Visiting Mount Lassen to Say Goodbye to Beaky

My depression is bad today, too.  Hard not to cry… I was up at about 5:30 am and out the door with the dog by about 6:00.  We stopped first at the gas station to fill up and get some stuff to eat on the road, then we headed for Mount Lassen.  As the day progressed it got up to 90-something in town, but at the mountain it was 69°.

Lake Helen and the "Belly Button" rock; © 2015, Mary K. Hanson.  All rights reserved. This is where I said goodbye to my brother.
Lake Helen and the “Belly Button” rock; © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved. This is where I said goodbye to my brother.

On the way, I stopped at  rest stop near Shingletown and just walked around for a bit with the dog.  Beaky would have loved the “silence” of the place.   All you could hear was the whispering of the pine and cedar trees…  I got some photos of stuff I hadn’t seen before like several Red Osier Dogwood trees that still had their bluish-white berries on them, and the exuvia (shed exoskeleton) of what I thought might have been be a big stonefly, but no… the face was wrong. Looked so alien with big saw-blade like mandibles in the front.  When I got back to the hotel later it took me several hours to find it online.  It was from the larva of a Spiketail dragonfly; most likely the Pacific Spiketail (Cordulegaster dorsalis), a large black-and-yellow dragonfly with bright blue eyes.  I’ve never seen one of those, so it was kind of neat to find the exuvia from it.

After that pit stop, we continued on our way. It takes a little over an hour to get to Lassen from the hotel, but we were still really early and the rangers weren’t awake yet when we arrived.  So we self-paid the $20 it now costs to get into the park (but you can use the pass for a week), and then just went where we wanted to go… taking Highway 44/80 through the park and stopping off at places I knew I wanted to photograph or visit.

Not a lot of critters out up there – although we did see some deer and some Golden-Mantled chipmunk / squirrels.  I was surprised by the wildflowers, though.  They were still blooming all over the place, especially around King’s Creek.  In one spot, there were so many flowers all around me, I didn’t know where to aim my camera first.  Blue and yellow Lupine, Fleabane, Owl Clover, Pearly Everlasting, Pussypaws, Rabbitbush, Naked Buckwheat, red Snow Plants (in fruit), Monkey Flowers, Mountain Monardella, Ranger’s Button (a kind of wooly parsnip), Thimbleberry, California Corn Lily, etc.

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I also found another exuvia of a different kind of dragonfly  –  most like a Darner of some kind based on the size and the shape of the head.  It was sitting along the grassy bank of Lake Manzanita, the first lake you come to at the park…

Around the Hot Rock, there were also wildflowers… but also some odd kind of crusty-spongey fungus I had never seen before.  It was only on the trees that had been burned black (and were still crispy-charred) by what I assume was a recent wildfire.  The fungus blooped out of the side of the trees like little “muffins”, tan on one side and white on the other.  I also noticed that a lot of the burnt trees were “bleeding” sap… which means there might still be a spark of life left in them; either that or the fire boiled it all out to the surface.  Whatever; it was interesting to see – and photograph.  I got a lot of the “classic Mount Lassen” shots: the “Devastated” side of the mountain, Manzanita Lake, the Loomis Museum (which was closed) and Lily Pond, Emerald Lake, Summit Lake, King’s Creek (where we stopped again and had some brunch – blueberry muffins and water),  Lake Hellen…

When I got to Lake Helen – with the view of the summit and the Belly Button Rock in the background – I recorded a farewell to Beaky, tearing up as I did so.  I can’t think of him without crying…  On the day we had mounted the summit together, Lake Helen was visible from the trail… and since I couldn’t go up the trail this time with the dog (“no dogs allowed”), I opted for the opposite view: a look up at the trail from the lake.

In the parking lot at the summit there was also a dirty patch of snow piled up, so I perched Sergeant Margie on it and took his picture.  I have another photo (with more snow) in the same parking lot from when he was about 5 years old.  He’s 13 now…

I noticed that each time I got out of the car to walk around, with the elevation climbing between each stop, it got more and more difficult for me to exert myself.  Around the summit parking lot (8500+ feet) it was really difficult just to walk the dog across the lot to the patch of snow.  Old lungs…

I didn’t go all the way through the park; skipped Bumpass Hell and the Sulfur Works.  I drove up as far as Emerald Lake and then turned around and headed back to the hotel… getting there around 1:30 pm.