It’s a five mile trail. Round trip.
When we decided to hike Lassen Peak one summer morning, Ry and I were training for a half marathon. I thought I was in reasonable shape, for a woman who really, really likes carbs. I thought, five miles?! We’re going to have to run that twice to get in some decent mileage today.
It started out a gorgeous trail for a Sunday morning. Alpine views, purple lupines everywhere, chipmunks rolling across the path fighting over acorns. The mood was high.
Then the elevation caught up to us. The trail head starts at 8500 feet and goes to 10,457 feet. In just over two miles. On paper that seemed completely doable. I thought we’d make the top within an hour at most, being really generous with time to account for some elevation gain.
And it got steeper. We stopped and drank water. We chuckled nervously. We eyed our granola bars.
And it got steeper.
At this point I felt like an utter couch potato, despite our recent training. I pulled out my inhaler, which I hadn’t used in months, not even on our long runs. The combination of elevation and the steep incline was unpleasant, and not even the spectacular views could distract me. I think you can see all the way to Oregon from here. Maybe.
So we stopped for lunch and to chat with some chipmunks.
Just over two hours after leaving the car, we made it our two measly miles and reached the summit of Lassen Peak. In August, there was still some snow at the peak. So we made snow cones with some apple cider powder to celebrate our victory. The views really are breathtaking. If you look left, you see cinder cones and volcanic landscape, and it’s not hard to imagine being on some unforgiving alien planet. Look right, and it’s miles and miles of silvery lakes and alpine peaks, everything painted that high altitude rich blue. And of course you have the knowledge that you are now at almost 11,000 feet elevation.
Bring water. Wear good shoes. Wear layers, because no matter how hot you feel on the trail, when you reach the top and the wind hits you, you’ll be happy in your sweater.
Directions: Lassen Volcanic National Park. From Sacramento, it’s a three hour drive up I-5 and then over on highway 36. It’s also about a three hour drive from Medford, Oregon, down I-5 and over on highway 89. Make sure you check the park website for any alerts before you go. If it’s been a particularly wet winter, the roads through the park open a bit later than their average. Normally by June, and sometimes by August, the roads are clear.