Those of you who recognize the reference to C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew are not mistaken - this is exactly how the forest of Lassen Volcanic National Park looks like. I got that impression a few years ago when we hiked the loop trail of Hat Mountain (sadly, now burnt) and once again on this trip, when we hiked to explore two of the smaller lakes adjacent to Juniper Lake. The serenity of the fir and pine forest and the clarity of these small lakes under the brightness and warmth of the lazy late summer sun worked together to give a truly magical feeling. Just slip the ring on and step into the lake and one is immediately transported to an enchanted world.
We arrived Juniper Lake campground on Saturday before noon, just in time to claim the last remaining campsite. The weather was perfect: sunny and warm with very little wind, but a tad too cool for a dip in the lake. So after eating lunch and building our tent we decided to go on a short trail leading to another, smaller lake – Crystal Lake.
|From Juniper Lake campground to Crystal Lake|
|Lassen Peak peeking from behind the trees on the trail to Crystal Lake|
|The water was so clear and cool. It was irresistible.|
|The rocky cliff over the southern shore of Crystal Lake|
Crystal Lake is very close to a summit and no creek leads into it. Like many other such lakes in the area, its water is all snow melt. But though isolated, it does have fish, and people to go fishing there.
|Mount Harkness, view from Crystal Lake.|
Difficulty level: easy.
Labor Day Monday was our day to go back home, but I couldn't bring myself to leave the area right after breaking camp, so I convinced my family to go on another hike - to Horseshoe Lake. After eating breakfast under a raid of hungry grey jays, we drove 2 miles north on the dirt road to the trailhead, at the north point of Juniper Lake.
|A grey jay, waiting to jump the breakfast table.|
The trail is very obvious: clear and wide. Impossible to miss. It begins with a mild ascension through a fir/pine forest that soon opens up into large clearings carpeted with Manzanita shrubs. After a small plateau the trail descended back into the forest.
|Mid-way to Horseshoe Lake|
There were little forest flowers where we sat. Cute spots of color.
|An aster? A fleabane?|
At the south corner of the lake we spotted a red area. A close-up photo revealed little flowers sticking out of the water like tiny red snorkels.
|Lake painted red|
We were already pressed with time so we didn't go near these flowers. Instead, after having our snack and appreciating the scenery we turned and headed back to our trail.
There are picnic tables right by the water. We took our watermelon out of the car (and it was still cold from the night), opened it and had a quiet, relaxed picnic by the water. After that we returned to the car and drove off, back to civilization.