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Lassen Volcanic National Park – Tips and Images


Lassen Volcanic National Park Tips and Images @handbookofnaturestudy

Last summer my husband and I were able to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. We were camping at near-by Eagle Lake and this seemed like the perfect day trip for us. We had been to this national park in the past, I am guessing in 1996. This time we were going to take in the highlights and hike a few easy trails.

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Of course, stopping at the visitor center was a must since we needed to get some suggestions for hiking and to see the exhibits. We spent a few minutes talking to the ranger at the information desk about how to make the best use of our time. Equipped with some ideas, we set off on the road through the park, traveling south to north. The entire road through the park is about 29 miles.

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The first place we stopped was the Sulphur Works. The signs were very helpful and told both about the geology of the area and the history.

Lassen National Park 2014 (8)It is pretty impressive to see the mud pots bubbling and steaming with stinking vapors. The yellowish parts are where the sulphur is exposed.

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Here is another view of the Sulphur Works area. The hydrothermal features of Lassen are not as extensive or impressive as the ones found at Yellowstone National Park but still very interesting.

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From the same parking lot, you can take off on a hike up to Ridge Lakes. If we had more time, we would have hiked the two mile round trip trail to see the lakes. The first section of the trail was beautifully bordered by ferns and wildflowers galore. Gorgeous!

The next major stop on the road is the parking lot and trailhead to Bumpass Hell. We have done this trail before and would be a MUST SEE for any first time visitors. We took our very young children on this hike so I know it is possible to do this as a family. The reward is a view that is rare and unique. You need to note that this trail is only open for part of the year so check the national park website for opening and closing dates.

You must watch this video on YouTube: Lassen Volcanic National Park – Bumpass Hell.

We chose instead to have a picnic lunch at Lake Helen.

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This is an amazingly blue lake with crystal clear water. We sat in the sunshine on this day and marveled at all the geological history surrounding us.

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Here is another view of the lake. Believe it or not, there were some people who came and jumped in this lake for a swim. The water was ice cold making it hard to understand the attraction but we enjoyed watching them swim across the lake and back.

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The drive through the park included some amazing vistas. We took our time and explored this meadow a bit and then headed to the devastated area.

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We walked the nature trail here at the devastated area, reading the signs and imagining the volcano’s eruption last century. This is a perfect place to learn about this particular volcano and see some rocks and other geological features up close.

Lassen National Park 2014 (43)You can see the actual volcano in the distance from here. On this bright sunny peaceful summer day it was hard to imagine the violent eruption that happened so recently.

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The nature lover in me thoroughly soaked in the information about the rocks and geology shared on the interpretive signs. This is the perfect place for families to visit before, during, or after a study of the earth’s rock cycle.

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Near the entrance station, there is a wonderful lake to stop at and walk around. Manzanita Lake was a busy place on this particular day with picnickers, fishermen, and walkers.

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We sat at the lake’s edge long enough for me to sketch the scene in my nature journal. What a perfect way to end our day!

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I hope you get to visit this national park sometime with your children…put it on your list!

Things You Probably Want to Know

You can read more of my national park tips in these entries:





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Family Salvia Flower Study

Salvia Flower Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

We were so excited to start the new series of Outdoor Hour Challenges this week with the Salvia Flower Study.We even went out and purchased a new type of salvia to begin our study with.

I was interested in researching more about salvia and the name “scarlet sage” as listed in the Handbook of Nature Study lesson.

Salvia Study 1

We tried to observe a bee in our salvia but not this time. We did talk about how the bee needs to duck inside to reach the nectar wells.

Now that I am looking at these images in a large format on my computer, I can see the fuzziness of the salvia which is just like the sage we have in our front yard.

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The leaves on our two different salvia plants are completely different.


Our autumn flowers have been a little slim pickins this year. But there have been some surprises around the yard, including this sunflower that came from a seed that fell from the birdfeeder right into a pot on my back deck. I wasn’t sure it was going to actually bloom but here it is!

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It is gorgeous and we enjoyed watching the bees visit it…no wonder! There is so much pollen coming from this sunflower that they can actually just bathe in it as they fly in and out.

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Look at that pollen!

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These zinnias are from my dad’s garden…he had saved seeds from last year and sprinkled them in his flower bed a few months ago. Now, they are blooming like crazy with a variety of flowers that dazzle the eye.

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He also has a bank next to his driveway that he has filled with different colors of lantana. This one is my mom’s favorite color and the hummingbirds and butterflies love it too. This is a great plant to have in your garden to attract birds and insects for observation. (Note to self…plant lantana when we can have a garden again.)

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Our little explorers were more interested in watching birds this week and not going on a flower hunt. Maybe next time….

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We also looked at ants this week since there was a whole nest of them under a rock we turned over to look for insects. Can you believe all the leaves that have fallen already in my backyard?

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I forgot to take photos of their flower drawings but here is mine.

Insect sketch

Here is a sketch that one of the boys did of a black widow spider. He had seen one in his garage and decided to draw it using a book I have on how to draw insects.

It was a really great week observing flowers as the autumn season starts. We will continue to keep our eye on flowers as we work through the next few flower challenges.

OHC Autumn Nature Study Continues Cover Button

This Outdoor Hour Challenge is included in the new Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook. It is only one of fifteen nature study topics included along with notebook pages and coloring pages.  If you have an Ultimate or Journey level membership, you will find this ebook in your library!

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June Hike at Lake Tahoe – Wildflowers!

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“Because of their beauty and scientific value, special need exists for the protection of our native wild flowers and shrubs. It is understandable that these uncultivated plants should attract the visitor, but in too many instances he is not satisfied to enjoy their beauty as they exist in their natural habitats. All too frequently he picks flowers in large numbers, only to discard them faded and wilted a few hours later.”

Handbook of Nature Study, page 460

I have enjoyed watching this special area of the national forest as the plants and flowers make a comeback after years of people tramping through them as a short cut to the picnic area. It warms my heart to see the abundance of wildflowers this year, lavenders and yellows and reds justbeginning their showy display at the beginning of June.
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Just beyond the restored area, you will find the glorious beach and shore of South Lake Tahoe. This is our familiar spot…the one we come back to during all four seasons just to soak in the beauty of this magnificent place. This particular day was a busy day with the parking lot full and the beach dotted with families enjoying the sunshine and the water. We opted to walk along the trail just up from the beach along the tree line where we could hear the birds and stop every now and then to observe a pretty flower or tree.

Snow Plant Tahoe

I was surprised to see that the Snow plant was in all its glory during this hike. I recently learned that this plant is native to the west coast and cannot be found in other parts of the U.S. The first thing you notice is its bright red color, no mistaking this plant for much else. The whole plant is red and it makes these curving spiral parts around the flowers. It is unusual in that it doesn’t have any chlorophyll but gets its nutrients from fungi found in a conifer forest. (read more at the link above if you are interested in learning how that work).

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This plant was really blooming along the trail and in the forest. I found it in my field guide, Slim Solomon’s Seal. It looks like it has a lot of other common names but this field guide is particular to my specific place so I am hoping I got it right.

Indian Paintbrush

The Applegate’s Paintbrush is dotting the landscape….making little red spots on the mostly green and brown forest floor. Just like someone painted red flowers in for interest.


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I am having trouble identifying this flower…thought it was Graceful Cinqufoil but now I am not sure. I wish I would have taken a photo of the leaf because that would have helped me out. Lesson learned.

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This is a new flower for me as well. I found it in my field guide…Sulphur Flower. I was surprised to read that this flower is in the buckwheat family, same family as the rhubarb.

Corn Lily

This year the Corn lilies are amazing! They look so healthy and the area near the creek is just packed with them. I love the leaves with their soft greens.

Corn Lilies Tahoe

Here is a glimpse at the area where the Corn lilies are growing thickly. I think the other plant with the different leaf you see in the photo is going to be Cow parsnip.

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I spent way too much time trying to identify this flower…need to start again when I am fresh. Still, a beautiful color of lavender-blue!

Arrowleaf Balsam Root Lupine

This is my happy place where purple, yellow, and green mingle together to make the perfect spring wildflower bouquet…the one I don’t actually pick and put into a vase but rather I take some photos and recall the wonderful afternoon spent hiking around the forest with my hubby.

Arrowleaf Balsam RootEmerald Bay June 2014

We ended the day with a picnic and then a drive over to Emerald Bay lookout to gaze at the green waters of the bay in the evening glow. We may be spending our anniversary weekend here camping under the pines and dipping our toes in the freezing cold water. We have our 30th anniversary next month and that is something to celebrate! It is the perfect place for us to share on this anniversary since we got married not far from this spot all those years ago. It holds special memories to us as a couple and as a family.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a little of our hike and the wildflowers that painted the day.