Driving through northern California brought to mind an old Eagles song: “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…..” This is the first state where we saw hitchhikers, for real. Some are even lone female hitchhikers still in the U.S. out there on their own, taking their own lives into their own hands. This seems to be a different state of mind, indeed. As we entered this state from the north, we were stopped by the Department of Agriculture. It seems there is nasty bug coming into the state, destroying their vegetation, and had we had any fresh produce, wood, or leafy plants with us, they would have been confiscated before we could enter the state. Aha. Interesting. I believe Hawaii also has implemented something like this, but no other mainland state I’ve been to.
Our original plan had been to hit all of the California national parks on this trip, but with my ever-worsening arthritic hip issue, we decided to cut back East through northern California, pass through Nevada, and Utah, then head south and home, leaving southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico for another time. Yes, some actual tears were shed as I worked to accept this new state of things, but so be it. God’s will be done. So we hit only two national parks in California: the Redwoods National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The Redwoods, to me, were something of a disappointment. I was expecting something much more exotic – maybe that will come with the Sequoia park farther south on a different trip. At any rate, the Redwoods were certainly impressive and memorable at the least. The park we drove through led us along a dark and dusty, narrow, in some places barely legible, unpaved, did I say dusty, road. The park ranger at the visitor center assured us we were passing by the very places famous people come to have their pictures taken, so I have to believe this is it for the Redwoods National Park. Enormous trees indeed.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, on the other hand, was a huge surprise. I had never heard of this park before I started inventorying all of the National Parks specifically for this trip. Here, we stayed at the Living Springs RV Park in a town named Shingletown and all I can say about that is that they have the biggest pine cones I have ever seen! At this park, as has been the case for some of the other parks in the far north as well, there was no cell service and no internet/WIFI service. All I can say about that is that one of my basic requirements for living is to have cell and internet service. ‘Nuff said on that. For my husband, the requirement is TV service. We have a mobile satellite tailgator from DISH and in most cases, this worked very well for us in our travels. In a very few cases, like at Living Springs; however, there were too many trees for the tailgator to find its way through to the big satellite in the sky, so we also had no TV service. Joyful.
But I digress. The Lassen Volcanic National Park was actually a very interesting park, beautiful in its own right. As we passed through the entry station and began our ascent up the mountains, there were rocks laying everywhere in every shape and size. It looked like a volcano had exploded and just deposited a bunch of rock everywhere and it all stayed in place where it landed. A little spooky. In a few places, there was snow on the ground, and it spit snow while we were there! This was a huge delight for my husband who still misses the snow of his youth. On the other hand, there were many Sulphur hot springs on the mountain, indicating there is still volcanic activity underground. This is similar to what’s at Yellowstone in Colorado, but on a smaller scale, and I must say stinkier. Those pots of boiling Sulphur water just really do not smell good. There were streams and lakes everywhere as we drove, once again, a winding, curvy, mountain ledge road up to the top of the mountain. Looking back down the mountain as we climbed, the winding roads looked something like a Candyland game board of old. Here again, we sat through a short video developed by park management, explaining how, when and why this park was created. I remember a very hushed and other-worldly feeling based on the understanding of the destruction caused by these volcanoes in history and the people that died in the aftermath. There were many displays showing what the landscape looked like before and after the volcanoes erupted. It’s amazing how the tallest mountain in a range can simply explode and be gone, while changing everything in the path of the lava.
At the end of the day, we were happy to return to the Living Springs RV Park where we burned pine cones in our campfire – what an amazing scent! You should try it sometime. As my husband cooked dinner, our doggie played in the sunset, I sipped on a glass of wine and realized that life is, indeed, good. Even without WIFI.