I didn’t know what to expect at Lassen Volcanic National Park. According to the website, it had been a heavy snow year and many of the park’s roads were still closed. High elevations equal unpredictable weather, so I dug my winter coat out from deep within my trunk, found my little finger gloves, and then made some phone calls involving snowshoe rentals.
I was astonished by the conditions that greeted me upon entering the park. Snow was piled high, almost 35 feet high in some places. I carefully cruised up the meandering road, towing Clarence and reminiscing about winters of my childhood spent in Canada.
There were only five other cars in the visitor’s center parking lot, a welcome relief from the crowds at Yosemite. I parked, stepped out of my car, and looked around for the building. It was hard to spot, mostly buried in snow, but I was greeted by a friendly park ranger upon entering.
I have a lot of respect for park rangers. Many of them are extremely knowledgeable, not just about hiking trails and roadways, but about the history and ecology of the park itself. They work hard for a season of the year, and often are given difficult and thankless tasks. The sweet lady at Lassen was very eager to share about the various snowshoe trails in the area, warning me against avalanches and cornices.
I set out. The sun was bright, I was warm enough in just a light jacket, and the scenery was gorgeous. For most of the day I was by myself, pressing fresh tracks into the places I explored.
About a mile in, I spotted Sulphur Works, one of the park’s thermals similar to the ones I saw at Yellowstone. These were special, however, surrounded by snow and extra steam caused by the more extreme temperature difference.
Lassen wasn’t what I expected. It was a wonderland covered in a white blanket. The trees dotted the serene landscape, while the mountain peaks provided a mesmerizing backdrop. If I was a painter, I would have wanted to set up an easel and create a masterpiece inspired by my surroundings. I plodded through the snow promising my tired legs a rest at the end of the day.
When I go someplace without presumptions, I tend to enjoy the pleasant surprises that meet me throughout the day.
I should try it more often.