Road Trip Diary: Mt. Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park

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At the halfway point of our road trip we made hurried pitstops at Mt. Shasta, site of California’s tallest mountain and Lassen Volcanic National Park, one of the Golden State’s coolest places you’ve probably never heard of.

Mt. Shasta

Due to an ever tightening schedule to get down south to Yosemite National Park and other unexpected delays we only had less than a full day to visit Mt. Shasta.  A park ranger advised us that our time would be better spent at Lassen Volcanic Park but after some debate we stuck with our Mt. Shasta plans because the kids wanted to see California’s tallest mountain peak.

Mt. Shasta struck us as nice looking mountain that is especially suited to skiers during the winter but in the summer it didn’t seem worth the time it took to get there.  Yes, the surrounding region also features fishing, river bathing and other outdoor activities but you don’t need to go to Mt. Shasta to get that experience during the summer.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

If we’ve had any major regret from this trip so far it was not being able to spend more time at Lassen Volcanic National Park.  In the brief few hours we visited Lassen we immediately saw the extraordinary beauty that makes Lassen one of the least appreciated national parks in the country.

The area surrounding Lassen Peak is active with boiling mud pots, stinking fumaroles, and churning hot springs, all of which reminded us of a smaller scale version of Yellowstone National Park.  One of the most unique features of Lassen is that it has all four types of volcanoes found in the entire world.  Volcanoes found in the park include shield (Prospect Peak), plug dome (Lassen Peak), Cinder Cone (Cinder Cone), and Composite (Broke off Volcano) volcanoes.

All along the road to and from Lassen Park are beautiful scenes of pine trees, cool rock formations and even mud pots.  The highlight of our all too brief trip was driving to Bumpass Hell, which is one of the places where you can most see of the boiling mud pots. After a short drive through Lassen, we headed south to Yosemite National Park for one of the true focal points of our road trip.


In 2010, we didn’t know how we would actually survive being in a vehicle together for a journey that lasted 46 days and 12,000 miles across the four corners of the continental United States.  In 2011, we experienced numerous health scares and other problems during our 44 day 10,000 mile trip.  Through the midway point of this trip, we haven’t had any adverse drama but here’s what we’ve encountered so far:

It makes a huge difference to travel with 6 family members, Pt. 1:  Adding our 1-year-old Naomi to this year’s trip has been great and easy going during all the hard driving part of the trip but at night she’s a terror.  She absolutely WON’T go to sleep.  Despite our efforts to limit her sleep in the daytime, Naomi is never fully tired at night.  This is driving all of us crazy and is a big contributor to our consistently late morning starts.

The smallest things go a long way: No matter how amped up Angela and I may get about the cool places we visit, kids are unpredictable.  For them, it’s the small things that often make them feel one place is funner or cooler than the other.  For example, the other day we took the kids to the Redwood National Forest to marvel at the world’s tallest trees.  Not more than 20 minutes into walk, the kids started complaining loudly that they were bored of seeing the trees.  What rescued us from the constant whining?  Broken tree branches.  Jonathan used his sturdy branch to bat rocks into the forest.  Elena and Briani used their branches to climb fallen trees and to pretend they were singing into a microphone.  Later they declared the walk into the Redwood National Forest a complete success.

It makes a huge difference to travel with 6 family members, Pt. 2: If you’re looking for hotel stays, you can almost forget finding any hotels if you declare you’re looking for a room for six.  There is nothing to choose from at six and few to select from at five.

My son Jonathan is driving us crazy: He just turned 13 a few months ago and we’re instantly feeling the onset of his “teenage year”.  This trip has been my first in-depth experience with him as a teenager and it’s causing me to think about adjustments I need to make about how to more effectively parent him as a teenager.  

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