a super first-hand account: turning 25 up north

i carry around this handy pink moleskine whenever i travel somewhere relatively far out of the city. i brought my travel notebook and camera with me last july on a backpacking trip to lassen volcanic national park for my 25th birthday. when i got this roll developed, i realized i had enough visual and written content to give you an idea of the journey, so here’s a bit of my captain’s log.

we left san francisco on july 1 to make it up to lassen, which is about an hour outside of redding, and at this time of year, a really hot place to be. on the last stretch of road before we turned into the park, the car thermometer read 98 degrees, and we watched it slowly come down 10 degrees just as we reached our destination. 

we spent that first night at the summit lake south campground near manzanita lake to get a solid night’s rest before kicking off our trip. this was my first time backpacking…i was pretty stoked but also nervous about being prepared (food, gear, etc.). luckily, i read online that lassen was super doable for people like me who’d never gone backpacking before.

july 1, 2016. 10:12 pm

summit lake south campground

i’m with marcus sitting in front of a camp fire, settling down for the night, talking about a diary entry i just found that i’d written before we started goin steady. (it’s kinda funny how things work out.) marcus and i walked around the lake after setting up camp. tonight, we had dinner by actual candlelight since we forgot our lantern and needed to save the one we bought for the trip. hah that was pretty cool.

tomorrow, we are off on our 20+ miles, 2 night trip.

july 2, 2016. 6:12 pm 

rainbow lake

marcus and i just posted up at rainbow lake on our way to snag lake. we’ve really only traveled a little over 4 miles, but the first trek uphill was a matter of getting used to all the weight on our backs. i quickly realized the avocados, hard boiled eggs, and apples were basically rocks in my backpack…but fuck sometimes you just wanna eat clean on these kinds of trips. im just glad i wasnt holding the whiskey

anyway, we just got back from swimming in the lake. that was by far the most fun part of the day. we bought some floaties at target a few nights ago and made space in the pack. i think this is the first time i’ve ever swam in a lake. love you cali….

snag lake was our original destination, but that would’ve been a little too far for where we are now. we decided to post up so we’d have some time and sunlight to set up camp and swim. tomorrow, snag lake. our tent is posted up directly in front of the lake. this is beautiful and insane to me!

july 3, 2016 - morning. 

rainbow lake

i woke up to the view of rainbow lake that i fell asleep to. i didn’t fall asleep for a few hours since marcus started freaking out while the sun set – scared we were gonna get eaten by bears or attacked by raccoons. instead, a few rangers gave us a warning for setting up camp too close to the water. haha! i’m glad we made it through the night. today is my birthday. 

our tent was (again) set up on a hill, so marcus and i kept rolling left and right, and instead of sliding up and down as we did last night. tonight we’ll get it right – or just find a flat spot. my phone’s dead so i’m not sure what time it is. 

today, our trek takes us through snag lake - a couple miles from here. where we’ve set up camp, there are dozens of dragonflies, flies, mosquitos, and other flying bugs. it was kind of gnarly the other day seeing a bunch of dragonflies, all hovering around the same area of water. right now, there are a few bees and flies traveling all around, getting their morning catch. they sound like mini airplanes – buzz. 

the sun is slowly making its way across the lake but it probably won’t be a few hours until it hits our camp. bees and birds and all that stuff in the distance, i can hear them. there are also a few other camps set up a little far out. it’s really cool to be immersed in all this. 

earlier i was thinking about how bummed i used to get about how i was surfing as much as i used to, and i started getting very nostalgic for those summers in college. but luckily, i’ve found an adventure buddy. this summer has been great so far

8:16 pm 

snag lake

a recap: after packing up at rainbow lake, we decided to head to cinder cone, about 3 miles away, and end the night at snag lake. after we passed through fields of burnt trees, we entered an area of pure lava rock grounds.  

with our packs, the climb up to cinder cone (only about .6 mile) was one of the toughest climbs yet! the sun was beaming from above and the ground beneath us was mostly loose rock – kinda like walking uphill in sand. 

when we finally got to the top, we bumped into a few people who decided to take their packs off before going up cinder cone. smart. we also ran into crowds from the butte lake campground nearby. i remember coming downhill and seeing lots of people headed uphill with a lonely, already empty plastic bottle of water. it must have been at least 90 degrees. 

 this area near cinder cone is called the “fantastic lava beds”. it was like something out of a movie. mad max or planet of the apes.

we hiked another 3 miles to snag lake, where we set up our next camp. marcus and i swam for a bit, took out our floaties again and then made some dinner. he taught me how to skip rocks…i’ve never done it before. this place is quiet, serene, and i get a high feeling so small. we are 2 of 4 people at this site - a whole lot of land around this lake - and its a little scary but also hard to wrap my head around. 

today marcus and i realized this is the longest amount of time we’ve spent alone together. we’re getting quieter and quieter but i honestly don’t mind the silence sometimes. we’re posted up a bit further from water, on flat ground in the trees. there’s a couple to the left of us – feels a little more secure having someone else nearby. off to rest now. long day tomorrow. 

july 4, 2016. 10:43 pm 

parking lot, summit lake south

finally home after an early morning, and a full day of hiking through lassen in the final stretch to summit lake. got up around 6 this morning and packed up camp, had some breakfast then we hit the path. as mad as i was with marcus for making us hike 3 miles into snag lake yesterday, where the road split to rainbow/horseshoe, i’m so glad we were able to shave off that distance for this AM. we beat the sun, so the first few miles weren’t too gnarly. 

we got through about 2 miles before 9 am, and ended up at rainbow lake. hitting lower and upper twin lake (1.5-2 miles) took no time, then getting to echo lake (another 2.6 miles) was challenging, though that was way easier than doing cinder cone yesterday with our packs on. hiking from echo lake back to summit/the ranger station felt the sweetest. i’ll always remember the feeling of my feet marching on the wooden board path that crossed over some creek, and then on pavement. my feet and body have never felt so thankful for pavement. it was also satisfying to know a bowl of pho was gonna be waiting for us in the sunset (many hours later). the things you crave after a long day…

we got to the car around 11 and cruised for a few minutes. it took some time to get used to not having that much weight on our legs. the first thing i did was open up the cooler in the trunk, grab the salsa, and bust out the tostadas. after that, we drove over to the manzanita lake campground and showered off the grime.

it’s crazy being back to this reality, especially since i’m going to work tomorrow but now i feel recharged to get closer to the weekend. life’s cool! giants game friday, bonfire saturday. im so stoked, and ready to sleep in my own bed. 

for reference, here is the amazing guide i used to plan this trip

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