The first time I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park, the splurt, splurt, splurt of boiling mud pots, the barren landscape, and the strong sulfurous odor made me feel as if I had wandered into some alien world.
Granted, my reaction probably said more about my penchant for vintage sci-fi flicks than it did about the park itself. But my initial impression that the place was simply about strange hydrothermal phenomena indicated just how little I knew about it.
A few years after that first encounter, I moved to Redding, a 50-mile drive from the park’s northwest entrance. Now, when I walk out my front door I can see Lassen Peak (pictured at top) in the distance, its distinctive flat top bathed in purple shadows created by the sun rising behind it.
Over the past decade, I’ve explored much of the park’s approximate 166 square miles and discovered that the hissing steam vents and “boiling” lakes that captivated me years ago are just a small portion of the park’s remarkable attractions.