A few years ago my wife, Sharon, and I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was in early spring and access to most places was limited due to road closures as snow had not yet melted. This year, for a 77th birthday trip, we decided to try it again.
We began our sojourn on Friday, July 12, leaving our place in Grizzly Flat at around 9 a.m. We had to go to Sacramento to begin our journey north on Hwy. 99 and I do not recommend Sacramento as a place to live due to the heavy traffic at all times. We think we have it bad in the Bay Area of California due to reckless drivers and sitting on the freeways as a parking lot! Needless to say, I guess due to the fact that I am used to the Bay Area, I prefer this to Sacramento.
Heading North on 99 we finally left the environs of Sacramento heading towards Chico. When we arrived to Chico, we somehow got turned around and instead of heading east on Hwy. 32, we ended up in the area of Chico State University. When we tried to go south again to hit 32 east, the lady on GPS insisted we head north on Hwy. 99 again. This was a good choice because if we had not gone this way we would have missed a great little place to stay the night. When we neared Red Bluff, we were directed to Hwy. 36 east to go to Mt. Lassen. The drive on 36 is one of many vistas due to the rugged terrain. The road is a very agreeable one, and mostly the speed limit is 65 mph. It was getting along time to begin looking for lodging for the first night, so Sharon went on her smart phone to begin checking lodging outside of Mt. Lassen Park. We had made a pact that we would not make prior lodging arrangements as we went to Lassen, so what ensued was a great little surprise. We were directed to the little settlement called Mineral which is located about 10 miles from the entrance to the Park.
As we pulled up into Mineral, we were a little leery of the Lodge, aptly called ? Lodge, as the surroundings were a little rustic to say the least. The complex consisted of a restaurant, a general store, and a motel spread about the premises. It was a little weather-beaten to say the least. Sharon said with a little anxiety, “Do you think we want to stay here?”
I replied, “It looks like the only show in town!” As we read the sign at the top of the general store, ‘check-in’ this added to our consternation.
Like sheep with no shepherd, we went blindly into the general store. The greeting we received almost caused us to stampede! Actually, the man did not speak until I asked him if there was any lodging available there.
“Got any reservations?” He asked.
“No, we just arrived from Sacramento and did not know too much about the area, so we tried your place!”
“We have a couple of rooms open. One has a queen sized bed and would run $90 dollars plus tax. The other has been newly remodeled and would run $100 a night plus tax.”
“Could we take a look at them?” We asked.
“Sure, but you’ll have to go into the restaurant and ask one of the girls to show you around.” He replied.
So off we go to the restaurant to see what we could see. Upon entering, the place looked much better inside than from the outside. It actually looked like the food would be ok, and we asked one of the waitresses if she could show us a couple of rooms. Turns out, she was a very nice girl of the country, who was raised around there and was somehow a relative of the storekeeper/owner of the complex. She retrieved the key she needed, to be able to open and to show us the rooms, so we just followed her. As is my nature as a journalist, I began to ask questions about the area. One thing led to another and by the time we saw the last room, I just about had the story of why the man was not too affable. It seems that his wife, who was the actual proprietor of the complex, had some type of disease that would not allow her to be at the high altitude of the Lodge, and the man was responsible for the whole thing. Good thing he had such responsible help to assist him at running the place. In fact, the girl who showed us around ran the restaurant, helped in the store, and showed guests what the rooms looked like. She was a national treasure!
We decided on the hundred a night room, and surprisingly, the surroundings were very nice indeed. From the outside, it looked as though the place could do with a thorough remodeling. We settled in, taking a nice nap until dinner time. We agreed that the girl who had showed us the rooms was probably the one who kept them clean and ready for other guests.
The menu at the restaurant was very ample, causing us to believe that there must be an exceptionally good cook there. We were not disappointed! The food was both palatable, and nourishing. Although we did not meet the cook, the same lady who had showed us the rooms, was our waitress. She was very helpful, friendly, and made us feel right at home. We asked, “What time is breakfast served?”
She answered with a smile, “8a.m. and I am sure you will not be disappointed!”
We did indeed have breakfast there. You guessed it, the same lady was also the waitress at breakfast! I had the country breakfast with biscuits and sausage gravy, and bacon with eggs, my wife sharing her hash browns as she had the lesser amount. As we left for Lassen, ten miles up the road, we were totally glad that the GPS had directed us another route!
At the entrance to Lassen we began to see signs of other attendees. We were not too far back in line, as the place opened at 8a.m. so we did not feel that we would be rushed from place to place. Our first stop was the visitor center, and after a short film about the offerings of the park, we asked the guide at the desk about the possibilities of visiting Manzanita Lake. She told us that it was at the northern end of the park and would take at least an hour to reach it due to the circuitous route. Upon trying to go there, we only went about 15 minutes when we decided that this was not our cup of tea. We were already becoming dizzy by the curves and by looking how far we would drop if we were somehow forced off the road! Back we came, stopping at the first parking lot with offerings of some tourist attractions. This is where we encountered the bubbling pots, the steaming cauldrons, and the rushing streams coming down from the melting snow on Lassen. If anyone tells you that Lassen is not an active volcano, we have the proof otherwise. One noteworthy encounter I had was meeting two Berkeley students, one called Libby, was in the Ph.D program for English and Literature. I told her I was a writer for several publications and she took my email and I did hear from her requesting the finished product of my visit to Lassen. God willing, I will send it to her later.
The other hike we had decided on was to a Mills Falls about a mile from the Visitor Center. We attempted to take the hike but found out it was a straight uphill climb to return to the Visitor Center. We decided that this too was a little ambitious for two oldies, so we cut our visit short and began the route to Susanville. This was to be our final destination for the trip as I had heard a lot about the town and wanted to see what the lure was. Aside from the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at, and the Restaurant we ate at that night, we resumed our journey home to Grizzly Flat next morning, having had the best salad I had ever tasted at the recommended restaurant. The older couple, who was on the verge of selling the Bed and Breakfast, was very kind and the breakfast was exceptional. Rick, the owner, made pancakes with cherries, grown on their lot, with walnuts interspersed. Delicious! Susanville’s economy is now Government controlled as there are prisons there and the CDF, as well as, BLM is pretty prevalent there.