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Volcanic Vacation

From roaring fumaroles to boiling lakes, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a perfect destination for those looking to discover volcanic treasures.


The land is constantly reminding us that it is alive at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located among the sprawling Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California, the park contains amazing natural features like steaming sulfur vents, bubbling mud pots and boiling hot springs. Although the area’s most famous active volcano, Lassen Peak, has not erupted since 1921, the park is home to all four types of volcanoes and beckons visitors to explore its volcanic terrain.

Lassen Volcanic National Park spans over 42,000 hectares in northeast California and welcomes around 500,000 visitors annually. It is an ideal destination for those who like to enjoy natural splendor without the large crowds, for example, of California’s famous Yosemite National Park, located a few hours south, which attracts over 4.3 million visitors every year. Lush forests, peaceful meadows and sparkling lakes are found throughout Lassen Volcanic National Park’s otherworldly boundaries—a relatively undiscovered gem of California’s breathtaking mountainous landscape.

The park started as two separate monuments designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: the Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument. From 1914 to 1915, Lassen Peak experienced a series of over 150 eruptions, culminating in its largest on May 22, 1915, which shot volcanic steam and ash 30,000 feet into the sky. The area gained fame because of these dramatic eruptions, and was later declared a national park on August 9, 1916.

Today, the park’s volcanic explosions have settled, but the land is still shaped and defined by constant seismic activity occurring underground. All four different types of volcanoes can be found here: shield, composite, cinder cone and plug dome. As a result, the park features nearly every kind of volcanic geological feature known to man—from mud pots and lava beds to cinder cones and smoking vents. This diverse landscape has inspired the name of its unique landmarks like Chaos Crags, Devil’s Kitchen, Bumpass Hell and Boiling Springs Lake. The popular Bumpass Hell Trail and Basin is currently closed for a multi-year rehabilitation project.

It is common for visitors to camp at Lassen Volcanic National Park, which is typically empty enough that only half of its campsites require advance reservations. The park offers eight campgrounds, each distinct and attracting different types of campers. The Manzanita Lake Campground features a lot of amenities and is, therefore, very popular with families. Some of the more remote and adventurous campgrounds include Butte Lake, Warner Valley and Juniper Lake—each lies at the end of a road that does not connect with the main park road. For those who prefer indoor accommodations, the Drakesbad Guest Ranch provides the only covered lodging within the park, and operates from early June through early October. This old 1900’s-style lodge offers rustic accommodations, most without electricity, in the southeast side of the park, with amenities like massage services, guided trail rides and a full-service restaurant.

During the winter and spring seasons, Lassen Volcanic National Park becomes an ideal ski and backcountry snowboard destination. Even beginners can put on a pair of snowshoes and hike to see the beauty of nature covered in white. While some roads through the park close down in winters, both the north and south entrances have marked snowshoe trails. Visitors can choose to venture on their own, or opt for a park ranger-guided snowshoe walk on weekends.

At night, the park is pitch black; so dark that there is an entire celebration devoted to it. The Dark Sky Festival, usually held in late July or early August, is an annual three-day celebration of stargazing and astronomy activities, including solar scope viewing and constellation tours. There are usually discussions and demonstrations by park rangers and experts from NASA, the International Dark-Sky Association and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Park rangers also lead other astronomy programs at Lassen Volcanic National Park during summers. It is one of the best places in California to see the night sky.

California is home to some truly stunning scenery, with few more jaw-dropping and unique than Lassen Volcanic National Park. The jagged rocks, crystal clear mountain lakes, thermally-altered soil, fields of wildflowers and towering volcanoes are all part of the eye-popping landscape of this Californian treasure.

 

Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.


 

Volcanic Island

Narcondam Island is located about 240 kilometers northeast of Port Blair in the Andaman Islands. Narcondam houses a small, dormant volcano, and is believed to have been created by its eruption. Thus, for a long period of time, this small, remote island in the Bay of Bengal remained secluded and inaccessible to tourists.

Narcondam Island is listed on UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites for being the only site “inhabited by the Narcondam Hornbill (Aceros narcondami), a distinct hornbill species, as well as several other species which are representative of the unique biome of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.” The island has been notified as a sanctuary under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, to protect and monitor this hornbill species, listed as endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

Narcondam Island came into the limelight as its waters gained popularity among scuba divers. The other attractions of this picturesque island are the Narcondam Mountain and its dense evergreen forests.


—J.C.