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342. Lassen Peak (09/13/03)

Hikers (17): Barbara, Cal, David, Elaine, Ernie, Eugene, Gwynneth, Jayne, Neel, Oliver, Peter, Russ, Steve, Sue, Sue B, Taylor, Winnie
Distance: 5 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Write-up by Elaine

It was a picturesque day -- clear blue skies and bright, bright sunshine. I had been looking forward to this trip for a while. "Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow, don't stop, it'll soon be here ..." I was so grateful to catch a ride with Gwynneth on Friday night. "Monday morning you look so fine – Friday I got travelin' on my mind". Most of the group got here Thursday and had done three hikes already.

I was lucky enough to get a seat in the Calmobile to get to the Lassen Peak trailhead. My fellow passengers called me a "young `un" (polite for "ignorant") ‘coz I was no match for DJ Dave or any of the others at Name That Tune. When Mount Lassen first came into view, we all spotted a trail that went directly up to the peak. "I took my love, I took it down – climbed a mountain and I turned around ..."

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

We were off. When Steve, who was blazing the trail, turned, we sighed with relief. Switchbacks, yes! Next came The Man, focused and steady. I was trying to stay with the front group, but found myself breathing hard. Several people passed me, including Gwynneth. She got here with me -- how come she had no problems acclimatizing to the altitude? (I learned later that she was on drugs, confirmed by the drug queen herself!) Sue and Barbara caught up, slowed down, waited and stayed with me the whole way because they were sensitive to my plight, having experienced altitude acclimatization when they got here two days earlier. I was grateful for their kindness and company. I marvel at these friends and their superior multitasking skills: they hike, talk, laugh, encourage, counsel, and build relationships and community all at the same time.

The trail was barren -- not much shade from the brilliant sun and nippy wind. We alternated between having the wind cut across our faces and relief in the other direction as we turned on the switchbacks. "All your life you've never seen a woman - taken by the wind". The views were magnificent as we climbed higher: purple peaks, blue pools of water, and lush green everywhere. Sue pointed out Brokeoff and other places the group had hiked the past two days.

After countless turns, we reached a plateau with snow on the side. That was the calm before the storm. To reach the peak, we had to climb over rocks. We saw Neel hanging off a rock and called out to him. He signaled back to go to the left. There was no trail, at least not apparent to us, so we picked our way through the rocks. "So I'm back to the velvet underground - back to the floor that I love ..." We encountered The Man on his way down. Already? Not much room to sit up there, he explained. Not to mention heights and his fear of them ... Anyway, he was really worried about Taylor. He had asked Eugene about Taylor, and Eugene had snapped back that she was dead. Did she make it to the top? Is she on her way down? "She just seems to be missing - how could that happen anyhow?"

Somehow, we all managed to get to the top. Steve was there first and found the best seat on the peak. From his throne, King Walstra dictated that everyone must touch the rock in front of him, and not just any part of the rock, but where words were inscribed. We were relieved to see Taylor, alive and well, telling her life and death story. She had slipped and landed on Neel, who felt like a cushion! We celebrated heroism, friendship, and victory with snacks and photos. "All I want is to see you smile ... " Those who had hiked Cinder Cone pointed out its unique shape in the distance. Nearby, the yellow cone that guides hikers to Lassen Peak stood erect. Sue dubbed it "The Man".

When the last person (Winnie) reached the top, we started the descent, which was a breeze. Again, we had to pick our way through the rocks. We met up at the plateau and most of us stayed together on the way down, bulldozing people on their way up. Chattering increased, which caused Russ to shout The Man’s order: "More walk, less talk!" But perhaps Russ was chanting the mantra more to himself than to anyone else because he kept talking excitedly about being on INCH's version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. His excitement was understandable: after the makeover, he won’t just be another bachelor, but the most desirable eligible bachelor in the Bay Area! "I never did believe in miracles, but I've a feeling it's time to try ... "

When we reached the cars, we found The Man on his third beer ... virtually. That was what he had been dreaming of when he hurried down. But alas, he had forgotten to get the keys to the Calmobile! Next destination: King’s Creek to drink, mellow out in the sun, drink, eat pretzels, drink ... Then off to bumping asses in hell!

Highest point in Shasta county
Elaine's 20th leaf
Winnie's 10th leaf

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