Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic Naitonal Park sign

Early October proved to be an ideal time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park. Being a bit off the beaten tourist path with relatively low visitation, this park offers the chance to enjoy nature very nearly in solitude. The weather was crisp and clear and perfect for hiking.

Lassen Peak   Lassen Peak

Even though at first glance, Lassen Volcanic National Park appears to be simply another beautiful mountain area, it is unique in several ways. The park contains all the thermal features of Yellowstone except for geysers. All four types of volcanoes found in the world exist within Lassen Volcanic National Park – composite volcanoes, cinder cone volcanoes, shield volcanoes, dome volcanoes. Each of these volcanoes erupt different types of lava and form in different ways.

Diamond Peak    Diamond Peak

Arriving in mid-afternoon, we started our exploration of the park at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center where we picked up park information and hiking maps. After the ranger assured us that the Mill Creek Falls trail was a good one with only about 250 feet elevation change, we set off. He was correct about it being a good trail but what he neglected to tell us was that there may have been only 250 feet elevation difference from the high point to the low but there were numerous ups and downs in between so total change was much greater. It was also a bit longer according to the trail signs than indicated on the trail map. However, once you’re committed to a destination, it’s hard to give it up. So we kept going. Mill Creek Falls was very pretty and was worth it but, because of the drought of the past two years, not as impressive as we imagine it usually would be.

Mill Creek Falls hike    Mill Creek Falls2

Mill Creek Falls Trail

Lassen Peak, one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes, most recently erupted from 1914 to 1917. In late May 1914 a burst of steam arose off the summit. On June 14, 1914, Benjamin Franklin Loomis, a local businessman and amateur photographer, and his wife camped near Manzanita Lake with their bulky camera equipment hoping to record an eruption. At 9:43 a.m. the mountain rocked with a fresh eruption and Loomis captured the unfolding event in a series of dramatic photos on glass plates. At the same time, three men were hiking the summit to “see what was going on” in the crater. Amazingly, they all escaped alive.

Although Lassen has remained outwardly quiet for nearly a hundred years, evidence of volcanic life remains. The lively thermal areas indicate the existence of an active magma chamber below the surface.

In 1864, Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a well-known hunter and mountain man, discovered Bumpass Hell, the largest hydrothermal feature in the park. Originally Bumpass filed a claim with the intention of exploiting the area for its mineral and tourist value. While leading a group of tourists, Bumpass accidentally stepped through the thin crust, suffered a severe burn, and eventually lost his leg. This tended to squelch the enthusiasm for tourist visitation. The name Bumpass Hell remains as a warning against careless wandering in the most active hydrothermal feature in the park.

Trail to Bumpass Hell   Bumpass Hell

Today there is a good trail to Bumpass Hell which does include a steep descent and the resulting steep climb back out. The park service has erected numerous boardwalks so tourists can get relatively close to the thermal features without the misfortune that befell Bumpass himself. The mud-pots, fumaroles, and boiling springs continue to fascinate.

Boiling Pool3   Fumarole2

Bumpass Hell4    Bumpass Hell

Another failed effort to exploit the natural resources of the region was made by Mathias Supan, who in 1865, began extracting sulfur from the area now known as Sulphur Works and developed a variety of “mine medicine” products which did not prove profitable. Later the area was promoted as a spa area, Sulphur Works Inn, which included a bathhouse, overnight cabins and a dining hall. Perhaps the smell of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulfide) was a bit discouraging to tourists?

Mudpot  Sulphur Works


Manzanita Lake was formed about 300 years ago when a nearby volcanic dome collapsed creating a horizontal avalanche which dammed up a creek. Manzanita Lake anchors the park road on the northwest and offers all tourist facilities as well as magnificent views. We were about to leave the park when I told Tom, “l bet if I’d walk around the end of the lake there, I’d get a good picture but maybe I have enough already.” His reply was that it might be the best picture of the day so off I went. He was so right – I got wonderful photos of Manzanita Lake with Lassen Peak in the background.

Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake    Duck on Manzanita Lake3

Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone became national monuments in 1906. B.F. Loomis’ photos and eyewitness descriptions of the eruptions in 1914 helped focus attention on Lassen and contributed to the establishment in 1916 of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lava tube3  Subway Cave

One of the park rangers told us that outside the park were lava tubes, dubbed the Subway Cave, which you could go through. It was a self-guided hike which required a flashlight and a jacket and was open 24/7. Since Tom is a spelunker at heart his interest was greatly piqued. Being open 24/7 really was a moot point as it was pitch dark inside the tube so it didn’t matter if it was daylight out or not. The tube was much larger than we anticipated and the floor was very rough and uneven. We can now say that we have hiked through a lava tube!

Viewpoint  Viewpoint in Lassen Volcanic National Park

For more information:

Posted in National Park Travels, Travel, Western U.S. National Parks, National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bucket List Check Marks

A trip to northern California took us to two more national parks — Lassen Volcanic National Park and Redwoods National Park.

Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake2        Bumpass Hell

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Redwoods       Bull elk

Redwoods National Park

It’s amazing what a wonderful variety we have in the national parks in the USA. We’re truly fortunate.

Our bucket list now stands at 39 parks visited with 20 to go. By clicking on the National Parks Travels tab on the here2where website, you can view our list of parks.

Posted in National Park, National Park Travels, Uncategorized, Western U.S. National Parks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ponca State Park, Nebraska

MIssouri River  Ponca State Park is located in northeastern Nebraska on the Missouri River. It encompasses nearly 1400 acres of rugged heavily forested hills and Missouri River bottomland. The park has a wonderful new education center, visitor center and museum, as well as overnight accommodations ranging from primitive campsites to impressive new mini-lodges. I had never been there until recently when I made two trips to Ponca State Park with grandchildren.

Missouri River Overlook      Fall berries

The first trip, my oldest grand-daughter and I spent a night in a rustic cabin at the park. For her birthday gift, albeit belated, she wanted to spend time together some place we could do some hiking. Of course I was thrilled that was what she wanted. Doing a bit of research online, we decided to try Ponca State Park. As we were there in the middle of the week in September, we had the whole park nearly to ourselves.  During the official season (Memorial Day through Labor Day) it’s difficult to even get a cabin and there are many activities, such as horseback riding, swimming and kayaking, and a shooting range. We did some hiking and in our exploring, we discovered what a great park this truly is.

Fall flowers and berries       Jemma hiking

We also got information about the upcoming outdoor expo. This year was the 10th Anniversary Missouri River Outdoor Expo at Ponca State Park. This is a joint effort between Nebraska Game and Parks, numerous corporate sponsors and many other individuals and organizations.  There is a $5 entrance fee per vehicle and the activities are all free.

The three youngest grandchildren and I set out early on a September Saturday to take part in the fun. A bonus was that my daughter, who lives nearby, got to join us for part of the day. We had an absolute ball, even considering the fact that there were approximately twenty thousand people in attendance. Since I don’t particularly like mass events, the fact that I would go back in a heartbeat says a lot.

Climbing Wall3    Bow fishing

There were demonstrations of all kinds of outdoor and heritage activities, and wildlife and outdoor sports exhibits. It was extremely well organized and even though we had to wait in line for some of the activities the kids wanted to do, the waits were not awful and the things they got to do were worth it.  We even got to watch the dock dogs while waiting for the climbing wall. Other activities they chose included:  bowfishing, kayaking, archery at 3D targets, atl atl throwing at a wooly mammoth and a saber-toothed tiger (figures of course).

Kayaking2    3D archery

We had such a good time, that right now the plan is a birthday trip to Ponca State Park for two grandkids in the not distant future. The kids can bring their own bows and arrows and we can use the archery ranges on our own. We can hike and stay in a cabin, and we can choose a time that, as they said, “all these other people won’t be here.”

Fishing by hand  Dannen Atl atl

Dannen archery    Snow cones


For more information:

Posted in Nebraska, Parks, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn in the Mountains

Autumn is a gorgeous time in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We took an afternoon drive to LaPlata Canyon in the San Juan range in southwestern Colorado.

Sept snow and aspen gold      Snow and aspen gold     Waterfall

This year the color seems to be a bit spotty – there are places where some aspens are bright golden while others are still fully green. On some mountainsides the color in general is up high. However we did find some color in the LaPlata canyon itself. That said, you have to realize that where we were in the canyon was above 9,200 feet so pretty high elevation.

Sept in LaPlata2      LaPlata Canyon Fall

It’s a little disconcerting because it is still September and there is quite a bit of snow up high already. Our guess at how high is about 10,000 feet. Does that mean it will be a long, hard winter?

September 28

The day we went, it was actually raining off and on so there was a mist over everything and no bright sunshine. Even so, it was still beautiful.

LaPlata Canyon Fall2   LaPlata Canyon in Fall9

Posted in Colorado, Travel, Western U.S. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travelogue – Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park – the last stop on our spring 2014 trip.

Sadly we approached the end of our eighteen days in our RV and had to pack up our belongings, arranging things in appropriate bags for the final leg of our adventure. After driving 4,168 miles, we turned our Minnie Winnie in to Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage.  From this point on, it would be planes and boats.

Flying from Juneau to Gustavus2  Flying from Juneau to Gustavus

We flew from Anchorage to Juneau, where we boarded a Wings of Alaska Cessna caravan for the flight in to Gustavus.  The folks at Wings of Alaska were more than accommodating and stored our checked bags for us while we were at Glacier Bay Lodge. I love the way Alaskans seem to be able to figure out a way to make things work even if the request is a little odd.

The scenery at Glacier Bay was wonderful. The Lodge itself was laid out with many separate buildings connected by walkways blending in to the rainforest. However, it felt like they weren’t quite ready for the season yet at the lodge and perhaps were lacking in management. We had some difficulties with both the restaurant and housekeeping services.  They were very pleasant but they just didn’t quite have it together.

Glacier Bay Lodge2   Glacier Bay Lodge

Glacier Bay Lodge

When we arrived at Glacier Bay, it was raining but that is to be expected as it is in a rainforest.  We visited the ranger station, and walked along the trail to the campground. At the campground wheelbarrows were available for camper’s use. As the parking was a ways from the campsites, this looked to be a real help. We also hiked the loop trail which wound through the rainforest and muskeg ecosystem at the mouth of the bay.

Tree Carving  Tree Carving        Forest Loop Hike

In the late afternoon, several Tlingit women did a cultural presentation at the lodge. The Huna Tlingit have lived in this coastal rainforest for centuries. The bay itself was a landscape and home for countless generations before the great glacier advanced from the north and forced them to move, probably in the late 1600’s. The Huna Tlingit established a new village, Hoonah, on Chichagof Island across Icy Strait from the mouth of the bay, but Glacier Bay remains their ancestral and spiritual homeland.

Glacial Valley

The great glacier completely filled the bay for perhaps a half century until roughly 1750 and then began to retreat. On the HMS Discovery under command of Captain George Vancouver, Lt. Joseph Whidbey charted the coastline in 1794 and at that time the bay didn’t exist as it was only an slight indentation in the coastline. By 1879, when John Muir and five other men paddled in, they found a bay half-revealed and Muir named it Bay of Great Glaciers. In Muir’s time, how and why glaciers advance and retreat was just beginning to be understood.

Most glaciers in Alaska and throughout the world today are in a state of retreat. However, some in Glacier Bay receive new snow at high elevations in the Fairweather Range and remain healthy and several even show signs of advancing.  Studying a map of Glacier Bay with the termini of glaciers recorded in various years presents an interesting picture.  Some have advanced, some have retreated.

Snow in Mountains   Snowy Ridge

Our second day there, we took a Glacier Bay boat tour.  We boarded the boat at Bartlett Cove. Naturalist ranger, Brad Mason, was our onboard guide and was very knowledgeable and friendly.  We had an amazing day!  We were so fortunate that the sun came out and we could see the beautiful surrounding mountains, glaciers and much wildlife.

Sea Otter2       Tour Boat

Sea Otter

At South Marble Island, we saw – and heard! – Stellar sea lions. All jumbled up together on the rocks and the shore, they look so terribly awkward but manage to move around readily.

Stellar Sea Lions4  Stellar Sea Lions3

Stellar Sea Lions

Puffin    Birds on Shore

Puffin                                                                          Kittiwakes

At Gloomy Knob mountain goats posed beautifully for pictures. How they can scramble up rock faces the way they do is pretty amazing.

Mountain Goat2    Mountain Goat

Mountain Goats

We viewed both Casement Glacier and Rendu Glacier as we moved northward further into the bay.  At the head of the Tarr Inlet, the Grand Pacific Glacier presides with Margerie Glacier, to the west, hidden until you are well toward the end of the inlet. There are restrictions imposed on the number of vessels which can enter the bay any given day and how close they can approach the glaciers.

Grand Pacific Glacier   Grand Pacific Glacier

Margerie Glacier is one of the most beautiful and oft-photographed glaciers of all. Margerie Glacier is roughly a mile wide and 250 feet high.  As we idled viewing Margerie, we could marvel in the shapes and colors exhibited in the glacier. We were treated to “calving”, large chunks of ice breaking off the glacier and plunging into the water of the bay, and heard the “white thunder” as the ice cracked and shifted.

Tom and Marlene on Glacier Bay Boat Tour  Margerie Glacier4  Margerie Glacier

A harbor seal was lazily floating along on a bergy bit (small iceberg that rises 1 to 4 meters out of the water) between the boat and the glacier.

Harbor Seal on Ice  Harbor Seal

Lamplugh Glacier exhibited shining slivers and chunks of blue ice. The blue is a result of dense glacial ice which absorbs all wavelengths of the visible light spectrum except blue.  Glacial ice is much more highly compacted than ice we make in a freezer and as a result, melts more slowly.

Margerie Glacier2  Blue ice of Margerie Glacier

In early June, Johns Hopkins Glacier still had an incredible amount of ice in the water in front of it – icebergs and bergy bits. The two mountains behind Johns Hopkins are called Orville and Wilbur, supposedly in reference to the Wright brothers.

Johns Hopkins Glacier   Johns Hopkins Glacier

Mt. Cooper to the left of Johns Hopkins was the last feature named in the park and was named for William S. Cooper.  Cooper, a botanist, arrived in Glacier Bay in 1916 to study plant succession: how land changed and how after an event such as a glacier or volcano, the land could be resilient.  The entire bay has proven to be a living laboratory.  Virtually all the vegetation has returned in the past 300 years following the glacial retreat making this park one of the premier sites on the planet to study plant re-colonization. The process of succession isn’t limited to the land but also enlivens the sea and the shore. Cooper was an early advocate for protection of this region as a national park.

Margerie Glacier

Glacier Bay became a national monument in 1925, a national park and biosphere reserve in 1980, and part of a binational World Heritage Site in 1992.The reverence shown Glacier Bay by everyone who lives and works there is impressive and well-deserved.

One more great adventure trip in Alaska drew to its conclusion.

For more information on Glacier Bay National Park:

Margerie Glacier3


Posted in Alaska, National Park, National Park Travels, Travel, Travels in the U.S. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travelogue – Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

Wrangell St Elias sign.

Wrangell St. Elias National Park is not overly easy to access. The road from Chitina to McCarthy is such that you do not take an RV on it so we made arrangements to fly into McCarthy from Chitina. We abandoned our trusty Minnie Winnie for the three days spent at Kennecott. We parked it at the Chitina airport and would retrieve it on the way back.

Chitina Airport2    Chitina Airport

Chitina Airport

Our flight was scheduled for 9:05 a.m. There was not a lot of activity but six other people were also waiting. At 9:00 we spotted two planes coming in to land on the gravel airstrip. The pilot of the Cessna 182 said he could take five passengers and the Cessna 162 could take three. So away we went. It was cloudy and snowing in the distance so the views were not spectacular flying in but Kelly took us over Root Glacier and Kennicott Glacier and pointed out the moraines, explaining that they were jumbled ice covered with a thin (6 feet or more) layer of gravel deposited by the glacier. The Kennicott Lodge van met us at the McCarthy airport for the six-mile trip to Kennecott, which was pretty slow going due to the condition of the road.

Root Glacier Moraines in front of Fireweed Mountain   Root Glacier Moraines

Wrangell St. Elias National Park is by far the largest U.S. national park – at 13,188,000 acres – almost six times the size of Yellowstone. Four major mountain ranges converge here: the Wrangells, the Alaska, the Chugach, and the St. Elias – the tallest coastal mountains in the world. Together they contain 9 of the 16 highest peaks in the United States, 4 of them over 16,000 feet.   There are more than 150 glaciers. Only two gravel roads and few trails penetrate this park. Some areas are designated as park, some as preserve, and extensive areas are reserved as wilderness.  A vast majority of the park is accessible only on foot or by bush plane.

Blackburn Mountain   Mount Blackburn

The former mining town and millsite of Kennecott is a National Historic Landmark and is in the process of being rehabilitated. While we were there, work was being done on several buildings, and safety inspectors and others were involved with further restoration plans. At the time, five buildings were open to the public: the Recreation Hall, the Refrigeration Plant, the Train Depot, the General Manager’s Office, and the Power Plant. The National Park Visitor Center is located in the General Store and Post Office which is partially restored for their use. We got my parks passport book stamped, watched two films (one on the Park itself and one on the Kennecott mine and town) and asked questions of the park ranger.

Kennecott Mill     Kennecott Leaching Plant

Kennecott Concentration Mill                                    Leaching Plant

Generations of the Ahta people collected native copper and worked it into art, utensils, and arrowheads from the Kennicott Valley.  In 1900 two prospectors, exploring in the area of Ahta Chief Nicolia’s mines, looked up at the ridge and saw a large green “sheep pasture.”  Upon further investigation it turned out to be a copper deposit, one of the world’s richest concentrations of high grade copper ore, which they named “Bonanza.” Developing the strike would require tremendous effort, ingenuity and financial resources.  From 1900 to 1902 Stephen Birch, a young mining engineer, purchased a controlling interest in the Bonanza Mine and organized the Alaska Copper and Coal Company to develop it. With financial support from the Guggenheim brothers and J.P. Morgan, Birch reorganized in 1905 and the new company later became the Kennecott Copper Corporation.

General Manager's Office     Hospital and Bunkhouses

General Manager’s Office                                              Hospital and Bunkhouses

To get the lumber and heavy equipment needed in the isolated Kennicott Valley, as well as to supply the miners and mill workers with necessities, and to get the ore to the port at Cordova for shipment to Seattle, the 196-mile-long Copper River and North Western Railway was built through impressively inhospitable country. Crossing rivers and glaciers and dealing with rugged mountain terrain required almost 30 miles of trestles. Sternwheeler steamships hauled supplies and materials during construction, navigating the winding Copper River until reaching the Abercrombie Rapids. At that point, the boats had to be taken apart and packed by sled and horse from Valdez and then rebuilt on the river above.  With the railroad completed in 1911, Cordova became a busy port, Chitina grew up at the juncture of the Copper and Chitina Rivers, and McCarthy emerged as a more “free-spirited” community only six miles away from the company town of Kennecott.

McCarthy    McCarthy


The mill at Kennecott operated around the clock to meet the demand for copper during World War I but by the 1920’s the high-grade ore had been depleted and work slowed. After earning more than $100 million in profit, Kennecott was abandoned in 1938 and fell into ruin. In June of 1998, the National Park Service acquired many of the significant buildings and lands of the historic mining town of Kennecott. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated as a National Historic Landmark since 1986, Kennecott is considered the best remaining example of early 20th Century copper mining.

Kennecott Mill & Power Plant Stacks     Power plant

Mill and Power Plant Stacks                                  Inside Power Plant

Kennicott Glacier Lodge is actually a private entity within the park and our lodging package included meals which were outstanding. An example of an evening meal: crab-stuffed cod, fresh green salad, asparagus, angel hair pasta and cheesecake. The evening meals were served family-style and guests were assigned seating at tables for eight. As a result, we met some really interesting people. One evening we were seated with a couple from France, a couple from India, and a couple from California. Conversation in general centered on the park itself, travels and experiences traveling. We discovered that the couple from India shared our bucket list of visiting all the U.S. National Parks. We were about at the same point toward accomplishing that.

Kennicott Glacier Lodge    Kennicott Glacier Lodge

We spent much of our time in the park hiking and enjoying the scenery and what felt like a step back in time. We hiked to Root Glacier. We hiked the trail around the perimeter of Kennecott. We walked Silk Stocking Row. We walked around McCarthy and visited the museum there. Although our first two days were overcast and rainy, the third day the sun came out and the mountains were glorious.

Toe of Root Glaicier    Regal Mountain

Root Glacier                                                                 Regal Mountain

On the flight back to Chitina, the views of the mountains were magnificent. Steam rose from the vent of the dome-shaped volcano that is Mt. Wrangell and the Wrangell Mountains on the north competed with the Chugach Mountains to the south for the title of most splendid.

Kennicott Glacier    Flying out of McCarthy

Kennicott Glacier                                                    Flying back out

For more information:


Posted in Alaska, History, National Park, National Park Travels, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Travelogue – Yukon into Alaska

Tanana River    Tanana River

In the Yukon territory, we decided to hike the Spruce Beetle Trail. The spruce beetle is taking a toll on the spruces in this area much like pine beetle is on the pines in the U.S. Rocky Mountains. However, the response evidenced through the very informative trail signs somewhat surprised us. In forests here seldom hit by fire, the spruce beetle plays the role of selective recycler. By killing older or less robust trees, the beetles trigger change and rejuvenation. An interesting bit of information stated that spruce beetle adults can survive winter temperatures of -23° C. and larvae even colder -32° C. That is because they develop antifreeze in their blood as the days get shorter. The antifreeze prevents the formation of ice crystals that would pierce their cells. However, if severe cold hits in early winter before the beetles have produced enough antifreeze, mortality can be high.

Moose on the Run- Yukon

The Kluane Lake area provided us with our first close view of a moose. This cow moose definitely had a goal in mind as she took off and it was amazing how fast she could travel. Kluane Lake itself was still partially covered with ice.

Kluane Lake   Kluane Lake

At the Tachal Dhal Visitor Centre, Ranger Pauley was extremely knowledgeable and very personable. She answered questions and encouraged us to use the spotting scopes. The southern slopes of Tachal Dhal (Sheep Mountain) are the primary winter and spring range and lambing area of a Dall sheep population. We were fortunate to be able to spot numerous ewes and lambs on the mountainside.

Dall Sheep - Sheep Mountain - Yukon2   Dall Sheep

Whichever of us was not driving had plenty of time to observe the surrounding countryside as the road was absolutely terrible – huge potholes, frost heaves, sections of gravel washboards where the pavement was gone completely. An average of 35 miles an hour was about the best to be hoped for here. This was undoubtedly the worst road of our entire trip.

Continuing slowly on north we saw another moose, “drunken” trees, and trumpeter swans.

Moose  Drunken Trees

Trumpeter swan


At the U.S.-Canada border, we paused for the standard photo op standing in both countries at once. There is a monument celebrating the longest unfortified border between two countries anywhere in the world.


Tom at International Boundary  Marlene at International Boundary


At the Seaton Roadhouse Interpretive Site and Trails, we took a hike and I had the opportunity to photograph nesting trumpeter swans. They were fascinating to watch and to hear their trumpeting.

Nesting trumpeter swans  Trumpeter swans and cygnets2

Diving Swan  Trumpeter swan2

The town of Tok is the major overland point of entry to Alaska. Highway travelers arriving in Alaska or leaving Alaska must pass through Tok. The visitor center offers tourists a friendly welcome to Alaska and as much information as you could possibly want. From Tok, we headed southwest on the Tok Cutoff.

Tok, Alaska

Posted in Alaska, Canada, Travel, Travels in the U.S. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment