Authored by Not Wanderlust’s head geologist: Evan Dismukes
I should have prefaced my previous post with this, but I didn’t and now it’s even more relevant the further north we get. All volcanic activity on the west coast is a result of the Pacific Continental Plate being subducted underneath the North American Plate. This interaction is also what causes the earthquakes that occur from Argentina all the way to Alaska. I know I mentioned the possibility for tsunamis before when I was talking about Lake Tahoe, but when you see tsunami evacuation routes along the coast, that doesn’t mean “let the surfers have the best wave of their lives” it genuinely means “I hope you brought your floaties.”
Our first stop for this post was Lassen Volcanic National Park. The most interesting things we did there was compare the snowbanks to our height and pitch a tent on the snow. I’m not saying it was boring, that’s just all we did because there was so much snow you couldn’t drive past the visitor’s center. We did walk up to the first stop which had a couple steam vents, a mud pit and the distinct overpowering smell of sulfur. We could see a couple peaks from this spot which are the remnants of the caldera collapse that occurred in the area. That was cool and all, but it was getting dark and we decided we should probably pitch our tent on top of the snow to help keep us from being too cold that night.
Then, we made our way over to the coast starting by Trinidad on our way to Redwoods. Most of the geology here is getting back to sandstones, shale and cheer which helps build the fertile ground to support the redwood trees that cover the area. This also means that you really can’t see any of the geology because you have all these stupid trees in the way, but there were elk, so that was cool.
To continue our trend of being inhibited by an epic snowfall year, we arrived at Crater Lake. Only 1 mile of the perimeter road was open, but that was enough to get some photos for mom and attend a presentation by one of the rangers. The crater started out as a shield volcano (think Hawaii) called Mount Mazama. The last time it erupted, it collapsed in on itself forming the caldera that has since been filled with snowmelt. After we left the lake, then decided to continue our trend of camping in fun, new environments so we camped in a mosquito nest.
After me breaking our windshield, we headed to Mount Hood to get my postseason days on snow to eclipse my regular season days on snow. Mount Hood, a volcano, has 12 glaciers covering it which is why it is able to be open 12 months of the year for skiing. When it comes to glaciers, while ample snowfall is important, what’s really key to their existence is very mild weather during the summer. Luckily the Pacific Northwest climate does exactly that combined with indescribably heavy annual snowfalls; the perfect environment for 5-year-olds who wanna do triple corks and 25-year-olds who just wanna ski and live out of their vans. The downside to this volcano is that it is listed by the USGS as the “most likely volcano in Oregon to erupt.” When Hood erupts, it does not explode like the recent Mount Saint Helens or Mount Pinatubo eruptions. It mostly spits out a bunch of ash, which depending on the situation causes two things: if the heated ash interacts with enough snow, it melts the snow and forms Lahars (large mudflows) or if the ash stays hot and there are enough gasses in it to keep the cloud light, it will form Pyroclastic Flows (like an avalanche of dry superheated rock). Both would suck a lot more than being stuck in a snow avalanche because neither your AvaLung nor your AirBag will save you.
Now we’re prepping for our move north into Washington and hanging out with some more friends in Seattle. From there, we can only hope that our passports will suffice to let us cross the US/Canada border since our PA licenses are now officially not federally recognized as valid IDs. I am a legal natural born citizen. Your move Trump.