After working 30 hours the previous two days, I decided I needed a break, so I headed north to Lassen Volcanic National Park. My boring drive was rudely interrupted when I ran over a small log that had fallen off of a logging truck in front of me. No damage was done, and I arrived at the park in a little over 3 hours.
My first objective was 10,457 foot Lassen Peak, one of the world's largest plug dome volcanos. As soon as I began hiking the trail, I started passing children, lots of them. I felt as if I were on an elementary school field trip. Although Lassen is in the Cascades, the plantlife more closely resembles that of the nearby Sierras. 14 Cascade species call the park home, while 24 Sierra species grow in the area. After the first switchback, the views quickly became impressive, with Mt. Harkness rising behind a brilliant carpet of Satin Lupine and the Sierras rising beyond the shores of Lake Almanor.
Some cold air was pushing up from the valley and it became increasingly cooler as some small clouds built up to the west. Luckily most of the trail was on the east side of the ridge where it was much warmer. The trail is supposedly 2.3 miles long, but after what seemed like a mile, I passed the two-miles-left marker. After grueling switchbacks and more noisy children, I arrived at the western summit in 45 minutes. After crossing the year-round snow field on top, I lost the trail and ended up ascending the much steeper and more difficult south side of the summit pinnacle, leading a Bavarian tourist and some others up in the process. The way I took required some class 2-3 moves, which was a great finishing touch on the otherwise boring ascent. The German guy enjoyed the climbing as well, but the others, who blindly followed me, didn't seem too happy after taking 20 minutes to climb the wrong side of the pinnacle. I'm not sorry a bit. If people don't know what they are doing, then they shouldn't be up on mountains, with or without trails.
After some pictures and water, I headed back down as quickly as possible. The trail was so crowded on the way down that I couldn't get some trailside relief, and the trip down wasn't too enjoyable. I was back after a two hour round trip. My original plans had me climbing Brokeoff Mountain next, but I only had 3 hours of light left. I decided instead to drive down and hike up Diamond Peak.
Diamond Peak was named for the quartz crystals trapped in its andesite rock. At 7,968 feet, Diamond isn't exactly a prominent peak, but its interesting geology and commanding views were worth checking out. I parked at the switchback just north of the mountain and hiked cross country south towards the peak. Two false summits covered with Skunk Cabbage and Satin Lupine had to be crossed before reaching the summit plug, a remnant of prehistoric Mt. Tehama. The mountain got dramatically steeper and the loose volcanic rock proved to be more of a workout than I had bargained for. Soon I reached the plug itself. Access to the top of the plug was by ascending easy class 3 ledges almost directly under and east of the northern pinnacle. After 20 feet the ledges gave way to easier rock and I was soon on top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the highest point of the peak was a 10 foot boulder with a six inch base resting on the edge of a cliff. The NPS strongly discourages rock climbing in the park because of the crappy volcanic rock. The boulder looked unclimbable, save for copious amounts of aid and a good deal of stupidity. I was happy where I stood, with peaks rimming Tehama's caldera surrounding me. Getting down was a bit tricky, as I had my "car shoes" on. As I was hiking down slope, the wind began picking up, bringing the noxious odors from Sulphur Works upslope. I reached my car after a few minutes. Although there are many higher peaks in the area, this one is only an hour's walk through open forests of Lodgepole Pine and Mountain Hemlock.