Lassen Volcanic National Park | 14/59

Entering the south side of the park we found the tiniest, cutest sign and had to stop for a photo. A lot of people ask, “how do you get your cat to pose for these sign pictures?” Honestly, this cat is a diva and I think he just knows when we whip the camera out that it’s show time.  Sometimes I feel like he is the star of our trip.  We joke that he is the one bringing us along on his trip.

We didn’t show up to Lassen with high expectations.  Actually, we had ZERO idea of what we should expect.  I had never heard of it, nor seen any pictures.  We actually didn’t plan anything before until we were about 30 minutes outside the park!  This is pretty standard procedure for us though.  We usually just show up and plan at the visitor’s center based on recommendations from the rangers.

One of the best trails in Lassen Volcanic park is Mill Creek Falls.  Madison called it, “Teletubby Land”.  It was so incredibly green and lush and beautiful, it looked fake.

Right up the falls we were able to actually get in the river!  It was nice to finally get our Chacos clean.




Every once and a while on our hikes we run across solo travelers.  When this happens, I am always just so grateful that Madison and I are traveling together.  It would be so sad, at least for me, to travel alone!  Yeah, I would be able to see these amazing places, but then what?  It’s just so nice to have someone to share it with.  That is where MOST of the joy comes from.  To be able to say, “Woah!  Check that out!” or “Did you see that?!”  And on top of that, I am a wuss.  I would be scared going everywhere alone!  It’s good to have a travel buddy.

I would have been very content with just the falls trail and then maybe driving around to a few overlooks.  BUT, my aforementioned travel buddy said she ate “too many donuts” so we had to hike two trails.  So we did.


Our second walk in the park was everything but a walk in the park.  It was only about five miles long, but it was straight up to the summit.

There was snow most of the way up.  This took us of guard, since it is July, but it was really fun!  In fact, it was nice on the way up to have the snow to keep us cool.  Regardless, I was still sweating like crazy.

We left the trail head at about 6:30 with the goal to make it for sunset.  With 2.5 miles to the summit, we figured it was a reasonable goal. 7L1A4057

Immediately upon reaching the top, I was glad that Madison made me go.  It just made everything look celestial.  I mean, doesn’t Madison look like an angel-human here?!

We had a blast on top of this mountain. It was so beautiful, we were giddy!

I had to climb up the knob at the top to make sure I got to the real summit.  I was telling Madison that the view was WAY better from up there – but she wasn’t buying it.


The peak in the background of this photo is Mt. Shasta.  Madison summited Shasta with her Dad when she was 16.  She still holds it in her mind as “the hardest thing she’s ever done”.  Every time we do something difficult, it always gets compared to Shasta.   I think it is healthy to have something that was SO HARD that you can fall back on and say, “at least its not that bad yet.”

Since we made it just in time for the sun to drop, our hike down was almost totally in the dark.  However, the first few rounds of switchbacks were still lit up by the lingering sunset.  Every turn was lit up slightly different than the last.  It was stunning.

There was a lot of National Forest around, so we were able to find some nice spots to camp for free.  It’s always scary trying to find spots at night.  We spend most of the day in the park, and then when we drive out to find a spot, it’s dark and creepy.  We drive down dirt roads aways and always feel like we are in the beginning of a horror movie.


In every park we snag a sticker and a patch.  We have been putting the stickers on the back of the rig, and plan to sew all the patches on a duffel bag when the trip is over.

Unfortunately, one of the most popular attractions of the park–Bumpass Hell geothermal area–was closed because of snow. You’d think that the hot pot trail would be the first to melt! Oh well, we heard that the Devil’s Kitchen trail was the next best option for hot spot activity.

You can always tell when you are getting close to hot pots by the smell!  It was pretty stinky.

It was cool because there was no boardwalk to confine us like in Yellowstone.  We were free to move about as we pleased.  Well, we were advised to stay on the trail so we didn’t break through, but still, it felt more intimate for sure.

We feel bad for the kitty when he can’t hike with us.  He has to stay in the RV while we get to go and play.  We try to get him outside when we can, even if that means just at the trail head.  That way he can get his wiggles out and isn’t such a demon at night!

On our hike back we saw a spot in the rive that looked like we could swim in!  We were pretty stinky, so we figured our swim could double as a bath!  We went back and grabbed our suits and soap!

It was actually quite deep in that spot!  There was an edge too that I could sit on so I didn’t get tossed over the falls.

Don’t worry, we used the hippy-dippy soap that can be washed away and not kill anything.

Helen Lake was still very much frozen.  It was entertaining, at least for me, to throw snowballs in my shorts and sandals.

We had a mellow morning with a fancy Forth of July breakfast.  We laughed when we realized that we made French toast on the the birthday of America.  BUT, to be fair, they were for sure the most American French toasts that I have ever seen!!

As we were driving into the park our last day, I saw a couple on the side of the road that was looking for a ride.  Madison was in back, and I started to pull over.  I said, “we’re about to have company!” She was a little confused at first, but then realized I was picking up hitchhikers.

Our new friends were from Australia had been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for the last 2 months and needed a ride into the next town (which happened to be where we were going as well!)  It was fun to hear the stories of these life-long adventurers!  They told us tales from “back in the day” when they traveled all of Europe in their van.  After spending the short ride with them, we were inspired to never stop!  Madison and I promised to always go for it!  They were a truly inspiring couple!

We got to Lake Manzanita in time for a nice afternoon paddle.  It was nice and warm in the sun.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day to celebrate the Fourth.

You’re not going to believe this, but a bald eagle came to celebrate Independence Day with us!  It was amazing.  He flew right over our heads a few times.  In fact, on one of his passes, I channeled his eagle powers and dove out of my kayak.  It was a special moment for the two of us.

Out on the lake we met some friends from! We went back to their campsite and shared a watermelon and homemade beef jerky.  SO GOOD.  It was fun to hang out in camp with new friends.  Sometimes we need to socialize with real humans and not just our cat.

Lassen Volcanic National Park gives a lot to its visitors.  From the summit sunsets, to the celebratory eagles, and from the fields of flowers, to the newfound friends – it was all a gift from the park.  We walked away far richer than when we walked in.  It’s one of those places that you just want to take all of your friends and family to – just to show them the goodness.  I know for a fact that this is a place I am going to return.




  1. I just came across your blog and am thoroughly impressed at your spirit and energy!
    Am alot older, single and yet have a similiar goal i mind and my adult children and friends think ive gone nuts. I am NOT a camper or very strong (at present) but i am determined to find a nice little trailer and embark on a 6-18 month trip around the US next April.

    Given a second chance at life, at 62, i was gifted an organ transplant and want to both celebrate this amazing gift of life AND show others that sometimes miracles do happen and life is oh so lovely! Am a very independent soul; after 20+ years of single parenthood (which was very successful i might brag) i want to let my YaYa’s, my gypsy soul, back out.

    Any advice is welcome and maybe someday we might cross paths!
    For example, i am purchasing a travel trailer with off grid capacity – do you use a portable solar unit or water purification systems? I just bought my son a small solar charger for his cell phone – reviews were good; do you use something like that for your laptops or phones? What brand is your hippie-dippie soap?

    When i hit the trail leaving Oregon for the east-coast in Spring 2017, I plan to also blog about my travels thru small towns and off the beaten paths including visiting federal lands & parks. Great to connect online to attempt to find others like me, gain resources and pick up travel tips/hacks as well as to keep my children, friends & family aware that i’m still alive and well.

    Best of luck and if you are anywhere near Salem, Oregon in the next 6 months, drop me a line and you can stay w me for another unpublished Free Night, with amenities!
    Gypsy Joan of the Travelin’ Towers

    • Cees

      Gypsy Joan! Thank you so much for the amazing note! We are so happy that you are heading out on your own adventures!

      We love that you are getting a little travel trailer! For us, the best thing that we have done (finance wise) was set up solar for our rig. We have 4×100 watt solar panels on the top of the RV. These charge two batteries that are wired into an inverter and can be used to charge anything. It has kept us from having to plug in and pay for campsites. You can read a little more about our build here.

      The hippy dippy soap is Dr. Bronners – they have tons of different fragrances are are the best thing ever. We literally use it for everything.

      Good luck getting everything ready! Let us know if we can help in any way!

  2. Really enjoying your blog! And it turns out I was at Lassen with friends on the same weekend, although it looks like you summited later in the day than we did. (We actually saw someone who brought their cat up to the top of Lassen, which irked the member of our group who used to be a Park Ranger – I’m glad you’re more rules-conscious when it comes to Vladimir!) If you have a chance to go back, Bumpass Hell is well-worth the hike.

    • Cees

      Thanks! Man – that’s crazy we were at Lassen at the same time. That was one of the more epic hikes we have done on the trip. Such a great place. Vlads was sad he couldn’t come, but he knows the rules are the rules. Haha

      • It is an amazing hike! Bit of a slog if you have to go through snow, though. If you’re ever back in California and would like to take a geologist along on a hike, feel free to look me up! (Especially if it’s one where Vlad can come along – I have dreams of getting my cat out hiking with me and I’d love to see how it’s done.)

        • Cees

          Thanks for the Geology tour invite! I am VERY interested in Geology – that would be a blast! Madison is from The Bay Area, so we will be around there after the trip for sure!

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