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Lassen 2007 Trip

Day 1 of 4

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Thursday, July 26th
Drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park

My last trip to Lassen was back in 1999. I remembered how nice the Manzanita Lake area seemed, so I had vowed to return sometime. It took me 8 years, but now I was heading back.

We left the Bay Area around 10:15am on a Thursday morning. Traffic was light, and we made good time up I-505 and then I-5. There are at least a couple different ways to get to the Manzanita Lake area of Lassen from the Bay Area. The more straightforward way is to drive to Redding, then head east on Highway 44 all the way to the park. However, I decided to take a shorter route through Manton. We took I-5 to Red Bluff, where we took Highway 36 east. After about 14 miles, we turned left onto Manton Road (A6). While it's one lane in each direction, you'll make good time on the road leading up to Manton. We then turned left onto the road to Shingtown, and the going gets slower here as the road is very winding and narrow, with no dividing line in one short stretch. It's really not that bad, though, and it's all nicely paved. I think this alternate route probably saves 10 minutes off the route through Redding, although I have no way of knowing the exact difference. In any case, we then turned right onto Highway 44. Unfortunately, there was road construction just before the park entrance and we were delayed by about 10 minutes, but even so we arrived at the park entrance after about 4 1/2 hours of driving from the Bay Area.

The hiking book I was using said that all the camps in Lassen were first-come, first-served. However, things apparently have changed since then. I found out earlier in the week that half the Manzanita Lake camps are reservable (and all of them were taken), and half are first-come, first-served. I had called the ranger to confirm that we would probably be able to get a camping spot. She said that the camps sometimes fill up, but almost never on a Thursday. Most likely they fill up on holiday weekends. As it was, we didn't have much to worry about. Manzanita Lake campground has 4 loops, A, B, C, and D, each with about 45 sites. Loops A and C are reservable, and B and D are not. Check the National Park web site for updated info, of course. Loop D also has the distinction of being for tents only (no RVs). We found a nice site on the edge of loop D with only 2 neighboring camps. One of them remained empty, so we really only had one neighbor the entire time we were there, and their tent was far away.

We set up camp and paid the camp fee, $18 per night. We then drove to the nearby camper store to pick up firewood and some other supplies. There are also showers and a washer/dryer for laundry here. It's all within walking distance, but it's a bit of a stretch to walk with firewood, especially for the D loop, which is the furthest away.

One of my disappointments is that the camp sites aren't within sight of Manzanita Lake itself. However, there is a short trail that leads from the camp to the lake. There's also an even shorter trail from the camper store. We decided to check out the lake before we headed back to camp for dinner. The short trail leads to the boat launch area of the lake. There were several people in kayaks and fishing boats on the lake as we wandered along the shore. There were also quite a few people along the shore, just hanging out or going in for a swim. We would return to hike around the entire lake two nights later.

Manzanita Lake

We returned to camp to have dinner, then settled in to sleep. We were amazed at how quiet it was. I'm not sure if it had to do with the fact that we were in a tent-only area, or if it was because the sites are further apart than at other campgrounds, but in any case we had no problems sleeping. It's amazing how much more sleep you can get when you don't have people up late at night drinking beer around the campfire, playing guitar until the wee hours of the morning, or running their generators late at night to pump up their air beds.


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