6/17/08 Yes, we finally were able to leave Magalia last Saturday, when the main road to Chico, called Skyway, was reopened. The fire was still burning in other parts of Paradise. We were able to see many burned areas, although not the areas where houses were destroyed. Because the weather forecast was for temps over 100 degrees, we wanted to head for the high country. We also had never been to Lassen Volcanic National Park, so that became our home for the next few days. We were somewhat dismayed when we looked across the beautiful landscapes and our views were marred by very smoky air. Yes, it was from the fire we had left behind! Another surprise was that there was still quite a bit of snow here, enough so that we could not take the Bumpass Hell trail. This was a real disappointment because this is the main geothermal area. Also, some of the campgrounds were not open yet, because of the snow. In order to get to the only open campground where our rig would fit in a site, we had to drive all the way through the Park to Manzanita Lake, which is very close to the north entrance. One of the perks of getting to be as old as I am, is that I now have a Golden Access Pass. This got us in the park for free and gave us 50% off on camping, making it $9/night. The campground was only about half full and we got a nice spot to collect sun on the solar panels and the openness allowed us to tune in the satellite TV. So there we were with our slides out, and most of the perks of modern day life (but not phone or internet as our air card wouldn't work here), while our neighbors were tenting. The days were sunny and the temperature was perfect (about 75), but it got down to 45 at night. The second day we walked around Manzanita Lake, which is a beautiful small lake surrounded by trees. We then drove back into the park to explore the Devastated Area. This was an area which had been totally destroyed by lava flows in 1914 and 1915 when the last big eruptions occurred at Lassen. Now the area is reforested and you can barely tell that there was an eruption. An interpretive trail helps explain everything and shows some interesting lava rocks. After that small hike, we drove to the Summit Lake campgrounds (closed) and walked around Summit Lake. There were still patches of snow there.
Monday, before we left Lassen, we walked around Manzanita Lake again and saw 4 deer and a muskrat. Then we drove to Lava Beds National Monument, which is where we are camped now. It is located very near the Oregon border up near Tulelake. It is a 14 mile drive to get in here from highway 139 over some fairly crappy road, and there was no traffic at all, so we wondered what we were getting ourselves into. Then we arrived at the very nice visitor center and campground area and were relieved. There are 2 loops in the small campground and most of the sites are designed for tents. But there are 4-6 sites where fairly large RVs can fit, and because it wasn't busy when we arrived, we got the largest and most level one. Here we are only paying $5/night and there are lots of nice juniper trees all around us. Today we just took care of a few things at our rig and then took a guided tour with a ranger through the Catacombs Cave. There are lots of lava tube caves in this park (over 500!) and about 10 of them are open for exploring by the public. We also went through the Mushpot Cave, the only one that has a few lights. In order to go through the caves, you have to have a hard hat (we wore our bike helmets) and a flashlight and we recommend wearing hiking boots. They loan out flashlights at the visitor's center. Tomorrow we are going to drive to a few more of the various formations and also do some hikes to other attractions, such as pictographs. The weather is about perfect here - 80 degree days and about 50 degree nights. The campground isn't really busy so it is quiet. And this place is better than Lassen because our phone and air card work here. I am posting some Lassen pictures below and will post Lava Beds pictures next. I would also like to get back to posting more Africa trip pictures in a few days. Our plan is to stay here until Saturday and then drive to Agency Lake, just above Klamath Lake, to stay with our friends Mike and Marilyn Harrison.