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Lassen Trip 2013

Day 1 of 4

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Saturday, July 13th
Drive to Lassen, Manzanita Lake

By the time I tried to make campsite reservations, Manzanita Lake's reservable sites were all taken. I seriously thought about finally camping at Trinity Alps Wilderness, where there were several sites still available. However, when I found out the forecast was for 90+ degree weather there each day, I reconsidered. I eventually made a reservation for 4 nights at Butte Lake campground in Lassen, starting on Friday night. However, I ended up having too much work to complete and we decided we'd just leave on Saturday morning instead.

Technically speaking, if you miss the first night, they'll only hold your camp site until check-out time the next day, which is 12pm. So we were trying to get an early start to make sure we arrived in time. I also had hopes of just finding a first-come, first-served site at Manzanita Lake, though I wasn't sure of my chances on a Saturday. So we got up early and managed to leave the Bay Area around 7:40am.

Of course there wasn't any traffic, so we made good time on I-80, I-505, and I-5, eventually going through Shingletown on our way to the Manzanita Lake entrance at around noon (stopping once for gas). This was still an hour away from Butte Lake, but I asked the ranger at the entrance if there were sites available at Manzanita Lake and she said there were plenty.

There were several sites in both the B and D loops, but D-loop is for tents only, so that's what we decided on. I talked to the camp host and they simply transferred our reservation from Butte Lake to Manzanita Lake. Technically, I think Manzanita Lake is $2 more expensive, but we missed the first night anyway, so they didn't charge us anything extra. I think this is a great tactic I'll have to consider next time I'm car camping: If you can't make reservations for the campground of your choice, reserve a less popular one in the same park, and use that as a back-up. Of course this will only work in parks that do this, and your preferred campground may be full, anyway.

I haven't actually stayed in Butte Lake campground before, and I hear it's pretty, but some of the reasons I preferred to stay at Manzanita Lake were the proximity of a store for supplies, the beauty of Manzanita Lake itself, and the proximity to some of the day hikes we wanted to do. I might consider car camping at Butte Lake on another trip, or perhaps doing a backpacking trip starting there.

After setting up camp, we took a nap, then visited the nearby Loomis Museum (visitor's center) before an early dinner. There, we noted that the Lassen Peak trail was closed for maintenance (it would only be open a handful of days during 2013), but we weren't planning to do it this trip, anyway. After dinner we hiked around Manzanita Lake, just as we had done a few years earlier -- but this time in the opposite direction.

We briefly returned to camp, then made our way to the amphitheater for a 9pm ranger program. After witnessing a very energetic, over-the-top performance by a park ranger explaining the cycle of tree life in the forest, we ran into our tent to escape the cold night air.

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