Category Archives: Camping

Oh! Lassen

Katherine and Katrina are back with more camping adventures–this time, a post-Covid, pre-wildfires trip to Lassen National Park’s Butte Lake Campground. We’ll use a similar organizing principle to the one we used for Pinnacles. We are librarians, after all. With a couple of added categories to cover some car trouble and fishing. We may need to deviate from our cute spellings…


KA was the first to arrive, so she did a little exploration and took this shot of Butte Lake. What an amazing setting! KK arrived a bit later. We set up tents, stored food in the bear boxes, etc. B54 is a good site with proximity to the restrooms (no showers) and an open area for great star gazing. We planned our trip to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower and saw several meteors on two nights while we were there.

Hiking and Klimbing

Our original plan included scaling three different types of volcanos. The first to be conquered: Cinder Cone. One reason for selecting the Butte Lake campground, which is off the main park road was that the trailheads for two volcanoes are right there! So, off we went on Day One to Cinder Cone. Who are these masked women?

The trail offers a Sisyphean challenge. The surface is cinders (doh!). With every step, you plant your foot, only to slip back again and again… The trail seems to wind endlessly before you.

The effort is rewarded with spectacular views. But the wind was high that day. We were unable to scale the highest viewpoint. On the positive side, we didn’t need to visit the spa for exfoliation for some time after the hike. The little cinder fragments took care of that! We recommend spats for this hike. We did not have them and had to stop to remove larger cinders from our shoes fairly frequently.


We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for our feature: Kampground Kooking. As with our Pinnacles trip, we planned our meals and shopped for provisions before arrival at the campground. On the first night, we ran into a little “issue” with wood. Things seemed a little frayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no camp host and therefore no firewood for purchase. We opted not to do the 6 mile drive back out on the gravel road to get some. Instead, we scoured the campground for abandoned wood from campers who had left.

One of the logs we found was a challenge to chop but we got it done and managed to grill our pork kabobs on the open fire. (Challenge #2–the grill at our campsite was rusted out on the bottom so had to be propped on the side of the fire ring.) Other repasts included chicken with Spanish rice and mango (not pictured), sausage and veggies, KA’s infamous lettuce wedge, pasta and hot squash and carrot slaw, and of course, crab aliens–a dessert treat of chocolate melted on croissants.

Best Laid Plans

Our day two plan was to hike our second volcano: Prospect Peak. However, KK’s car battery went out. We were fortunate that nearby campers had cables and we were able to jump start the car. KK opted to drive to Redding to get a new battery rather than risk not being able to start the car again. (We didn’t get photos of this part.) KA made the best of it by exploring nearby lakes. When KK returned, we tried a swim in Bathtub Lake, reputed to be tepid and good for a swim. It was a complete bust! Full of algae. But we had a good swim in an unnamed lake we christened Naked Man Lake for the man we saw emerge from it in his birthday suit as we walked by on our way to Bathtub Lake–re-christened Bathdud Lake.

More Klimbing and Katching (we hoped)

Hiking Lassen Peak, the third volcano in our master plan would involve driving to the park entrance and then a distance down the park road to reach the trailhead. With KK having spent much of the previous day in her car and with road work on the route to the park entrance, we opted instead to try our luck at fishing in nearby Hat Creek. While we didn’t catch anything, it made for a relaxing morning by a beautiful creek with some good birdwatching.

After lunch, we hiked around Butte Lake with spectacular panoramic views of the Lake and its surroundings. Gooseberries and lizards too!

Our last night at Butte Lake campground was a Friday night. The campground became much more crowded and a large family group occupied the campsite across the stargazing field from us. They had bright lights that interfered with our ability to see the stars. We were ready to break camp and head home the next day. Our timing was good, as it turned out. The night after we got home, dry lightning struck throughout the state of California, igniting many fires. We haven’t stopped burning since.


Pinnacles Retrospective

Hello, this is Katherine and Katrina hereafter known as KK and KA which should explain our cute spelling below.  We have been friends for almost 25 years: first as work colleagues then as hiking buddies and now camping pals. Last year, at Pinnacles National Park, on our first camping trip together, we consumed a couple of beers and decided that we were having such a grand time that we should share our adventures.

While following the current social distancing practices and without a lot to do, we revived the idea of a blog so we could reminisce about last year’s trip.  This is our Pinnacles Retrospective.


When we’re not under “shelter-in-place” restrictions, March is a good time to go to Pinnacles. It gets cold at night, but daytime temperatures are perfect for hiking.  Our campsite was #79 in Loop C. We cannot recommend that site for Winter or early Spring camping because there’s a small stream of water that runs through the middle of the two tent pads.  It’s just a little too muddy. We checked out a few other sites for the next trip, you might like: #66, #61, #50, #40, and #37.

However, #79 is a wonderful site for viewing wildlife.  If you’re a birder, you will appreciate the California Quail, the Acorn Woodpeckers (left), the California Thrasher, the Water Pipits, and a variety of hawks overhead.


Before we departed, we planned our meals on Google docs then procured our provisions.  Our first meal was a dutch oven dinner: short ribs marinated in Kinder’s garlic BBQ sauce and slow cooked over campfire coals.  Before cooking, we added a few quartered, small red potatoes, half of a head of peeled garlic cloves, and chunks of white onion plus a cup or two of water to dilute the saltiness of the Kinder’s.  

We served the stew along with iceberg lettuce wedges and blue cheese dressing. Yum! Red wine (don’t remember which one… probably from Trader Joe’s) was the perfect libation.

We conserved the broth from the dutch oven dinner and used it for the sweet potato chili we made on the second night.  Adding the broth kept it from being vegetarian, but added a rich umami flavor. We enjoyed a couple of Sierra Nevadas that night.   On our third night we had a simple ramen with canned salmon that was ideal after three days of hiking. Wine? Probably a Chardonnay.

For a sweet treat, we had brioche bombs with hazelnut chocolate.  Just take store bought croissants, cut them in half, and place a piece of your favorite fancy chocolate bar between the halves.  Wrap it in foil, stick a skewer in it, and roast it over the fire. It’s all melty goodness.

By the way, KK fed us oatmeal, yogurt, and Starbucks Via instant Italian Roast every morning to fuel us for our activities.

Hiking and Klimbing

On arrival, we acclimated by taking an easy stroll along Chalone and Bear creeks. It’s mostly a shaded trail with lots of wildflowers.  The Visitor Center has a board where campers can list the wildflowers they’ve seen.

The next day, we made the strenuous climb to the High Peaks.  When we got close to the top, we were fortunate to encounter a study group with a telescope. They invited us to view one of the tagged California Condors roosting on the rocks.  It’s good we actually saw a condor because we had spent several minutes studying a couple of Turkey Vultures that we were convinced were condors. KA’s photographs disproved our hopes of spotting condors on our own.

Besides the weather, another reason to visit Pinnacles in mid-March is that Bear Gulch Cave will be fully open before it’s pupping season for the colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats. So on day three, we explored Bear Gulch Cave.  There were some challenges with the stream running through the cave and flashlights or headlamps are required.


Back at boggy #79, on our second night, we endured our campground neighbors’ newborn (as moms, we were a little judgy about how young she was) crying all night.  The baby was probably cold–we sure were. They were nice people but that baby was miserable. The next day, her cries lured a coyote out of the woods to take a look.  Shortly after the coyote appeared, the family packed up and left. The following evening, we kicked back with beers and marveled at more wildlife: a trio of deer, a blue belly lizard, and a fox!


Pinnacles National Park is a great place to  visit. From the East Bay, it takes a little over two hours without traffic.  You can go for a day and climb the High Peaks and a three night trip allows you to experience much of the park.

Yours sincerely,

KK and KA (Note: KA took all the photos! KK left her phone out overnight and it froze! Inadvisable!)