Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lassen Volcanic National Park - July 2014

Star and Stripes cake on 4th July
Lassen Volcanic National Park and Redding – This was a shorter road trip compare to couple of years ago, when we did it. Prem is having good time this summer vacation, with lot of play dates, primarily with Rahul. Part of playdates, they would do Math Olympiad questions and some very basic Android app development. However, as per Prem, vacations are not really vacation till we go out some place and stay in hotel, eat yummy (read - bad) food. Both the kids studied and played well together; so it was great, when we decided for this vacation together last minute.

Since I knew the area and attraction points, we did not rush (much). Both the kids were excited and looking forward to hike to center of volcano in Bumpass Hell hike. The hike took them over to mud pots, Sulfur geysers. Our next stop was Lassen Peak. This year, there was lot less snow at top. This is probably the most fun time kids have, throwing snow at each other. Promila running around, in the parking lot, to dodge the snowballs, made few more cars to stop over there, and look at the spectacle. Throwing snow in shorts and sandals, 90 degree weather; made us forget how tired we were.

4 hour drive, Bumpass Hell Hike and snow play and no real lunch behind, lot of us were hungry. After finishing up most of the snacks while doing North Summit Lake hike, we went to the store near Manzanita lake. It had pizza, fresh fruits, ice creams which refueled us for next couple of hours. We headed to Redding and everybody was tired to get out for real dinner. Luckily for us, on walking distance there was Chinese restaurant, which customized the dishes to our liking; and everybody loved the freshly cooked food. Even though we barely ate couple of hours ago, we were able to finish most of the food.

We were all in vacation mood, and did not set up time to get up in morning. It was Subha’s birthday, and we went to Lumberjack and had a big breakfast there. However, after watching us finish the big portion of
Chinese food yesterday, I was not sure, I could call breakfast big. We went to Burney Falls from there. Promila brought some chocolate to wish and celebrate the birthday. We stayed in the water for quite some time and took some pictures. Prem wanted to swim and show his skills, but we did not bring any change of clothes. We did another little hike to Rainbow bridge; and Rahul wanted to run on the trail. He went back and forth so that he was not far away from us. By the time we finished our walk, he was too tired. Part of the trail crosses Pacific Crest trail; and we could not pass taking some photos and walking on part of the famous 2663 miles long trail, which goes from Canada to Mexico, covering major landmarks, like Mt Whitney while passing through California.

After having our sandwich lunch at local Safeway, we headed to Lava Tubes. Guhan wondered as why there were no lights in the tubes, the ground was uneven, cave was cold. It was easy to imagine that some animals or poisonous scorpions, might be taking refuge from hot sun into these caves. Total darkness added to mystery and adventure to this small walk. Kids were excited and playing with headlights in this long cave.

We were done for the day and headed back. Guhan got big Oreo ice cream cake; and we finished up 3/4th of cake in no time. Subha shared couple of her Marathon stories and how she was so stiff to even walk or move after the race was over; a budding stand-up comedian, with all the actions. She further narrated as how her daughter disowned her when she forgot to switch off her phone at start of a live classical music concert and it started ringing loudly; and she could not find it in the bag; and could not run out of auditorium.

We tried to be more adventurous, and went to Sundial Bridge in night. However, with not a single soul in night in parking lot, and with history of watching scary movies and active imagination, nobody even stepped out of car. (Note to self – backpacking trip might have to wait). 

After returning back to room, we talked about memorable vacation trips. Soon it was clear, when Guhan/Subha talked about downtown of Seattle/San Diego, trying different coffees and food shop; and not mentioning Mt Olympic/Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier; that it might take them a bit to come around for 4-10 hours hikes. When they chatted about their Europe trip, Rahul was quick to ask as why they did not do those kind of trips now with the kids. Needless to say, it was interesting argument to satisfy the smart kid
We woke up next morning and walked to Sundial bridge; everybody was now comfortable to admit, that they might go next time in night there. With people walking their dogs, lot of bicycles; kids playing around and skipping stones in Sacramento river, it was a nice place to hang out. This was followed by educational Shasta Dam trip.

Coming back, we stopped at Corning, Olive City; and went to Olive Pitt. It was a great stop, as we tasted different types of Olives and hot peppers, along with Olive oils. Well, I guess, in retrospect, it was more than tasting; as I felt so sleepy after that stop, that I had difficulty keeping my eyes open.

After pouring some water on my head, I thought of stopping and get some coffee. At that time, we got a call from Subha who invited us for dinner, and that too traditional Tamil dinner. The anticipation of tasting sambhar and other dishes were enough to keep me awake. I was surprised to see their energy after a full day and 4 hours drive; to go home and cook dinner for 6 people.

Dinner conversation went quickly to what it meant by authentic South Indian cuisine. Very entertaining and educational conversation for me, as I came to know proper way for making sambhar. Guhan, this time, was more of an expert in this area; and explained subtlety; which made a lot of sense. Promila and I learned quite a few things. Dinner was excellent, with four dishes, served with rice and bread. Hope to follow up on these sessions more, as Guhan has taken on himself to teach daughter cook every weekend; for next year, before she is headed for college. More stand-up comedy from Subha on hearing (read - not listening) proper way of cooking from Guhan. It was conclusion of a very pleasant weekend. I had a great flavor in my mouth from the traditionally prepared dishes; and was hoping Guhan family had some taste of adventure and craving for more.