Sunday, July 17, 2011

Camping Lake Almanor

From our home in the San Francisco/Santa Cruz Bay Areas of California, Lake Almanor and Lassen Volcanic National Park are about a 6 hour drive.  We took Interstate 80 North out of the Bay Area and over toward the State Capital of Sacramento, eventually we ended up on 70 North and then took 32 East from Chico, CA.  Leaving just after 6 am, we arrived at our Lake Almanor Campground South at noon.  Stepping out of the car, we were instantly relaxed.  Fresh cool, clean, air; blue sky; tall, happy trees made us want to set up our new hammocks and take in our temporary home.  The Lake Almanor area is like a blissful, calm, quiet, uncrowded, low-key version of Lake Tahoe.

We took a ride around the lake after settling in and setting up our tent.  The photo above was taken on the southwestern corner of the PG&E-created lake, looking north toward Lassen Peak.
The remainder of our camping party had joined us by the second night, the night before the full moon.  We hoped in the car to obtain a great sunset shot, and this moon rising photo as well.  This southeast-facing photo was taken after the adventure of crawling down a couple of embankments to the lakeside.  Rocky Point PG&E Campground affords visitors tent sites right on the lake shore, we discovered.
Every morning while camping, the mother ground squirrel (ground squirrels don't have stripes that go all the way down their noses, unlike chipmunks) scurried around for food.  Meanwhile, her three babies, one of which is pictured above, would come out for some sun.  What a cute family with whom to share our campsite.
While waiting patiently for the Lassen Volcanic National Park road to open, we rented a boat.  The boat was equipped with a "fish finder," so we could see the best fishing was on the least populated side of the lake, about 300' off shore.  Lake Almanor is a wonderfully relaxing lake.  My husband I both commented on the cloud formations:  reminded me of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings, and my husband of "The Simpsons" clouds.
One night we ate at the Pines Resort on the lake shore.  The restaurant was memorable only for it's Friday and Saturday night live bands.  When I saw the sun setting, I ran out onto the dock and photographed the colors.  Loved that people just boated across the lake to eat dinner, then cruised back to their country club homes.
The night after the full moon, this amazing moon came up behind us: a huge orange moon sitting in a dark blue sky, reflecting a deep orange off the turquoise lake water.  The colors reminded me of something tropical like southern Florida.
Listening to me, my husband drove Highway 89 South to go home.  We took the scenic route, which surprised us with it's wonderfulness.  Passing many quaint towns; Quincy, CA being my favorite; Lure Resort on the river in Downieville, CA looked sweet as well.  Highway 49 South followed 89, where we stopped to take the photo above.  Our friend, who drove this route the previous night, said that he saw two giant mountain lions sitting on a boulder looking for food in the river.  What an exciting trip!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lassen Volcanic National Park

We entered Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California on Thursday, July 14, 2011.  Little did we know the road through the park was closed due to snow.  Our small camping group was able to go one third of the way through the park, then a closed gate at Bumpass Hell (a bubbling geological site) stopped vehicles from going further.  I didn't believe the website posting, from a week before we went camping, that stated a number of the popular hiking trails in the park were closed due to snow.
 This bubbling mudpot is clearly visible from the road, and one of the first thermo-geological sites one comes across from the southern entrance to the park.
A short hike up a hill, affords the view of this steaming, rapidly bubbling hot spring across the stream (the trail right up to this spring was closed due to danger of stepping through the thin crust between hiker and boiling water!).
Parking at Bumpass Hell trailhead (as far as we could go), we walked the road behind the closed gate to this view of Lake Helen.  We were awed by the beautiful frozen lake and the pretty icy blue color of its water.  Across the street from this lake was a 24' high wall of snow, it made an impression on us from the snowless part of California.
Lucky for us, the road all the way through Lassen National Park opened while we were still in the area.  We drove back through the park on Saturday, when we were sure that the road would be open.  Above is a picture of the back side of Lassen Peak, it shows the devastated area from Lassen's 1914 and 1915 volcanic eruptions (its last big eruption was in 1922).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Yountville, California

We visited the new chicken coop at The French Laundry garden in Yountville, CA on our way to Bouchon Bakery after spending the night with friends. The chickens are small and have a great home.
Liked this purple variation on bachelor buttons growing in The French Laundry garden (bleuet is French for Cornflower/Bachelor Button, as these flowers grow in corn fields).
For dinner we enjoyed beef short ribs at Ad Hoc restaurant. We were invited to stay the night at friends' home in northeast Napa Valley.
Earlier in the day we tested Ad Hoc restaurant's new "take out" lunch program called Addendum (Thursday-Friday-Saturday 11 am-2 pm only). Arriving late, with an hour to closing, they were out of the barbeque option, so we tried the fried chicken. It came to the lovely picnic benches behind the restaurant in biodegradable containers.