the Carolina Pines pine cones. What an adventure you have had Curt. All my best to you.

  4. Such an amazing summer you have had Curt! Thank you for sharing with us, all your experiences and all these awesome places. I wish you good luck with your book (even though I already know it will be a success 🙂). With the recent earthquake in Alaska I remembered that your son&his family is/was in Kodiak Island..is he still there? Hope they are all safe!!

    • Hoping on the book. 🙂 Tony is now flying helicopters out of Florida. Thanks for asking. He has moved from worrying about earthquakes to worrying about hurricanes. But at least the hurricanes are seasonal and come with a warning. –Curt

  5. I just love reading about this incredible adventure of yours -it must have been amazing to see all those places and meet such interesting people! 🙂 Those pictures of the lake are breathtaking, as are all the rest!

  6. You have some particularly stunning nature shots in here today, Curt! And I loved reading about the sweet aroma of that tree bark. I am always drawn to the fellow hikers in your PCT posts; they put a nice human spin on all that nature!

    (Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve seen any PV posts … I’ll have to check my settings. I guess they could have come in around Thanksgiving when I was focused on family and non-virtual life, and I probably deleted some things without reading … 🙂 )

    • Thanks, Lexi. I always have hikers I am with do the smell test on the tree. I think I have done four PV posts so far. No problem with missing. 🙂 My insane schedule has had me missing lots of posts. –Curt

  7. The two symmetrical firs look remarkably like the large pine cones you featured. A friend has a sugar pine cone, and it was hard for her to convince me that it was real. I just couldn’t imagine! All of those bark and pine cone photos are delightful — such variety.

    • Lots of sugar pines around here, Linda, but we have to climb higher in elevation to find them. There were five types of pine trees and pine cones on my hike. Lodge pole pine cones were on the opposite end of the spectrum from sugar pines cones in size. Little fellows. There were also white pines, white bark pines, and knob cone pines. The latter require fire to open and reseed. Says something about the naturalness of fire in nature. –Curt

  8. Some marvelous scenes you gave us in this post. I remember those sugar pine cones from my El Dorado days. My mom flew out from Boston to visit and she just HAD to pack some of those monster cones back east for Christmas wreaths. I even had to arrange for a shipment of them after we moved to Utah, Luckily there was a brother-in-law to collect and send them for us. 🙂

  9. It’s great to see Bone out and about. Hi Bone!

    I have to tell you something that fascinates me about human subconscious. As I got down to the close-up image of the pine bark, I involuntarily took a deep breath. Then I realized I was trying to smell it! Seeing the bark so close up felt like I actually had my face up next to the tree. Ha ha, after so many years of getting personal with the trees along the trails, my lizard brain is already programmed to lean in close and sniff. Then I read the caption and that’s exactly what you mentioned: smelling the bark.

    Just curious, as part of their forest management plan, does Collins Pine Company rake the forest? I’ve recently learned that raking is a good practice. 😉

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