Thursday, November 22, 2018

Twin Lakes Loop Trail ↔ Lassen Volcanic National Park ↔ Autumn Hiking Series

This was our most ambitious hike yet!

We started the hike feeling like this:

And almost ten hours later...

(We'll get to the reasons why later.)

lassen volcanic national park

I'm calling it the Twin Lakes Loop Trail, but I've seen it named differently depending on which website you go to. Lassen's website calls it the Summit Lake to Cluster/Twin Lakes Loop, All Trails has it as the Cluster Lakes Loop, and the trailhead sign says it's the Summit Lake Loop.

Whatever you want to call it, this hike was a beast and it kicked my patootie, big time. As in, halfway through I started to panic because I didn't know how in the world I was going to find the strength to finish it. (More about my kick-butt perseverance later.) Let's get started!

First, we begin our hike at Summit Lake. This is a beautiful lake--it even has a campground--and I'd like to go back and spend some time here. Preferably sitting at a picnic table with my feet up and a cool drink in my hand.

But we're not here to dilly-dally! Time to buck up and get going!

The beginning of this trail is pretty steep as it climbs up the ridge through a fir forest to a manzanita carpeted woodland...

We've done enough hikes lately to know that the best views are a result of all that difficult climbing work...

The views are a nice payoff and we enjoyed the unique landscape of the meadow of manzanita...

There are several unnamed lakes along the way. I think that if they can manage to stay full through the heat of summer, then they deserve a name!

The trail then continues climbing to a ridge top to the intersection of the beginning and end of the Cluster Lakes Loop trail. You can follow the trail to the right to continue to Echo Lake, but we decided to stick it out and hike the entire loop. (Looking back, I wish future self could tell my past self to just hike the pleasant walk to Echo Lake, have a nice time and go home instead of continuing on the grueling loop. That's what you get for trying to push yourself and #hikefurther!)

The trail passes through the 2012 Reading Fire area. There were miles of dead standing trees and the park's website cautions that they can fall without warning. (We did have to climb over several different trees along the way that had fallen and were blocking the trail.)

At first, the fire's destruction was fascinating, but after a few miles, it started to get a little depressing. We were under the impression that the trail passed through a small section of the fire damaged forest, but in fact, it accounted for more than half of the hike. Not quite the beautiful, shady, scenic hike I'd been expecting.

lassen volcanic national park
Little Bear Lake
The main lakes we passed by are as follows:
Summit Lake
Little Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake
Silver Lake
Feather Lake
Lower Twin Lake
Upper Twin Lake
Echo Lake

lassen volcanic national park

lassen volcanic national park
Silver Lake

 The last time you'll see me fresh-faced and smiling during this hike... (Ah, memories!)

lassen volcanic national park
Feather Lake
By the time we reached the twin lakes, my calves were beyond burning and my feet pleaded with me to have mercy on them. Unfortunately, we had to keep on trekking. Spending the night in the forest was not an option.

Lower Twin Lake

lassen volcanic national park
Upper Twin Lake

10 miles in and somehow I don't feel like climbing anymore...

Are we there yet? Yep, we finally arrived at Echo Lake. (But there's still a couple more miles to go to get back to the car!) Echo Lake was probably the prettiest of the 8 main lakes in the loop and I'd recommend just hiking to it and skipping the loop altogether.

lassen volcanic national park
Echo Lake

This is the most exhausted I've ever been in my entire life. I still can't believe we were able to keep on pushing through the pain and fatigue and make it back to the trailhead. Between the two of us, hubby is The Rock (and I'm the hopeless romantic who'd rather live in my fictional sunshine and roses fantasy world than join reality) and he even had a difficult time getting through this hike.

In total, we hiked 12.8 miles with an elevation gain of 1539 feet and it took us 9.5 hours. Whew! No wonder it took me several days afterwords to recover! This trail reminded me who's boss and it sure as heck isn't me. This was our ninth hike in nine weeks and I really thought I could handle the distance. Boy, was I mistaken! And here I thought the hike to Ridge Lakes was easy peasy when it was considered strenuous. Who's in charge of classifying these hikes anyway? From now on, I refuse to hike further than about five miles or so. I proved to myself that I could do longer, but it so wasn't worth it in the end.

Now, it's time to rate this bad boy using our complicated rating system...

My rating for this hike is pretty harsh. After all, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Seriously. Physically, I don't have anything else to compare it to. When I saw the car in the parking lot, I literally started to cry. I'm giving it 2 Never Again's out of 5. 🚷🚷

Hubby's 4 our of 5 is more generous (most likely because he's The Man), but he also said that this hike is making him throw in the towel as far as longer hikes are concerned. πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺ

And when the big guy drops the mike on something, you know it must have been rough.

So, there it is. The Vaughn's have officially been put in their place!

On the plus side, this hike wasn't enough to make us never want to go on a hike ever again. We'll still visit Lassen in the spring to make some videos that show off all those snow-capped mountains and blooming wildflowers. And those two and three mile hikes will seem like a piece of cake. Red velvet cake overflowing with ooey-gooey decadent cream cheese frosting...

Here's the highlight video from our hike!

Let's go on an adventure!


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ridge Lakes ↔ Lassen Volcanic National Park ↔ Autumn Hiking Series

Our Sunrise Hiking series continues with a (you guessed it!) sunrise hike to Ridge Lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen has its share of fall colors and even though I'd rather see wildflowers in bloom, the scenery in autumn is pretty in its own way...

We started hiking as soon as the sun started coming up over the mountains and we had the entire trail to ourselves the whole day. Yep, you heard right! We didn't see another soul on this trail even though we reached the trailhead at around noon.

I keep mentioning how surprised I am at the diversity of these Lassen trails. I expected this trail to wind through the forest and that's it, but we found ourselves walking through meadows and there were plenty of openings through the trees to see the surrounding mountains.

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Although the second half of the trail was fairly steep, okay, really steep, it wasn't nearly as far as I thought and it was totally worth the extra work to get there.

When we arrived at the lake, the reflections on the water were so mirror-like that the sight of it played tricks on your mind!

Lassen Volcanic National Park

If you didn't know it was water, you'd think there was a giant hole in the ground with a forest growing upside down inside of it!

You can see the lines on the mountain where rocks have fallen down the side...

Lassen Volcanic National Park

I'm still happy with my new insulated backpack and can't believe how comfortable the padded straps are. From here on out, you probably won't be seeing many photos where I'm not wearing it!

Lassen Volcanic National Park

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Puffy white clouds started rolling in and the hike back was just as pretty as the hike to the lakes...

There has been lichen growing on the trees on every trail we've been on in the park, and on this trail the lichen was growing horizontally on the trees!

Nature is crazy beautiful and sometimes unexpected, isn't it?

It's so exciting to be able to handle the more strenuous hikes and I can't believe how far I've come in such a short time! Maybe hiking Lassen Peak isn't such a longshot after all.

To score our Ridge Lakes hike on our complicated rating system, we're getting a little help from one of our favorite comedies The Great Outdoors.

I enjoyed the panoramic views of this hike and look forward to hiking it again in the early summer when everything is in bloom. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be (yay, I'm getting stronger with each hike!) and I would have hiked even further to get there. I give it 5 Chet Ripley pontoon boats out of 5. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰

Hubby agrees and gives it 5 arrogant Roman Craig's out of 5. πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œ