Forested CanyonsJust a few short weeks ago, I embarked on a road trip with pit stops at federally protected lands (i.e., national parks and monuments). “Amazing,” “awe-inspiring,” and their synonyms surely flitted through my mind during that drive, but I remember only one word: WOW. A mere 3 letters too inadequate to describe the incredible vistas upon which I gazed.

Lassen National Volcanic Park was my last park and Bumpass Hell Trail the last hike of the trip. According to the National Park Service, the trail is an easy 3-mile, round-trip, day hike “though the altitude (8,000 feet) can make the trail seem moderately difficult.” Deconditioned desk jockeys like me should take this to mean that a cardio workout of almost-needing-to-use-a-defibrillator proportions is about to begin.

First View of Bumpass Hell
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park

I meandered through evergreens and peered down into forested canyons, all the while listening to silence occasionally broken by birds trilling somewhere off the path. And then I caught the whiff of sulphur just seconds before my first glimpse of Hell, which was anything but. It was gorgeous! Milky, light blue water. Trees of varying shades of green. The name must have been a mistake.

The steep descent into the basin gave me pause, however, and when I stopped to read one of the trail info signs, I realized Bumpass Hell was entirely too appropriate. The milky, blue water which invited unwary Boiling Riverhikers for a dip was actually boiling water. Boiling acidic water. Yikes.

Leave it to Mother Nature to create something so beautiful yet so deadly. I wonder what lesson she’s trying to impart? Leave her creations alone? Enjoy but don’t touch? (She should have given the vandal who recently defaced at least 10 national parks private instruction! But, that’s a story for another day.)

I choose to think Mama N is simply advising us on life in her own subtle, spectacular fashion. No pleasure without pain. No joy without sorrow. Sweet and bitter. Yin and yang. So, I spent the rest of my last hike downwind and with my camera in rapid fire mode, thankful for the circumstances which led to this place and this time.

Happy holiday weekend, shipmates!

Posted in Response to the Daily Prompt: Let It Be

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