Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lassen and Shasta. The Pacific Ring Of Fire - Part 1.

What drives my fascination with volcanoes? It's not the danger or the peril. On a day to day basis, those are practically non-existent for volcanoes which lay dormant for decades if not centuries. Yet, being fickle, mysterious monoliths, often shrouded in the mist - volcanoes permeate mystical in our legends and our psyche. We are drawn to them, like the one ring destined to return to it's fiery origins in the depths of Mt. Doom - volcanoes exert an inexplicable pull on the strings of my heart and my mind.    

When Europeans settled the West-unknown,  in some instances they were undoubtedly drawn to settle in the stunningly gorgeous and fertile shadow of these sleeping beasts. Unaware of their history, or the fire which churned in their cores. The natives who roamed the land before the Europeans arrived, had no written history, only legends passed on through word-of-mouth, of the explosive battle between the gods of the sky and the earth, atop these mountain peaks. It's easy to theorize that when the West was conquered, the victors paid little attention to these fairy tales from the natives. 

It had been a long 4 years since I toured these volcanoes in the Cascade range. July of 2012 was the first time ever, that I had strung together a vacation ride through the Cascades. At the end of that trip, I had vowed to return again within the next couple of years. Although, as most resolutions often do, it fell victim to life, work and responsibilities galore. So it was to be 4 years - almost to the day, and countless invitations later, when I embarked once again stringing together volcanoes along the way from Lassen to Rainer, with the goal of seeing and spending some quality time visiting my very dear friends Lisa and Tobie, who have a mountain cabin near Rainier.  

Archiving the memories of the first portion of the trip in this post, taking some time here and there to do so. Hopefully, I don't run out of time, or steam in it's midst .. it might happen. Ride more, write less.. sigh.. :)

I am a pretty straight-forward and direct guy, but when it comes to traveling on the motorcycle, my routes are rarely but. Not in a hurry to get to anywhere, I like to take my time, and take the long way around. Life gets jaded very fast, if all you do is stay on the main thoroughfares. You don't see or experience much at all either, in life and in travels, if all you do is take the direct and fastest route from point A to point B. 

I had an early-ish start at 6:30AM. On a motorcycle the fun starts, where civilization ends. The early start afforded me the luxury of not having to endure weekday morning traffic delays, and it was still early morning when I found myself riding uphill, alongside the Feather River on Hwy 70. One of the two sister highways between Oroville and the Quincy area, Hwy 70 is faster than it's sister Hwy 162. I wanted to make a quick get away from the forecast 108 degree oven of the Sacramento valley - which was already in it's pre-heating stage this morning. Hwy 70 with it's fast, open sweepers and quicker elevation gain was going to let me do just that. I was saving the twistier Hwy 162 for later. :)        

The Courthouse Cafe in Quincy is usually my breakfast/lunch spot when I head this way, but I have found a better replacement, further north - Anna's Cafe in Greenville. Much better service, and the bonus is that when I am heading north from Hwy 70, I don't have to backtrack to Quincy for a sit down meal.

The first look into Lassen National Park from Hwy 36/89. You can see the peaks of Brokeoff Mountain, Mt. Diller, and Pilot Pinnacle - from left to right. 

A closer look at Brokeoff Mountain .. and the adventure V-Strom. After some initial setup problems, and some frustration with Suzuki for not thinking things through when they designed this machine, it is growing on me after all. Sorting the mileage issues out definitely helped, I might like it even more - once I fix the gearing, the next time I change out the chain and sprockets. 

Liking the Strom enough to pose it for a lot of pictures. I have come full circle - all this trip blogging initially started off as "ride reports" on the FJRForum, with copious amounts of here is my bike in front of _____, ad nauseum. Here it is again looking at the south face of Lassen peak. 

Winter has been good to Lassen, and to the rest of California. Two years ago, there was no trace of snow here, about this time of year. Good to see at least a couple of feet still hanging around here, and hopefully also at similar altitudes in the Sierras, to help us through later in the season. 

Pilot pinnacle and Lassen peaks from beside the thin ice of Lake Helen. So much better to be up here in July, sitting beside a frozen lake and playing in the snow, instead of in the 108 degree heat of Sacramento! 

Hwy 89 takes a circuitous detour around Lassen Peak, veering away from, and then circling around towards it again. Pictured below is the ride along Kings Creek and Upper Meadows area. It was still too cold up here for the meadow to return to life just yet. I didn't stop. 

I did, however, pull over for my customary stop at what I call the "Road to Lassen". 

Another stop worth exploring is the Devastated Area. This area has interpretive trails which preserve the remnants from the 1915 eruption of Lassen, which spewed pink and gray volcanic rocks and ash in this direction. 

Manzanita Lake is always a treat to stop by near the north entrance of the park, and although it isn't the only lake in the park which has campgrounds on it's shore. It might be the only one which allows kayaking, and perhaps paddle-boarding, although I can't imagine how cold that would be in these waters. 

Lassen may have cornered the majority of pictures in this blog post, but my heart really belongs to Shasta. Lassen is just transitional, Shasta is where I linger for a while. One of my favorite places in the world to hide away .. from the world. :)

Difficult to beat that view, as I look out my window in the morning, as I enjoy yoga in the studio, as I enjoy breakfast, as I thumb through a book on the patio, and most importantly as I spend quality time catching up and reconnecting with family. No, really can't beat that. It is my home away from home. 

Did I forget to mention the sunsets? How could I have? Sunsets like these are more the norm than the exception. The mountain makes it's own weather, and although it doesn't cloak itself in a shroud of clouds as often in the summer, as much as it does in the winter. It is still wearing a topper on it's crown more often than not. 

A crown of fire. At sunset the mountain-top sets itself ablaze, an inferno which imbues it's veil with the same hue and intensity. This is home. Home away from home, but still home sweet home! :)

Thank you for reading! :)


  1. Awesome photos (as always)

    I haven't been through that area but have friends that love the roads in Northern California. One of these days we'll have to take a trip down there. Your pictures make it look wonderful.

    1. Thank you! I was up in your neck of the woods in the next leg of the journey. Although, I only had a short day and half to explore in Oregon. :)

  2. Hi Sam, hope you are doing well and Nice work (as usual). Northern California really should be a seperate state, as save for Yosemite, IMHO none of the southern part matches the beauty of the Shasta/Lassen/ north coast areas. Very true about Shasta generating it's own weather. I've committed aviation up there a number of times and watched it in real time, very impressive. Thanks for the reminder how recreationally diverse a state we live in. Safe travels. John

    1. John! I haven't seen you in quite some time! Hope you are doing great! So good to hear from you! :)
      Northern California should be a separate state for more reasons than just one. Nothing about Northern California matches the Southern parts.
      Share some of your fun stories of aviation over Mt. Shasta the next time we meet, which I hope is soon!


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