Our Vie Adventures consists of Cees, Madison, Vladimir the Kitten, and a 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Cees and Madison are on the road, living the dream of every outdoor-minded couple by visiting each national park in the country over the course of the year. In celebration of our National Parks centennial, we’ve partnered with Cees and Madison to bring you stories and photos of their yearlong quest (and of course, plenty of #vladimirkitten along the way).
Keep scrolling to see Cees, Madison, and Vladimir’s visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA. Stay tuned to Downstream for updates on their adventures and follow them on Instagram (@ourvieadventures) for more frequent updates from the road.
Entering the south side of the park we found the tiniest, cutest sign and had to stop for a photo. A lot of people ask, “how do you get your cat to pose for these sign pictures?” Honestly, this cat is a diva and I think he just knows when we whip the camera out that it’s show time. Sometimes I feel like he is the star of our trip. We joke that he is the one bringing us along on his trip. We didn’t show up to Lassen with high expectations. Actually, we had ZERO idea of what we should expect. I had never heard of it, nor seen any pictures. We actually didn’t plan anything before until we were about 30 minutes outside the park! This is pretty standard procedure for us though. We usually just show up and plan at the visitor’s center based on recommendations from the rangers.
One of the best trails in Lassen Volcanic park is Mill Creek Falls. Madison called it, “Teletubby Land”. It was so incredibly green and lush and beautiful, it looked fake.
Right up the falls we were able to actually get in the river! It was nice to finally get our Chacos clean.
Every once and a while on our hikes we run across solo travelers. When this happens, I am always just so grateful that Madison and I are traveling together. It would be so sad, at least for me, to travel alone! Yeah, I would be able to see these amazing places, but then what? It’s just so nice to have someone to share it with. That is where MOST of the joy comes from. To be able to say, “Woah! Check that out!” or “Did you see that?!” And on top of that, I am a wuss. I would be scared going everywhere alone! It’s good to have a travel buddy.
I would have been very content with just the falls trail and then maybe driving around to a few overlooks. BUT, my aforementioned travel buddy said she ate “too many donuts” so we had to hike two trails. We did.
Our second walk in the park was everything but a walk in the park. It was only about five miles long, but it was straight up to the summit.
There was snow most of the way up. This took us off guard, since it is July, but it was really fun! In fact, it was nice on the way up to have the snow to keep us cool. Regardless, I was still sweating like crazy.
We left the trail head at about 6:30 with the goal to make it for sunset. With 2.5 miles to the summit, we figured it was a reasonable goal.
Immediately upon reaching the top, I was glad that Madison made me go. It just made everything look celestial. I mean, doesn’t Madison look like an angel-human here?!
We had a blast on top of this mountain. It was so beautiful, we were giddy!
I had to climb up the knob at the top to make sure I got to the real summit. I was telling Madison that the view was WAY better from up there – but she wasn’t buying it.
The peak in the background of this photo is Mt. Shasta. Madison summited Shasta with her Dad when she was 16. She still holds it in her mind as “the hardest thing she’s ever done”. Every time we do something difficult, it always gets compared to Shasta. I think it is healthy to have something that was SO HARD that you can fall back on and say, “at least its not that bad yet.”
Since we made it just in time for the sun to drop, our hike down was almost totally in the dark. However, the first few rounds of switchbacks were still lit up by the lingering sunset. Every turn was lit up slightly different than the last. It was stunning.
There was a lot of National Forest around, so we were able to find some nice spots to camp for free. It’s always scary trying to find spots at night. We spend most of the day in the park, and then when we drive out to find a spot, it’s dark and creepy. We drive down dirt roads aways and always feel like we are in the beginning of a horror movie.
In every park we snag a sticker and a patch. We have been putting the stickers on the back of the rig, and plan to sew all the patches on a duffel bag when the trip is over.
Unfortunately, one of the most popular attractions of the park–Bumpass Hell geothermal area–was closed because of snow. You’d think that the hot pot trail would be the first to melt! Oh well, we heard that the Devil’s Kitchen trail was the next best option for hot spot activity.
You can always tell when you are getting close to hot pots by the smell! It was pretty stinky.
It was cool because there was no boardwalk to confine us like in Yellowstone. We were free to move about as we pleased. Well, we were advised to stay on the trail so we didn’t break through, but still, it felt more intimate for sure.
We feel bad for the kitty when he can’t hike with us. He has to stay in the RV while we get to go and play. We try to get him outside when we can, even if that means just at the trail head. That way he can get his wiggles out and isn’t such a demon at night!
On our hike back we saw a spot in the river that looked like we could swim in! We were pretty stinky, so we figured our swim could double as a bath! We went back and grabbed our suits and soap!
It was actually quite deep in that spot! There was an edge too that I could sit on so I didn’t get tossed over the falls.
Don’t worry, we used the hippy-dippy soap that can be washed away and not kill anything.
Lake Helen was still very much frozen. It was entertaining, at least for me, to throw snowballs in my shorts and sandals.
We had a mellow morning with a fancy Forth of July breakfast. We laughed when we realized that we made French toast on the the birthday of America. BUT, to be fair, they were for sure the most American French toasts that I have ever seen!
As we were driving into the park our last day, I saw a couple on the side of the road that was looking for a ride. Madison was in back, and I started to pull over. I said, “we’re about to have company!” She was a little confused at first, but then realized I was picking up hitchhikers. Our new friends from Australia had been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for the last 2 months and needed a ride into the next town (which happened to be where we were going as well!) It was fun to hear the stories of these life-long adventurers! They told us tales from “back in the day” when they traveled all of Europe in their van. After spending the short ride with them, we were inspired to never stop! Madison and I promised to always go for it! They were a truly inspiring couple!
We got to Lake Manzanita in time for a nice afternoon paddle. It was nice and warm in the sun. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to celebrate the Fourth.
You’re not going to believe this, but a bald eagle came to celebrate Independence Day with us! It was amazing. He flew right over our heads a few times. In fact, on one of his passes, I channeled his eagle powers and dove out of my kayak. It was a special moment for the two of us.
Out on the lake we met some friends, went back to their campsite, and shared a watermelon and homemade beef jerky. SO GOOD. It was fun to hang out in camp with new friends. Sometimes we need to socialize with real humans and not just our cat.
Lassen Volcanic National Park gives a lot to its visitors. From the summit sunsets, to the celebratory eagles, and from the fields of flowers, to the newfound friends – it was all a gift from the park. We walked away far richer than when we walked in. It’s one of those places that you just want to take all of your friends and family to – just to show them the goodness. I know for a fact that this is a place I am going to return.