Lassen Light & Fast

Lassen Light & Fast

Before I put my legs away for the winter, I wanted to get in a quick overnight with lots of miles in between. Fortune smiled down on me and my wife’s scheduled fishing trip allowed her to drop me off near the north end of Lassen Park and pick me up the next day, 26 miles later, at the southern end. It’s been a long time since I simply walked all day with a superlight pack and hours of non-stop music pouring from my iPod and it made for a real nice couple of days.

Forest Fires and Healthy Forests

With all that oxygen being pumped through my brain, the farther I walked the smarter I got, so I started thinking about the Reading fires in the Park this summer. I’m eager to get over in that area of the Park. It’s closed until next year because of the danger of falling trees. I’ll wait for a couple of snow & windstorms to clear out all the dangerous stuff before I go in, but it should be interesting.

Many call the fire devastating, but I suspect it’s not as bad as the average person thinks. The Park has been performing controlled burns over in that area for several years now, and I hope the fire was “cool” enough it merely cleaned up the forest floor or took out smaller trees. The big trees should be able to take care of themselves if the fire stays out of the crowns. There is one section over by Hat Creek where beavers fell every tree within a 100 yards of the creek (silly beavers, what were you thinking? You’re suppose to dam the creek, not clear cut several acres.) That morass of downed, dead trees probably made quite a bonfire.

The reason I was thinking about the fires was the forest I was hiking through up by Red Cinder Cone saddle. The forest just looked “right.” It occurred to me that this is probably what a healthy the forest is supposed to look like. Mostly big trees with lots of open forest floor and very few small or downed trees. I believe there was a fire up there in the late 80’s or early 90’s and the forest looked great.

Healthy-Forest-Caribou
Healthy-Forest
Not-Healthy-Forest

Compare that photo of a healthy forest (left two photos) with one I took the next day on the southern end of the Park (right photo), where it’s likely it hadn’t seen a fire in over 40 years (click on the photos to see larger versions.) It should be interesting to see what this year’s burn area looks like in a couple of years. I’m betting it’s going to look “right.”

 

Gear Update

I also wanted to give a quick update to some equipment I’m trying out — namely ZEMgear’s 360 shoes and Columbia’s new Cool Heat ball cap.

Columbia claims “The Coolhead Cap uses a naturally occurring chemistry to start actively cooling you the moment the fabric it comes in contact with your sweat—the cap actually starts feeling cool to the touch.” Actually, while I’m used to marketing hype, this cap comes pretty close to delivering. They are my new favorite baseball cap and I aim to buy a couple more next time I’m driving by the Columbia store.

As for the ZEMgear 360 shoes, they remain light, comfortable, sure-footed and delightful to wear after you’ve just completed 13 miles (or, as I found out, 29,414 steps.) If I lost the 360’s tomorrow I’d buy another pair. They are close to the perfect camp shoe, plus they would work great for those occasional stream crossings where protection is just as important as a sure grip.

 

SCATABARS Trip Rating for this trip

It has to be a loop or point-to-point trip, not an in-and-out route. 4 Points
There should be at least one or most passes (or peaks) involved. 3 Points
There has to be good campsites. 4 Points
There needs to be a Misery/Accomplishment Score. 2 Points
The Awesome factor. 3 Points

Total Score: 16 out of 25

 

Wolf-footprint

California’s Lone Grey Wolf

Lastly, I didn’t want to say anything for a couple of days until I got back from my backpack trip and checked the website, but it looks like the solitary grey wolf cruising Northern California was likely in Lassen Volcanic National Park the same time as I. For those friends of mine not of this region, a single male grey wolf broke off from a pack in Oregon and has been wandering around Northern California for over a year, presumably looking for a mate. He’s the ONLY grey wolf in the state, so he’s going to have a hard time finding a mate. He’s being tracked by a radio collar, but for his security, they don’t reveal his location until several days afterwards. I believe this to be his paw print (there were many of them on the trail,) and I heard a series of howls near my campsite on Saturday night. If so, way cool.