Boiling Springs Lake & Devil's Kitchen Trails - Warner Valley Area - Lassen Volcanic National Park - California
Lassen Volcanic National Park isn't a highly visited park to begin with, and today we hiked in an even less-visited section. It was another beautiful day to explore some remote thermal features of the park and see a little wildlife with no one else around.
After tossing around a few options, we decided to do some hiking today.
In addition to one of the main entrances to Lassen Volcanic National Park being about 30 miles away, there are two less accessed entrances less than 20 miles from North Shore Campground where we were working this summer.
We decided go to the Warner Valley area where we could visit a couple of the geothermal areas - ones that get much less traffic than those off the main park road.
We parked at the Warner Valley Trailhead parking lot.
There are a combination of intersecting trails. In addition, from the nearby campground, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is accessible. The Pacific Crest Trail runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington.
But we opted for a bit shorter hike.
From the parking area, the main trail runs along Hot Springs Creek.
Along this section we spotted two juvenile American Dippers on a log (one is back in the shadows).
Moving along, Linda noticed steam coming from a side stream flowing down to the Drakesbad Guest Ranch.
Drakesbad ("bad" means "bath" in German and often denotes a spa) has a hot springs pool and 19 guest rooms. It is located within Lassen Volcanic National Park and is run by a concessionaire. If you can't get reservations to stay at the remote ranch, you can still get reservations for lunch or dinner at the dining room.
Shortly after the above photo was taken we came to a trail intersection. We took the left branch toward Boiling Springs Lake which is about a mile from where we parked.
As we walked through the woods, we could smell the sulfur as we approached the lake. Once on the rim of the lake ....
we could hear the water boiling and mudpots gurgling and we could see steam coming from the steam vents or "fumaroles".
The lake maintains a water temperature of about 125 degrees, and it is one of the largest hot water lakes in the world.
Because the crust around the geothermal areas is brittle, you aren't supposed to get too close to the lake due to the risk of falling through and being badly scalded. However, there is a mile trail that circles the lake for numerous vantage points.
This is a great view of the greenish lake with Lassen Peak in the background.
From there you can see water bubbling, the fumaroles, and the ever-changing color of the lake. You can also hear the rumbling beneath the surface of the geothermal activity. It's a bit of a surreal experience.
After completing the Boiling Springs Lake circuit, we returned to the main trail. After about a half mile, we took the short side trip to Dream Lake.
We sat on the bench at the small lake and had a snack while watching a Mallard duck family.
The trail around the lake has been closed so the beaver family living there would not be disturbed. However, there is a canoe and life jackets hanging in a tree - I suppose the canoe is there for the guests of Drakesbad.
We went back to the trail for the remaining part of our hike to the Devil's Kitchen geothermal area. The next part of that hike goes through a meadow for a quarter mile or so.
Then the trail ascends back into the woods. It's a gentle climb to about 6,000 feet before dropping down into a small canyon. Once again, we could smell the sulfur as we approached the downward part of the trail.
The Devil's Kitchen area is a much larger geothermal section than I expected. It was worth the two and a half mile hike.
Here is a shot from a bridge over the stream that winds through the area.
Here is a look back from the trail at the bridge, stream, and fumaroles in the inaccessible part of Devil's Kitchen.
You can barely see Linda in the middle of this shot between the steam vents.
A view of a hot water pool.
There are also three or four boiling water pools in that shot that don't show up very well.
Here is a hot water stream among the fumaroles that flows into the cold water mountain stream.
As we stood and waited for the sun to appear from behind a large cloud, two deer wandered out into view.
Linda was afraid they would fall through the thin crust, but I assured her they knew what they were doing. One of them ate grass, but it seemed their primary purpose was salt as they licked the rocks around the boiling pots.
At one point a marmot joined the deer as we watched. It didn't show up in the photo, but I got another shot of one later.
We spent an hour or so at Devil's Kitchen admiring nature's beauty and wonder. Also, worth the hike.
On the way back we talked about our life and how we have to work to keep it in perspective and not take it for granted. It seems harder to do that after four years of full-timing than it did in the first two years.
The places we go, the beauty we see, the people we meet. It's all amazing. Even working 40 hour per week jobs, we still get to enjoy all that.
We have to put ourselves back in that other life and really remember what it was like to truly appreciate where we are now. You wouldn't think we'd have to do that, but we do.
Our discussion made the return trip faster and soon we were walking across boardwalks through the marshy meadow.
Somehow, we missed our turn and ended up walking into the Drakesbad ranch.
Linda spotted a swing near the horse corral and I knew where we were headed.
It was a warm day, so it was nice sitting in the shade looking out over Warner Valley for a half hour or so. We watched birds and chipmunks and this Yellow-Bellied Marmot.
How lucky are we to get to go to these out-of-the-way places and see wonders of our country that most people don't even know exist?
As we walked back to the Jeep, I thought about what the owners of the other cars there must have thought if they noticed our license plate. "How in the world did these people from Kentucky ever end up here in the middle of the northern California woods miles away from anything?"
Ah, my friends, it was a leap of faith and the destiny of our being.