Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fishing Lassen (And Hiking Too, Of Course)

I took a break from the ongoing pursuit of deer (well, and life in general too, right?) to visit a good friend in California and a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  This might seem completely unrelated to the archery story in the preceding post, and it largely is, except for one coincidental but immensely important detail.  The Lassen area comprises the eastern extent of the historic home of the Yahi people, an indigenous group that inhabited a part of the land that is now California. For the man of the Yahi who came to be called Ishi, Lassen was his back yard and hunting ground.  Ishi later became inadvertently famous as the last of the Yahi when a series of tribulations cost him his remaining family and forced him into the outside world.  

Taken away to San Fransisco where he was studied extensively by academics, Ishi became an accidental window into life-ways then at the edge of extinction. However, the swarm of diseases Ishi was now exposed to took their toll and he eventually fell into the care of a Professor of Medicine named Saxton T. Pope.  An unlikely lasting relationship struck up between the two, and a very interesting transfer of knowledge began.  When Ishi was in good health it was he who became the professor, and under him Dr. Pope began a study of archery and bowhunting that lasted long after Ishi's untimely death (and subsequent autopsy and encephalectomy at Pope's hands).  

Pope and his companion Arthur Young set out with a vengeance to demonstrate that bowhunting, rather than an archaic footnote of history, was a viable and effective method of taking any game that breathed.  Their trip to Yellowstone National Park to collect a grand display specimen for the California Academy of Sciences yielded proof that even the mighty grizzly bear couldn't stand against a skilled archer (never mind the fact that grizzlies were already extinct in California might hint at their vulnerabilities).

Pope and Young were in at the nucleus of the movement that eventually led to Howard Hill, archery seasons, recurves, Fred Bear, fiberglass lamination, the Pope and Young Club, Zwickey, cut-past-center, FastFlight, eccentric cams, peep sights, Lumenok, quad limbs, Swhackers, Toxic Broadheads...and me, sitting in a tree, missing an easy shot at a young whitetail buck early one Saturday morning in September.  Long, circuitous route as it was, I was already linked by history to Lassen before I even set foot there. 

But this trip really wasn't about archery at all.  It was about communing with a dear friend and exploring in the great outdoors.  We set up base of operations in Manzanita Lake Campground, a front country facility right near the northwest entrance to the park.  Doug brought his kayaks along, so in addition to the day hikes you'd expect of me we were able to do a bit of paddling and trout fishing on the mountain lakes therein. 

The first evening we found time for a nice sunset fishing paddle around Manzanita Lake.  Considering this was my first time in a kayak in ages, I didn't completely embarrass myself.  I did rely a bit on the kindness of strangers though, as I got a nice push-off from some bystanders, probably waiting to watch the show in case I quickly flipped over or strangled myself with monofiliment or some other sundry mishap.  After that didn't occur I guess they got bored and wandered off, leaving us with the lake to ourselves.  

Scenery didn't suck.
Although a certain friend of mine was afraid I wouldn't catch anything, I quickly pulled in the biggest trout he's seen on that lake.  Not a bad start for a non-fisher.  Manzanita is catch-and-release only lake so fishy went free after a quick photo op.  Doug didn't catch anything.

No trout were harmed in the making of this picture.

We paddled around until sunset then retired to camp for a hot meal of left-over Asian ribs and accoutrements around a roaring campfire.  Only the serene sounds of the night such as the wind whispering through the pines and the screams of children in the group campsite lulled us to sleep.

I woke up at first light the next morning, as I tend to do while camping.  I left Doug to catch up on his beauty sleep and went out into the chilly dawn air to nose around.  I would have taken more pics but my iPhone actually shut down, presumably from the 30-something degree weather. 

Lassen Peak at dawn
When I returned we cooked up a great breakfast of fresh blueberry pancakes and sausage and headed out on our day trip adventure:  A hike up Cinder Cone.  Lassen is a world of volcanoes, with several great examples of various kinds.  Cinder Cone is a pristine cinder cone volcano (big shock) that is believed to have erupted in the mid 1600's (possibly 1666).  The trail out to it follows the Nobles Immigrant Trail, used by settlers to access the Northern Sacramento Valley in the 1800's.  Not far from the parking area the trail passes a 40 foot wall of boulders that marks the northwest terminus of the Fantastic Lava Beds, a  huge expanse of a'a (pronounced ah ah) basaltic lava that erupted from the base of Cinder Cone.

Edge of the A'A

The trail is not super long, and soon Cinder Cone itself loomed 750 feet above us.   

The trail up the actual volcano was like walking on beach sand (or a trail chewed up by horses) but at a 30-35 degree incline.  Quad-buster for sure, but with great views.  Interesting observation, the volcanic soils around Cinder Cone seemed to support no vegetation but a healthy stand of pine trees.  Cool how soil chemistry can influence community composition, no?

Half way now, I think I can, I think I can.  Like a natural cardiac stress test.

Cinder Cone has a cool double rim, though to be caused by variations in the eruption sequence. Trails follow around both rims and down into the crater itself.

We took another trail down the cone so that we could circle around the south side of the volcano, past the outflow vent of the Fantastic Lava Beds and along another section the Nobels Immigrant Trail. 

Fantastic Lava Beds vent
Base of the cinder cone, trail alongside.
After the Cinder Cone trail we ate a quick late lunch then put our kayaks out into nearby Butte Lake, where the Fantastic Lava Beds go right down to the water's edge.  This time I could eat what I caught, so the game was afoot.

Lava beds on the shoreline.  Evidently great for fishing.
Doug headed over to the forested shoreline, expecting to find fish nearby.  Not knowing any better, I went right over next to the barren lava flow and tossed out a cast.  A few seconds later I was calling my friends name so hard he thought I had capsized.  A big ol' rainbow trout was on my hook, straining the low-test line.  It was a beauty both in its rainbow sheen and its lovely edible girth!  We strung it along behind the kayak and headed off, Doug now intently interested in the basalt shoreline. 

Doesn't look it here but that's a 14 inch trout.
I caught another smaller rainbow a little further along, insuring our dinner protein.  Thereafter my curiosity outweighed my continued interest in fishing and I leisurely paddled around, exploring the lava inlets, my trout stringing along behind me.  Too soon the sun went down below a trio of volcanoes and we packed up and headed to our culinary reward.  Doug didn't catch anything.

From left to right:  Cinder Cone (cinder cone volcano), Lassen Peak (plug dome volcano), Prospect Peak (shield volcano)

I'm going to eat you little fishy!
'Cause I like little fish!
The second morning was much a repeat of the first, I took an early morning stroll then after a big shared breakfast we headed out on a day hike.  This time our destination was Bumpass Hell, an active geothermal area.  It is named after Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a cowboy who was leading an expedition to the area when his leg broke through the mud crust, resulting in massive scalding that eventually caused the loss of his leg.  I'm sure to Bumpass it did indeed become his idea of Hell. 

Bumpass Hell was much kinder to us.  We decided to take the back trail to the place, past a Cold Boiling Lake (more like cold bubbling puddle this time of year) and up a steep trail with great views.   We saw a mother bear and two cubs, fortunately before we stumbled over them.  They were gobbling up manzanita berries, fattening up in the last days of summer.  In fact, the whole landscape had that feel of waiting, prepared for the first of the winter storms to settle in. 

After a long climb up we finally came over a ridge and arrived at Bumpass Hell.  The steam and vivid colors were a big contrast to the green and brown later summer landscape we just traversed. 

Lots of volcanic material degraded to clay minerals by the hot, acidic waters.

No leg scalding for me man, I'm staying on this here boardwalk.

Supposedly those are pyrite crystals making this pool dark grey.
We finally headed back down and made our way back over to Manzanita for the evening.  We had great weather for two days but the growing wind, dropping temps and clouds on the horizon heralded the approach of the first winter storm.  The mild end-of-summer day was holding out for a few more hours though, and we headed to Manzanita Lake for one last evening of fishing.

Chaos Crags, Lassen Peak with it's cloud, and my friend.  Great last look.

Oh yeah, and Doug finally caught a fish!

During the night the storm front rolled in, a steady rain lashing the tent well past sunrise.  We finally pushed our way out into the gloom, crammed our sopping gear into the truck and headed back to the city.  On the way out we heard from a ranger that there was slush at the higher elevations, and I'm sure our lovely trail to Bumpass Hell was an icy mess.  I wondered about our bear family, curled up with their fur and fat.  But no matter, they were well prepared for it.  As for ourselves, we had great weather for a few days, and I think we did a good job of catching the last of summer there in Ishi's back yard at Lassen Volcanic National Park. 

1 comment:

  1. Fishing is becoming more memorable if your surrounded by those great views, postcard-worthy indeed.

    Alaska Fishing Lodge