Date: June 2016
Place: Lassen Volcanic National Park, Chester, California
Coordinates: 40.443145, -121.397180
Length: 4 miles in and out
Level: easy to moderate
last year I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park with a group of families.We were there in mid-June and the trail to Bumpass Hell was buried in snow so we went to see Devil's Kitchen instead.
Two days before our group hike I was there with only my chikas, and at that time I took most of these photos.
It is a long and partly dirt forest road from the town of Chester to Warner Valley where the trailhead is, and a tiny dirt lot for parking at the end of it. The park rangers have been diverting people to Warner Valley so the tiny lot was nearly full. I managed to squeeze into a shady spot, prompted my chikas out of the car and headed down the trail.
The trail begins in the woods, and in the beginning it is mostly level. I could hear the creek flowing below us and here and there also caught glimpses of it between the trees.
|Hot Springs Creek|
A robin perched on a rock in the meadow was eyeing us warily, barely remaining put until was all passed his rock.
There were, in fact, two dippers, hopping about near the water. We stayed there for a while observing them, then crossed the bridge and moved on.
After the creek crossing the trail continues on the hillside slope. Little brooks were flowing downhill, crossing our path and muddying the trail. One of these brooks seemed to be flowing right to a pool next to a group of buildings down below.
The plants growing right by the water were obviously tolerant of the heat. Yellow monkeyflowers were blooming there, some yarrow, and this selfheal plant, a relative of sage.
|Selfheal, Prunella vulgaris|
|Violet, Viola sp.|
|Nevada Lewisia, Lewisia nevadensis|
|Larkspur, Delphinium sp.|
|Hot Springs Creek|
We were walking in a field of grasses and rushes but corn lilies were still present. Not in a huge pasture like before, but in pretty, round cushions. None were blooming yet.
|California Corn Lily, Veratrum californicum|
A mild smell of sulfur hang in the air. Somewhere ahead there were volcanic hot springs :-)
A moving contraption caught my eye: in the water, just off the bridge, was a handmade waterwheel. There was no indication of who put it there and why. I wondered if it was some sort of a boy scouts project left behind.
My thoughts didn't linger in the waterwheel for there were far more attractive things to look at near this brook, such as blooming bog orchids.
Our day turned quite warm so we welcomed getting back into the shade of the woods. We did, however, started ascending almost immediately. The slope was mild, but continuous.
We walked uphill slowly, enjoying the shade and the fresh smell of the conifers forest. The trees weren't very crowded and there were quite a few wildflowers on the forest floor.
|Northern Bog Violet, Viola nephrophylla|
|Mountain Fritillary, Fritillary atropurpurea|
|Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea|
As we were going up the smell of sulfur strengthened. Then the slope became a steeper uphill, and just as the chikas were asking for another break we reached the top. From there it was a steep drop into Devil's Kitchen.
Devil's Kitchen is an active volcanic springs area, one of five within the park. The first time I've seen it was from far above, during my hike to Kings Creek Falls and Sifford Lake, a year before. Now I was seeing it up close. It isn't as big as Bumpass Hell but it's certainly very active, and it is very beautiful.
The Hot Springs Creek runs through Devil's Kitchen, collecting the heat and the minerals and waters the vegetation. The gasses that seep from the volcanic ground into the sallow water at the edge of the creek, giving it a pretty fizz.
We strolled around the small loop trail that meanders between the volcanic features, inhaling the odors and swallowing the sights.
And then we had to walk right through the clouds of smelly steam. Quite an experience it was. I think the smell clung to my shirt for quite a while after that.
|Not a sequoia. A massive cedar tree on the trail to Devil's Kitchen.|
July 23, 2017
Last summer, a year and a month after our first visit to Devil's Kitchen I came there once again with a family hiking group. Our original plan was to hike to Bumpass Hell, but the heavy winter snowfall had left the trail buried and closed even as late as the end of July. Not to miss the geothermal feature of the park we drove to Warner Valley and hiked once again to Devil's Kitchen.
Located at a lower elevation, there was no sign of any leftover snow on our way. The tail was pretty much the same as I described above - no big changes there, except for that the waterwheel contraption was no longer in the creek.
The wildflowers, however, were different. Only a month later into the hot season (and it was very hot!) and what I've seen blooming was completely different.
|Grayswamp Whiteheads, Sphenosciadium capitellatum|
The new wildflowers were mostly in the meadow area where I've seen also some plants that were completely new to me.
|California Corn Lily, Veratrum californicum|
|Columbian Monkshood, Aconitum columbianum|
Another difference was the state of the grassy meadow. It was already drying up. There was still a lot of green around, but it was already mature green. And a green that's interrupted with patches of other bloom colors.
Another difference was the forest. The trees were there of course (although that's not trivial, considering how many forest fires have been raging throughout California during the past year). The forest floor, however, was brown, empty of bloom. All the forest floor wildflowers were already done for the season.
On our way back my chika noticed something slithering on the trail. I manages to get there fast enough to capture its image - a garter snake - before it vanished in the grass.
Our way back was quick - it was our last day of the trip there, and everyone was eager to get out and go home. Just before the creek crossing I turned around and looked behind me with longing. I wasn't eager to leave but I also couldn't stay - the chika's schedule dominated mine and they were due in the 4-H camp by the end of the week.
I'll be back in Lassen next summer, but whether I'll visit Devil's Kitchen again remains to be seen. It's really up to the elements. I won't be disappointed to, that's for sure.
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying plants!