Lassen Volcanic National Park California
August 11 - 18, 2019
Trip Leaders: Mathew Apeseche & Mia MacCollin
Day 1: We woke up bright and early for an 8:00AM flight out of Boston. The boys were quite sleepy, and despite a few setbacks (missing our Logan express bus, broken ticket counter windows, etc.) we made our flight. After introducing the students to the west coast In-N-Out experience we hit up our first campsite of the trip, an RV park 20 minutes outside of Redding, CA. We cooked a few late night dogs on a fire and enjoyed our first night of sleep in the California desert.
Day 2: Sunday we slept in to catch up on our lack of sleep Saturday and hit the road around noon to Lassen. After turning off Route 5 the road became windy and gorgeous. We could see both Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta to the east and north, and as we drove we slowly climbed in elevation. At the park (6,000 ft. elevation) it was about 15-20 degrees cooler than it was previously, and the terrain changed from vast farmland to tall coniferous forests. We set up camp and did introductions. There were 7 other adult volunteers as well as two Sierra club trip leaders (Mia and Dan). The boys were excited for a fire and bought a wood bundle down at the camp store. A few of the volunteers joined in on the hang out session.
Day 3: Monday we got up around 7AM, ate breakfast and got ready for work. The plan for the day was invasive plant species removal, particularly one species of bull thistle. After setting out on our hunt two of the boys started feeling slightly nauseous due to the elevation (and dehydration). We took plenty of rest and water, and moved slowly along with the group as everyone kept their eyes out for baby bull thistle plants. By dinner we were fully recovered
Day 4: Tuesday the park rangers decided to switch up the work. Our leader Mike explained that over a decade ago he had laid out several traps to take an inventory of what critters were/are living in the park. However, the traps had long since been out of use and neglected; it was our job to recover what was left and pack it out. The boys were slightly more interested in this project as it was very hands on and we could easily track our progress. After work I took a small trip to a nearby lava tube cave with two of our students (while our third student stayed back at camp with Mia). The cave was incredible! We spent close to an hour just sitting and talking in the pitch dark (and probably spooking the few people that passed by us).
Day 5: Wednesday was our off day. The students wanted to get out of the park and see more of the area (they were also adamant that they would not hike during their off day) so we decided to take a road trip to Shasta, CA. A good friend of mine (who is a survivalist and naturalist) met us in Shasta. He gave the boys a tour of the town and we took a short nature walk near his apartment. He pointed out at least 5 wild edible plants, and the boys enjoyed taste testing the backyard bounty. Two of our students said this was the best part of their trip. On the way home we grabbed some dinner and decided to stop by the lava cave one more time. One student brought his guitar into the cave and we enjoyed some bread and cheese in the pitch darkness while listening to Black Sabbath on the guitar: far out J
Day 6: Thursday was trap removal once again. The day was long and hot; we all got in a great work out digging up traps and lugging rebar out of the woods. On the way back from work we stopped at a pull off on the side of the road and found what must have been a dumping ground for people for the past 70 years. We discovered an old fridge from the 70s, and a 1950s Ford truck that was rusted and scorched from sun and wildfires. The kids got a kick out of these antique relics. Thursday night was shower night for everyone and laundry night for a few. We spent the better part of the evening getting ourselves and our clothes spanking clean.
Day 7: Friday morning I took two of our students with one park ranger to tackle a larger patch of bull thistle on the northern most point of the park. Our third student stuck with Mia and the other volunteers at a different site. Our location was gorgeous; we worked on Butte Lake amidst a massive Tortoiseshell Butterfly migration. The butterflies were everywhere! Friday afternoon the park ran out of work for our three-person crew so I took our two students to hike Lassen Mountain (10,500 feet). The trail was approximately 2.5 miles up, and the views were amazing! I wish I had brought my skis (yes there was still snow). Friday night we organized our things and planned our Saturday morning departure.
Day 8: Saturday we rose at 5:30AM and packed up camp. We said our quick farewells and departed for the three-hour journey back to Sacramento. With good tunes and some car snacks we reminisced about our favorite parts of the trip. All in all our students said it was a life changing experience. Thank you Sierra Club for making this trip a possibility!!!