Family Vacation


A family reunion at Mt. Lassen is capped by a climb of Oregon's South Sister

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

After our long drive the day before from Boise to Manzanita campground in Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park, the whole gang was eager to get out and see some scenery. After about an hour's drive on a very scenic road through the park, we were finally at the turnout for the trail up Brokeoff Mountain, aka Brokeback Mountain or Tom Brokaw Mountain. You pick.

Parking lot

The trail starts off in heavy brush, enough to seem overgrown. But it soon opens up and moves through some nice timber, crosses some wet areas, and then is out in the sun. That's our peak in the background. I hiked with Mackenzie for a while, but she left me in the dust.

Brokeoff Mountaiin
As it gets higher, it dries out. And the opening vistas offer up great views. I tried to grill Jenny about her life, but she wisely took off without me as soon as it got too personal. Trail near treeline

After a bit, you gain the shoulder of the mountain and are faced with a long, slightly sandy traverse across the face. Click to see the trail better. Somewhere in here Dad turned around, saving himself for the big day Tuesday.

Trail across hillside

The young speedsters were waiting on top when I got there.

Mackenzie and Tom weren't far behind the boys. That's more of Brokeoff Mountain in the background. Tom and Mackenzie

Mariel and I enjoyed lunch together. That's Patrick and Mt. Lassen in the background.

Patrick hadn't slept for 36 hours, and had fallen asleep on the trail- twice. We imagined him walking with his arms out in front in the classic sleep-walking pose.


Family shot.

I offered to photoshop Dad in. But we were sadly missing other family as well, so we'll let this one stand.


Then it was time to head back to the cars. As we walked, we grilled Daniel about his rock 'n roll life.

Descent trail

This was a very pretty hike with awesome views, and although quite popular not really crowded. Then it was back in the car for the long drive back to the park; our campground was on Manzanita Lake, the opposite side from the peak hikes.

That's Mt. Lassen just over the right windshield wiper. You're probably wondering why we didn't we climb it. Well, when we signed up for camp spots last February, this was one of the weekends that the mountain was supposed to be open (they close it for trail work- the entire thing). But with a week to go we found out that they had changed the schedule with no notification to the registered campers. They were not willing to make amends.

Mt. Lassen from the car

The next morning we made the drive back to the south side of the park to visit Bumpass Hell. Mr. Bumpass found something like you'd expect to see in Yellowstone. Us Idahoans would point out that Yellowstone is somewhat bigger. But it was still a fun hike and interesting spot to visit.

Here Lena and Mariel take in the sights and smells.

Bumpass Hell

You can't show bubbling and steaming with a still photo.

There was lots of "Hot Stuff'.

Despite Nancy's apparent isolation, Bumpass Hell is an easy hike and quite popular, so was actually quite crowded.

Bumpass Hell
So after that Hell, a few of us decided to hike up Ski Heil peak, just across the road. This picture was taken from the car the day before. Ski Heil Peak

Elaine and Patrick joined Mariel and I. We started off walking across a lupine-covered ridge. There were what I believe were squirrel holes right below the surface, so you'd occasionally sink deeply into the soil. Weird walking.

But soon we were on solid terrain, working our way up the valley to the east of our peak.

From there, we worked out way up onto the sandy volcanic ridge. That's Patrick nearing the summit cairn. Patrick

More great views on the summit.

I think we could actually see Manzanita Lake, our campground, from there.


We chose to descend down the scree/dirt face of the peak, which was made quite easy by the soft soil. Along the way we spotted half a dozen deer.

We four piled into Patrick's car for the ride home. Shortly after leaving the parking lot we saw a small, dark creature run across the road. When we yelled 'Bear!' Patrick, who had not yet spotted it, braked hard to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, we meant the other kind of 'Bear,' which means speed up so we can get closer. Byt the time we got that sorted out, the bear had disappeared into the forest, with no trace of momma around. Oh well.

That evening, we were entertained with hors d'oerves prepared by the food editor of a famous magazine, along with Manhattans prepared by the travel of editor of same magazine. General camaraderie and hilarity prevailed.


New day, different hike. Each day our destination lay somewhat closer to camp. And each day we had different combination of people along. On this one, a big group went to the first lake, a reduced group went to the second lake, then just a few of use did the whole 11-mile loop of many lakes. Here's our small group at the third lake.


The whole group at the next lake.

After the first lakes, the crowds thinned out considerably.


Our loop briefly joined the Pacific Crest Trail where we saw more hikers. Then we left the PCT to continue our loop into an area that had burned last year, but we found no fallen trees. And only two hikers over the space of several miles.

Fortunately, it wasn't too hot and the sparse cover makes the lakes easier to see. How's that for an up-side?


As we neared the closure of our lollipop loop, we were treated to another great view of Mt. Lassen.

This area seems really dry and the soil is very volcanic in nature. But the manzanita seems to love it.
Mt. Lassen

After another evening of family frivolity, we packed up and headed north to Oregon. As we did so, we ran into a lot of smoke. We also got to see the snow on the north side of Mt. Shasta (the south side was mostly dry).

We finally arrived at Elk Lake on the Cascade lakes Highway, where we got a campsite. We had a scare when Dad, trying to get up from the awkwardly-built picnic table, pitched over onto his back on the ground. This was the only injury of our climb.

After some of Shelley's fantastic home-made pizza (followed by ice cream over homemade chocolate cake and then covered with fresh strawberries), we settled in early for our alpine start tomorrow.


This would be Dad's fifth climb of the South Sister. He climbed it once at 15 year of age, then these three times:

So we kinda knew what to expect and that we wanted to get an early start. We rose at 3:30 and hit one of the last parking spots at the huge Devil's Lake trailhead just a bit after 4:30.

By the time we finished the climb up to the Moraine Lake trail, the sky was light enough to take off the headlamps.

Early morning
It looked like a beautiful day, despite the smoke in the air. South Sister
Although visibility was quite limited, it didn't seem to be bothering Dad as he hit the halfway point in elevation slightly ahead of schedule. Talus section

The tread had improved since we did this climb in 2010, but it's still plenty loose and the trail in some areas is quite braided. I walked ahead a bit to try to identify the best line. That slight lead allowed some great photo ops.

We played leapfrog all the way up the mountain with the guys on the left. There were a ton of other folks on the climb; several groups had camped on the summit, a few passed us on the way up, and the trail was full of people heading up when we descended. And this was a weekday! Many were sorely unprepared in shorts and running shoes with no spare clothing, little water, etc. We probably looked like camels to them. But we were comfortable camels.

Low traverse
The little lake on the left is at the bottom of the Lewis Glacier. Above the lake

As per usual, the change in temperature through the morning left our altimeters off by a couple happy hundred feet. So we were excited to hit the crater rim well ahead of schedule.

As we enjoyed an extended break out of the wind, I had to remind Dad that we still had some work to do.

Cresting the rim
We debated short cutting across the snow, but I think we made the right choice when we instead walked the circuitous (and scenic) crater trail. Rim
And then we were on top. That's the North Sister in the background. Summit with North Sister
The gang. Summit
Two Sisters and a grand-daughter. Dad and Mackenzie

We walked back across the snow and had another extended rest stop, eating and soaking it all in.

Fortified, Dad was ready for the descent.

We were still moving right along, but the lack of sleep, long day, and building heat were making all of us ready to finish. Mackenzie was leading. Pumice section

But we stopped for one final shot.

Mackenzie suggested her slightly lower height lead her to conclude that we might need a bath before we do any more photos with arms on shoulders.


It was a long climb capping a long vacation. But both were very enjoyable, especially the company of (extended) family. We got to share a lot of stories and made more memories. This was Dad's fifth trip up the South Sister. At 83, there's just one more to do.

Dad in the woods

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