Friday, August 31, 2007

Lassen National Park

Yesterday was my day off. But, today kicked my butt!

Maybe it was the altitude. Maybe it was because I hadn't been on a horse in 6 months. Or, maybe I'm just out of shape. Whatever the reason, my trail ride up into Devil's Kitchen in Lassen Volcanic National Park (part of Lassen National Forest) wore me out.

But, it was worth it! As the cowboys say, "That there's God's Country."

My friend, Carrie, and I were guided up the path to the geothermal vents and springs by a cute, sweet, young woman named Kelsey from Drakesbad Guest Ranch. It was a relaxing ride, our horses were terrific, and the views were phenomenal.

We stopped the horses
at the top of the ridge about 100 yards from the sulfur pools and hiked the rest of the way in. Almost immediately we could smell the sulfur, and combined with the lush forest and bubbling streams, it made for a somewhat ethereal experience. You could actually feel the sauna-like heat steaming from the vents as you looked over the rocks at the bubbling mud pools and sulfur-stained rocks. It's just one more spot that deserves a lot more time than the three hours we spent.

Lassen is one of those areas that has, up to this point, actually been saved from development by its weather. When winter hits, just about everything shuts down. The roads become impassable and snow socks in the whole region.

However, with improvements in home building, road building, and man's desire to fulfill his "Manifest Destiny", it's only a matter of time before the quaint little villages in and around Lassen National Forest become bustling towns, complete with a Burger King and Wal-Mart. You can see the signs already, as old establishments are being torn down and newer businesses take their place. The town of Chester, just outside the National Park, is seeing the biggest development with more people moving in to permanent homes and more lodges and businesses being built to cater to the rising population of visitors on vacation.

One sign that the slow, lazy days of living in the mountains is starting to fade is the arrival of fast drivers in new cars. Now, don't think I'm going on a rant about driving fast or spending good money on a fancy car. Heck, I love to drive fast, and I love nice cars. But... there is a time and a place for them, and a quiet mountain road ain't it!

On the one-lane gravel road leading to the Ranch, we missed being broadsided by about two inches by a guy in a brand new Land Rover doing 50mph around a blind curve that should have been taken at 25mph. A few minutes later, two new Jeep Cherokees whizzed by us at the same speed. The hustle and bustle of the big city is here, and it doesn't look like it's going to stop for any wildlife, including the old-timers in their rusty pickups.

As gorgeous as Lassen was, my artistic eye was astonished by the vistas along Hwy 36 as the sun dropped low in the sky. In a few days, weather permitting, I'll show you some fantastic images of yet another ethereal landscape.

Tomorrow, I head out to the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown to scout the place for good images for my Untamed series and for some good Hi-Def video footage for the documentary.

As always, I'll keep you posted...

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