Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chaos Crags

Chaos and crags are two of my favorite things, any hike with those two things in the name should be pretty awesome, based solely on the name alone! This was the day to return back to smoky Roseburg so I was looking for a short good-bye hike to close out my all-too brief visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The classic hikes in the park are Bumpass Hell and the hike to the Lassen Peak summit, but alas, both trails were closed because of snow. Considering the entire western United States was on fire during a blazing hot summer, it was odd to have snow intrude into a hiking itinerary but that's the kind of year 2017 has been. 

Summit Lake in the morning, near my campsite
So chaos and crags it was, and I set off on a soft dusty trail on what was turning out to be a fairly warm day. Because of the the relative aridity on the east side of the Cascades, combined with poor soils and frequent forest fires, there wasn't a lot of vegetative growth underneath a struggling forest. On the left side of the trail, a steep slope dropped down to heard-but-not-seen Manzanita Creek. 

Boulders, for no reason
Lassen Peak's last eruptive cycle lasted from 1914 to 1917 and there were large isolated boulders strewn about, lying underneath the trees that had sprouted forth since the eruption. The boulders gave me a notion that I might be hiking near the alluringly-named Devastated Area but no, that volcanic playland was about 4 or 5 miles southeast of  me. 

A doe and fawn and I look at each other
The trail climbed uphill, the grade seeming to be more brisk than it really was, due to the elevation being substantially higher than my customary low altitude in Winston, Oregon. Despite what my wobbly legs were trying to tell me, the grade was, while unrelenting, fairly gentle as it climbed up to the Chaos Crags. Fire had visited this area within the last few years, judging by the singed trunks of the trees. A doe and her fawn kept an eye on me and I held on tight to my hiking poles, just in case. As the route climbed higher and higher, the forest faded and the trail gradually morphed into a rocky path with low-growing kinnickinnic stuffed into the cracks between the rocks. 

Magee Peak, in the distance
I was a little out of my element here, so it was difficult to slap names on all the forested cones dotting the landscape to the east of a ridge-crest viewpoint. I believe I was looking at Sugarloaf Peak and Magee Peak in the Thousand Lakes Wilderness. Haven't been to that particular wilderness yet, but I have to think in early summer, an alternate name for the Thousand Lakes Wilderness might be the Billion Mosquitos Wilderness. At any rate, the scenic panorama extended a cordial invitation to come feed the mosquitoes on a future visit.

Time for the afternoon thunderstorm to form
Lunch was eaten at the viewpoint and as expected, wispy mare's tail clouds formed, followed by small puffy white clouds that increased in size as time wore on. No doubt, there'd be an inevitable afternoon thunderstorm, just like every other day on this trip. So, it was time to finish off this hike in a relative hurry, because high on an exposed mountain pass is not the place from which to possibly experience a lightning storm. 

Chaos Crags
A short push to a rocky pass served up a neck-craning view to a wall of volcanic rock above the trail. While Chaos Crags are suitably craggy with jagged rock carving up blue sky and white clouds alike, the crags are really crater children of Lassen Peak. A bowl below a rock wall contains mossy little Crag Lake and the bowl is actually the crags' crater.

Slightly singed forest
After a short look-see, I bid adieu to both the crags and Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was an all too short visit but my appetite for further adventures in this volcanic wonderland is sorely whetted. I'll be back for a more ambitious trip, plus the Thousand Lakes Wilderness just got added to my very long list. And speaking of trips, I had a long trip to Roseburg ahead of me. I also had a transmission failure waiting for me on the way back but that's OK, the warranty had just expired (sarcasm!). That particular type of chaos is not one of my favorite things. 

A robber fly cases me
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Well at least you got in a new hike. We hiked Bumpass Hell, Mill Creek Falls, and Manzanita Creek from the lake campground when we visited a few years ago. Snow at Bumpass Hell in August. And I thought Oregon weather was crazy! You should go online and check out the new (yes NEW) Applegate Ridge Trail they have started to build. We may try the new 5.6 mile segment from Sterling Road to Hwy 238. In all it will go from Jacksonville Forrest Park to Cathedral Hills in Grants Pass!!! Happy Trails

  2. I love Lassen! Visited there a couple of years ago and hope to go back again soon. I was able to hike both Bumpass Hell and Lassen Peak, but then it was a low snow year.

    1. Yeah, this was just a short 3-day'er. I really need to go back for a week-long'er