Three day hikes offer something for everyone in Lassen Volcanic National Park, located east of Redding, California. If you start from the north on Highway 89, the 1.7-mile Manzanita Lake Loop is a relaxing warmup. Head south to the other two trails: three-mile Bumpass Hell Trail and the tough, five-mile climb to Lassen Peak, 10,457 feet, and back. The Bumpass trail transports walkers to a boardwalk, which passes through a hydrothermal area. Sue and I walked the lake loop and Bumpass trail in half a day, but decided against tackling the peak in the warm afternoon sun. (I was tempted, though.) Looking for more? The park offers 150 miles of hiking and if you are walking the Pacific Crest Trail, you’ll get fantastic views as you pass through yet another national park. If you’re camping, the Manzanita Lake campground looked great and was still open in mid-October. The three day hikes close sometime in fall until spring. (Thanks to Sue for the photos!)
Our six miles on the Appalachian Trail during our tour of Virginia stirred affection and respect for one of the world’s great long-distance paths. In Shenandoah National Park, we entered the AT at the Thornton Gap trailhead parking lot.
The trail led us over a mostly rocky surface with more than 1,700 feet of climbing. We took a quick detour to Mary’s Rock, where Sue took in the view, then we continued southbound to the Bird’s Nest #3 Shelter, one of more than 250 shelters spread over the AT’s 2,190 miles. In order to sleep in the huts, campers must be traveling at least three consecutive days on the AT. The Bird’s Nest featured a rock fireplace, wooden sleeping platform, a nearby privy as well as a bear box and hanger poles to keep food safe. Thru hikers must use the shelter unless it is full, when they may use designated campsites nearby. I ate my lunch while sitting on the platform and imagined the hut filled with sleeping bags and trekkers. I could almost hear the snoring and smell the trail grime.
The higher we went, the less spring we witnessed as the season had delayed its arrival. We passed six or seven northbound thru hikers, who all traveled solo and appeared to be in their 20s. I resisted asking where they started and where their destination was. They all were in a hurry since a storm was moving in, but they took the time for a brief friendly greeting. I wished I had brought along some trail magic (beers?) to hand off as they passed.