Confessions of Ranger Program Junkies

Luke and I recently spent a weekend in Lassen Volcanic National Park. We had grand aspirations of logging many miles on trail and perhaps baging a peak or 2; namely Brokeoff Mountain and Lassen Peak.

Cascade Mountains; Lassen Volcanic National Park; lassen peak Lassen Peak towers over all else. See you at the top...soon.

Lassen Peak towers over all else. See you at the top…soon.

However, we first needed to pay our camping fees ($10/night) so we woke early and headed to the Visitor’s Center. That’s where we saw it; the infamous whiteboard listing the day’s Ranger Programs. We were incapable of resisting. Our entire day was thrown into turmoil.

The Lassen Association Bookstore needed to be browsed (gotta support our Parks!) and the sun was begging to be examined through telescopes, conveniently set up just outside the visitor center. So we scampered outside to talk with the volunteer manning 2 sun-gazing telescopes; the sun is neat and if you ever get to look at one through a telescope, do so: the rewards are detailed views of flares, prominences, and sunspots.

With our minds in the skies, we headed for the theater for the program entitled “Are We Alone?” The program, ran by a Park Volunteer and scientist, discussed the world’s efforts to find life somewhere out there, in the great unknown. As usual, the program was well put together, informative, interactive, and an altogether jolly time.

Cascade Mountains; Lassen Volcanic National Park; sulfur works I can

I can’t imagine the sulfur steam emenating from this bubbling pool was any good for my camera, or our lungs.

But we could not linger. We needed to make it a mile up the road to Sulfur Works for Ranger Jolley’s program “Inside a Volcano” discussing the ever changing landscape of the park and what makes it stink!

After these programs, we tried to hike up Brokeoff Mountain but snow and the late hour (it was already 4 by the time we hit trail) prevented us from getting very far.

Our minds were stimulated and we did quite a bit of walking but Brokeoff Mountain still looms. The day was not what we expected but it was still a raging success.

Cascade Mountains; Lassen Volcanic National Park; Wildlife; bear; california A mother and her 2 cubs (one pictured here) came very close to our site at Southwest Walk-in Campground.

A mother and her 2 cubs (one pictured here) came very close to our site at Southwest Walk-in Campground.

This was not the first time education has led us astray. We have been to many programs all over the country and they are always gratifying. Park employees are a wealth of information and can spend 15 minutes lecturing about fence styles of the Civil War Era (this actually happened to us at Gettysburg National Battlefield when we asked about a fence).

Our travels are often about solitude and seeing beautiful landscapes. However, we always try to learn as much as possible and our National Park Rangers and Volunteers know their stuff. If you have never been to a Ranger Program, you are missing out! Sometimes you just need to leave those hiking boots in the tent and be “that tourist”.

Thank you to all our Rangers and Volunteers that have taught us so much over the years and continue to amaze!

Check out these upcoming Lassen Volcanic National Park Ranger Programs/Events:

Reach Higher Trail Challenge Kick-off: June 14th – either Visitor Center
Bird Banding Demonstration: July 21st – Manzanita Lake boat ramp – 8AM & 9AM – 30 minutes
Dark Sky Festival: August 1st-3rd
Art & Wine Festival: September 27th – Kohm Yah-ma-nee Visitor Center

These are just the bigger events. Most parks host programs on Saturdays and Sundays, with the larger ones doing so throughout the week. Call ahead or let it be a surprise, just don’t miss out.

Visit our National Park Service Guide for more hikes in our national parks.