Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
We’ve been watching the effects of Mt. Kilauea, Hawaii’s currently erupting volcano, and wonder where would be a good place to see volcanic activity in the continental U.S. We are currently planning a long road trip to the West and would like to add a volcano to our itinerary. Thanks. —Terry and Clarissa
Hi Terry and Clarissa,
You probably wouldn’t have wanted to be road touring around Northern California a few thousand years ago, when the earth’s fiery heart regularly exploded through the crust spewing tons of white-hot boulders and rivers of molten lava across the landscape. As you mention, a similar event is taking place on the big island of Hawaii right now with the eruption of Mt. Kilauea, burying hundreds of homes and leaving behind a jagged landscape of black hardened lava burying everything in its path.
Plan to take a road trip along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway: All American Road in southern Oregon and northern California, to illustrate the vast expanse of cooled lava beds that will remain when Kilauea finally settles down. And you can also see what the landscape may look like a few hundred years from now as the land recovers.
One difference you will note is that some rather large volcanoes remain in Northern California and Oregon, whereas in Hawaii, Kilauea, a shield volcano, flows out of large fissures in the earth in unstoppable molten rivers, and has yet to produce any of what we think of as volcano shapes (like Mounts Shasta, Hood, Lassen, and others).
This section of the Scenic Byway picks up from northern California’s Interstate 5 at Weed (named after mill owner, Abner E. Weed, not the plant that the natives grow), branching off onto U.S. 97 to the northeast, the road less traveled into the rain-shadow chaparral and scrub high desert plateau of Butte Valley.
Shasta Indians once lived throughout this area until early settlers muscled them out in the mid-1800s, followed by the railroad that linked California with Oregon. Perpetually snow-capped Mt. Shasta to the south can be seen throughout Butte Valley, until the long steady rise crosses over 5,101-foot Grass Lake Summit, from which you get your first view of Grass Lake.
Well, sort of. The lake isn’t there anymore, having passed through the filling-in stage to the soggy meadow stage – good for birdwatching and wildlife (pronghorn antelope live here but we didn’t see any on this trip).
The Butte Valley also claims to be home to 50 species of mammals, 260 miles of signed trails, and 200 species of migrating and nesting birds, including what is claimed to be one of the largest concentrations of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states.
After the volcanoes stopped distributing ash far and wide, the valley evolved into a large grassland habitat, which includes the 18,425-acre Butte Valley National Grasslands between Dorris and Macdoel. You will be traveling through national forests and grasslands, which present opportunities for boondocking as well.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .