Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park was easily the harshest work environment I’d seen in more than ten years working on trail crews across the American West. Of course, I couldn't complain. This was what I'd gotten myself into.


Environmental conditions on trail crew worksites are normally terrible, at least part of the time, whether because of wind, sun, rain, or bugs. As a rule we are exposed to the elements. But in Lassen, all the forces of nature were lined up formidably against us.


We were building stone retaining walls on the trail up the park’s namesake volcano. Once at our worksite, less than a mile of rocky trail from the top, we were looking nearly 10,000 feet down to Red Bluff, California, elevation 305 feet. 


On our mountain we were often freezing cold, especially in the mornings. Winds swept up from the Pacific Ocean, collecting in California's wide Central Valley before scraping the mountains with constant intensity; probably that great force, pushing its way east, was at its peak right at the high ridge that was our worksite, where we were endlessly moving and placing and chiseling into grey volcanic rock, trying to get it to fit permanently into the mountainside.



My Idea of Paradise...


My Personal Hell...