18 August 2017

Bumpass Hell

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Click for map.

After waiting far too long for the Visitor Center to open (9 AM is hours after the sun comes up!) because someone absolutely has to have some coffee, but cannot think all the way to buying some to have on hand, we headed off to see at least one thing that makes the park unique. The regular route is still closed by snow, but the boardwalks are open, so we are starting from a less traditional location. It is hard to believe that the spotty bits of snow around could be causing grand trouble to the shorter route that could not be fixed with a shovel in less than an hour, but at just over 5 miles and 1200 feet gain, this does not seem very hard to hike either. Parking is getting a bit crowded, though. It is quickly left behind as we take off into the trees.

wide path through the trees
There they are, the trees. This looks like a super easy path.

The gentle and rolling path passes by a sign next to a trail so light that there must be very few to take it. Over one hill, the dirt seems to be suddenly and mysteriously bleached. A little further and there is a lake at the side which we absolutely have to explore.

a spreading of white sand among the dirt
First the trail and then the surroundings seem to have been bleached up ahead, or at least turned to a white sand.

Cold Boiling Lake
A lake! It is Cold Boiling Lake.


Cold Boiling Lake is a bit of a disappointment. Gasses bubble from it giving it the appearance of boiling even though it is cool! The thing is, there is one spot of big bubbles and a couple little bubbles localized to a area that is not really part of the lake, just a water channel connected to it. The lake itself is still except when a fish breaks the surface. It does have an exceptional wildflower display on the hillside to the west.

corn lilies and more
Corn lilies dominate the hillside with lupin, paintbrush, and something of a yellow daisy.

boiling spot in the grass
The boiling off on the side. A big spot at the far end and a few little spots up close.

smooth water of Cold Boiling Lake
The smooth surface of Cold Boiling Lake.

We managed to miss the sign on the way to the lake, so it is only the fact that some people hike down to it and around without much pause to bother to look at it that alerts us that there might be more than a spur here, that it might be the second right turn we need to make shortly after the first. In our arrogance, we left the park brochure, which did show the trail, in the car, leaving us ill-prepared. Also surrounded by people to ask, so it is sorted quickly and we continue around the trail and finally start the climb to hot, steaming things.

above the flower rich meadow hillside
Climbing around the edge of the lake puts us above that flowered hillside before continuing west.

Lots of trees to shade along the way help make the slightly warm day nice. They are broken by meadows with little streams flowing past and full of more flowers. Some also make the trail mucky, but there is always somewhere solid and not too deep with water to step.

yellow spots surrounding a thin stream
A few of those daisies (coreopsis) fill in one meadow around a thin stream.

Crumbaugh Lake from above
After partial glimpses of the lake, a large opening shows all of Crumbaugh Lake below.

steep slope covered in green
The meadows happily occupy some wild slopes. The trees show the pressure of snow in winter.

clustered corn lilies in full bloom
The corn lilies can become hypnotizing.

purple flowers standing tall in the grass
Three different purples, but two of them are lupin.

Gradually, it looks as though the trail is entering a canyon with a little different character. I am certain we must be getting close, and then those coming down the other way start volunteering that information. There is still a little bit of climb.

Brokeoff Mountain
Brokeoff Mountain puts in an appearance. Well, you can see the Hell from the top of it, so it stands to reason that it would.

steep sides of yellow and white rock
Those bleached rocks are visible again, this time in the bottom of a steep canyon. Yellow staining is found on other rocks.

small fold of land with more bleached rock
More white rock. There does seem to be a little snow up here, too.

Another turn and we have come to the edge of Hell. Bumpass Hell is laid out below us. It is a bubbling scar with distinct edges. Within, there is steam and a few tortured trees. Outside, more forest looking quite happy.

Bumpass Hell surrounded by green forest
Arriving above Bumpass Hell. Perhaps the edges are not quite so defined all the way around, but they certainly are there on the right where a cool pond drains into the steam.

We descend on the trail past the thin creek of acidic water that shows reds and blacks within. Around it, the rocks are white and yellow. At the boardwalk, it is unclear that it is only the main trail in that is closed and not also the boardwalk. Still, we did pass a ranger just a few minutes ago and it seems likely he would have mentioned something if the common knowledge along the trail that the boardwalks are open was incorrect.

darker colors within the water
The thin stream with its curious colors.

We take to the boardwalks. The longer hike with greater climb (which comes at the start instead of the end) has thinned the usual crowd on the boardwalks to be around a half dozen. Steam comes out various holes nearby. Sometimes they bubble with a little mud. The most violent features are well away from the side of the boardwalk. They hiss and fume as they splash mud up and around themselves. Of course, these are the ones that get most of our attention.

big bit of steam
An enthusiastic splasher of mud, not that I have managed to capture any obvious splash from it.

meeting of waters
On the left, a bit of water from above and on the right a bit of water from one of the pools. They are distinctly different.

layers into distinct steps
Interesting layering effects in the mud.

decorated steam hole
The activity of steam holds this hole open, although little is seen.

black floating on the top of a white pool
Black bubbles appear to float at the top of this pool. The sign states these are pyrite.

green algae in a hole in the mud of hot water
Life will find a way. A spot shows green from the algae growing there.

Eventually, we are ready and climb back out of the steamy depression to follow the same trail back down the mountain.

bumps along the ridge
Looking along the east ridge of Bumpass Mountain.

below the ridge
And following the trail back somewhere below that ridge.

purple and brown floral puff balls
Puffs of purple beside a creek.

We found the sign at the junction beside Cold Boiling Lake on the way back. We had simply taken a very large short cut that skipped it. Had we turned back to continue on the trail, it would have directed us correctly onto the trail around the lake and up the mountain. Once back at the lot, every parking space and every edge is taken and a few more are trying to find where they will fit. We are quite glad it was not this crazy when we got here.




©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 September 2017

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