Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hiking in Lassen

Our second day in Lassen National Park promised to be longer and a bit more work than the first one, as we were spending it hiking through the backcountry to look at the more interesting geothermal areas in the park. Unfortunately backcountry means it's a bit more difficult to get to the start than what it usually takes, meaning we had to head out at 730am from Hat Creek. I remedied this early start by sleeping most of the way in the morning in the van, on the grounds that I was making up for the time I would've spent in bed anyway.
A sign that you see posted everywhere in Lassen (and I can't remember seeing in Yellowstone- they must use a different sign company). Basically the sign is imploring you to not be an idiot.
A look over an area we hiked to called Devil's Kitchen, filled with steam vents and geothermal activity. What was also impressive to me was how even the streams were dangerous- they'd have a pH of 3 (aka acidic) and be above 60C, meaning you tried your best not to step into them of course. Further, every stream would have its own range of microorganisms that called it home, which is arguably an even more impressive thing.
My favorite odd thing of the trip- a lake made entirely of battery acid! One of the biggest in the world! Yay! We hiked a loop around the lake (from safe distance) and what was particularly neat about the whole thing was just how alien the landscape looked. Nothing grew on the edge of the lake of course (though there are things that live in it) and the surface was all red from iron oxide rust, leading us to joke that we were on Mars. There was also a bit of boiling mud and steam vents on the edges of the lake and the lake itself was bubbling a more-or-less constant amount of carbon dioxide- we were assured it wasn't methane bubbling as the lake had never caught on fire before...
My shot of the documentary crew. This pair of guys were interesting because they basically followed us around for a week or, rather, followed my boss Jill around and we just happened to be there too. The documentary is supposed to follow projects that will take a very long time to complete, meaning SETI is in that category next to people like the guy who wants to build a vertical city in the Arizona desert.

I wasn't sure what to make of the documentary guys- on the one hand, they ran me over once or twice in an effort to get the perfect shot, but on the other hand I spent some time talking to the cameraman and it was really cool listening to all the projects he'd worked on over the years. Perhaps if they suddenly decide to give me tickets to their premier I'll cut them some slack.

And while I don't have pictures of the activity itself, it should be noted that we spent most of this day hiking (between 5 and 8 miles, depending on who you asked). This was really enjoyable to me, but there was a fair bit of volcanic ash around so you could end up nice and dirty regardless of original intentions. When I was taking off my hiking boots, for example, I noticed there was a thin but dark line of volcanic ash around my socks that was a pain to wash off later. So it goes.