August 17 to August 21, 2020, my brother Michael, family friend Dan and I enjoyed another amazing camping trip to Juniper Lake, located within Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Photo: View of Mt. Lassen with Juniper Lake in the foreground. Since Juniper Lake is located at the 6900-foot level, most of the time, the sky is very blue, but it's mid-August, 2020, and forest fires are raging across California, including the "Loyalton Fire," which was burning in the Plumas National Forest, only about 60 air miles away from Juniper Lake, making the sky very hazy.
Juniper Lake campground is located in the southeastern corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park, but is "disconnected" with the rest of the park, unless you're a hiker. To get to Mt. Lassen, Bumpass's Hell, and the majority of the park by road, you have to travel about 12 miles down a rough, dirt road until you hit pavement. Then, it's another 12 miles into the small mountain town of Chester, where you have to take a "roundabout" route in order to re-enter the park. Juniper Lake is isolated, and we love it!
Photo: It's about 5:00 in the afternoon on Monday, August 17, 2020, and we've finished setting up camp, and relaxing, as Dan gets dinner going.
On the way to camp, we encountered thunder showers, lighting and lots of heavy rain, and just as we'd set up our tents, set up most of our camp, and set up the tarp over the table, the sky opened up and and the rain poured down for about a half hour. We actually had a small "river" of rain water going through our camp, but we, our tents, and all of our gear stayed dry during the downpour.
After the downpour, there wasn't any more rain for the rest of the trip. Actually, the rain was a good thing, as it chased other campers out of the campground, and we were able to set up camp in our favorite spot.
Photo: When we camp, one of the first things we do is to set up the bar. As you can see, we have a very well-equipped bar. Not shown in the photo is our ice chests full of beer.
Photo: I purchased a small, locally-sourced chicken, and stuffed it with chicken stuffing, bacon slices, and diced jalapeno pepper. I arranged my small charcoal grill to allow for both direct, and indirect cooking.
I placed the chicken over direct heat to sear, and after the bird was seared, I moved it over to the "indirect" side of the grill to let it bake. We used locally-sourced oak for smoke and flavor, with charcoal for the main source of heat.
Photo: I smile, as I lift the lid off my grill, and show my cooking efforts. In addition to stuffed chicken, we're grilling a small piece of pork tenderloin for an appetiser.
Photo: We've never basted a grilled whole, stuffed chicken with barbecue sauce before, but we did it tonight. The meat on the grill is bacon-wrapped fillet mignon... just the meat for a perfect dinner while camping at Juniper Lake!Everytime we grill, there's a jalapeno pepper on the side, and tonight's dinner is no exception.
Photo: Dinner on this mid-August Monday evening was boiled potatoes, grilled chicken, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, with half of a grilled jalapeno pepper on the side. The potatoes are sprinkled with Valentina hot sauce, which is one of my favorite Mexican hot sauces.
Photo: Tuesday morning, August 18, 2020, Dan is deep frying bacon, potatoes, jalapeno pepper on his propane-fired wok, with whole wheat flour tortillas on the side. Michael is already enjoying a sample.
Photo: Oh yeah! Bacon, potatoes, jalapeno peppers, along with whole wheat corn tortillas are frying on Dan's wok. We normally use flour or corn tortillas, but Dan brought along the whole wheat variety... We're adventurous when we camp!
Photo: My breakfast taco started with a toasted, whole wheat tortilla, and then was loaded with goodness, including bacon, potato, eggs, shredded Mexican cheese, jalapeno pepper, and finished off with Valentina hot sauce, which is my "go-to" hot sauce of choice.
Dan is a great breakfast cook! I enjoyed "seconds... "
Photo: We spent most of the just hanging around camp - with a short hike or two thrown in - and Michael and Dan are discussing tonight's dinner options, with sweet potato fries on the menu for hors d'oeuvres.
Photo: Dan and Michael enjoy a "taste test" for the sweet potato fries. After taking this photo, I did my own "test" and I pronounced the fries as delicious.
Photo: This Tuesday evening was Michael's turn to cook dinner, and he'd brought steak for the main course tonight. I offered the service of my grill, and my service to grill the steak tonight.
Amazing steak, grilling over charcoal and oak.
Photo: Michael prepares fried potatoes, mushrooms, onion and jalapeno peppers as tonight's side dish. Note that our camp is very well-equipped and well-set up, as all of us have been camping together for many years.
Photo: Tonight, I offered to grill the steaks, and I smile as I raise the lid to show the whole world what I'm doing.
We used charcoal for the main source of cooking heat, but locally-gathered oak chunks for additional heat, smoke and flavor.
Photo: Dan and Michael set up for dinner tonight, since it was Michael's turn to prepare dinner. Notice the hazy sky, and the lack-of-the-view-of-Mt. Lassen - which normally looms over Juniper Lake - thanks to the nearby wild fires.
Photo: Tonight's dinner of grilled steak, boiled potatoes, and deep fried mushrooms, onion and jalapeno peppers.
Photo: It's Wednesday morning, August 19, 2020, and although it's my turn to cook breakfast, both Dan and Michael are lending a helping hand, along with Dan's propane-fired wok.
Photo: Today's breakfast of fried bacon, cheese omelet along with potato pancakes. We decided to prepare a different breakfast today, as we digressed from scrambled eggs and fried potatoes in favor of omelets and potato pancakes. It all worked out for a great breakfast.
Photo: After breakfast on this Wednesday morning, we decided to drive into the "main" section of Lassen Volcanic National Park to visit Bumpass's Hell.
Unless you're a hiker, there is no direct route between Juniper Lake, and the pain entrance to the park, so you have to take a roundabout 1-plus hour route through Chester, and state highways in order to enter the park at the "main" entrance.
From the west entrance of the park, it's a 30-minute drive to the parking lot to Bumpass's Hell, then it's a 1-1/2 mile, moderate-difficult hike to spend some time in hell.
Michael and Dan check out Helen Lake from an overlook, shortly after leaving the parking lot, on our hike to Bumpass's Hell. That's Mount Lassen in the background, and we're only a few miles from the volcanic peak, and it's in plain view, despite the nearby wild fires.
Photo: After hiking a little over a mile, you come to an overview, where you get a good look at the "hell" you're going to descend to, named after K.V. Bumpass, a cowboy and explorer who explored the area in the 1860's It was "hell" for Bumpass, as he lost a leg after stepping into a boiling mudpot.
The park service has built raised platform trails in the area, and has posted signs warning of the danger, and fines if you step off the boardwalk. Imagine the "hell" that Kendall Bumpass endured when he stepped into a boiling mudpot... and today, in addition to "hell" you'd suffer, the park service would slap you with a steep fine. Stay on the boardwalk!!
Photo: Michael and Dan enjoy the sights of Bumpass Hell. The color in this photo looks surreal, but between the suffer in the landscape and the nearby forest fires, this is how the landscape, and the lighting actually looked.
Note the people enjoying the scenery from the safety of boardwalk. Stay on the boardwalk!
Photo: After enjoying an afternoon in "hell," and actually returning safely to camp from our "hike to hell," it was Dan's turn to make dinner and he made a dinner that we'll remember for a long, long time.
Tonight's menu was onion rings and fish tacos. Onion rings, when you're camping at the 6900 foot level in a national park? Fish tacos? Such an amazing dinner!
This isn't your "river fish" as Dan caught the fish - cod - on a recent fishing trip to Alaska. He battered the fish and deep fried it in his wok. We didn't have "chips" for dinner, as he made amazing onion rings, which served as appetisers.
Our nearest neighbors, Brandy and Isaac, camped nearby, visited us and commented that our camp "smelled like a restaurant." Being the generous person that Dan is, he provided each of them a plate of fish tacos, as we had more than we could eat.
Photo: Dan deep fries some of the best onion rings that I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy, using coconut oil, which is something that I've never hear of.
His wok is actually a blade from a disk, which was "back in the day" pulled by a tractor to plow up dirt. The disk has found a new life as a fully-seasoned wok, and works wonders.
We enjoyed the onion rings as appetisers...
Photo: Fish tacos, after being battered, and deep fried in Dan's wok. We added shredded cabbage and guacamole to make fish tacos like the fish tacos you'd enjoy in San Felipe, or any coastal city in Baja California.
My contribution to tonight's dinner was the corn tortillas, as I toasted them over an open burner on my camp stove, exactly the way it's done in Mexico.
Combine the amazing Alaska cod, Dan's cooking skills and the beautiful outdoor dining... this was a dinner to remember!
Photo: I have a perfect right to smile, as I'm ready to enjoy a couple of the best fish tacos on the planet, thanks to my friend Dan! The atmosphere and breathtaking scenery, along with the outdoor dining at Juniper Lake only makes the delicious meal taste better.
Photo: After enjoying dinner, Michael swings the axe to make logs into chunks suitable for tonight's camp fire.
Photo: Early Wednesday evening, after enjoy an amazing meal of fish tacos, as we relax in camp, and enjoy a mellow sunset.
Photo: Unlike areas in the surrounding national forests, Lassen Volcanic National Park allowed campfires in designated campgrounds, including Juniper Lake. After dinner, and thanks to Michael's effort of splitting logs, we relaxed around the fire.
Every night on this trip we enjoyed a cheery campfire.
Photo: It's Thursday morning, August 20, 2020, and itwas Michael's turn to cook breakfast, so he's cooking a pot of "hash," which includes diced potato, peppers, onion and cheese, over my camp stove. Note the pot of coffee on the burner, as coffee is always a part of our breakfast.
Dan cooked the bacon and eggs separate on his wok, as Michael was busy with the coffee and cooking breakfast hash on my camp stove.
Photo: Today's breakfast was delicious, as it included Dan's bacon, a slice of linguica, a egg and cheese omelet, along with Michael's "breakfast hash." Delicious! The red liquid next to the omelet is Valentina hot sauce, which is my "go to" hot sauce for almost any occasion, including breakfast while camping at Juniper Lake.
Photo: Today's plan, after breakfast, was to do some target shooting. You can't legally "target shoot" in Lassen Volcanic National Park, or any other national park, but that's not an issue at Juniper Lake, as the lake is located only about four miles inside the park, and you simply drive a few miles and enter the Lassen National Forest, find a safe place to shoot, and target shoot to your heart's content.
We took an 8-mile drive to Benner Creek - which is a couple miles outside of the national park boundary - and found a perfect, natural "range," complete with a dirt bank to absorb any errant bullets. When we're shooting, afety is foremost with us!
Michael was the first to enjoy the fun of shooting my Smith and Wesson Model 69, using full-bore .44 magnum ammunition.
Shooting a .44 magnum takes some getting used to, especially in a relatively light firearm like my S&W Model 69, but after you've shot a few rounds, you'll find it's a lot of fun.
Photo: Dan takes his turn shooting my Model 69. We set up cans on the logs for targets. Note the dirt bank behind the "targets" that allow the bullets to bury into the ground. Safety is paramount when you're shooting a firearm!
Photo: I'm shooting my S&W Model 69 and "killing" a few cans in the process. Note the smoke from the gun, and the dust being kicked up, as I "nailed" a can, and the powerful bullet threw it clear back to the dirt bank.
.44 magnum is a powerful round, and at fairly close range - 100 yards or so - is capable of taking any game that walks the North American continent. Remember the movie "Dirty Harry," from the 1970's, when Clint Eastwood's character carried a S&W Model 29 in .44 magnum? Remember the line from the movie, "it's the world's most powerful handgun?" .44 magnum no longer holds that title, but it's definitely a BIG gun and for me, a lot of fun to shoot.
Photo: After an afternoon of target practice, it was time to return to camp and get dinner going. Our next door neighbors, Isaac and Brandy, who had been impressed by Dan's fish tacos from last night, asked if they could join us for dinner. Sure!
Pot luck dinner are a lot of fun when you're camping, especially when you have friendly neighbors.
Photo: Tonight was my turn to prepare dinner, so I'm grilling "country style" pork ribs, marinated in Valentina hot sauce. Our neighbors brought over large "veggie dogs," wrapped in bacon, large buns, and condiments as their contribution for dinner. Bacon wrapped "veggie dogs?" Isn't that an oxymoron?
Photo: Bacon wrapped "veggie dogs" cook alongside the marinated ribs, on my Weber grill. Like previous nights, I used a mixture of charcoal and oak wood for the heat source, and to provide a delicious, smoky flavor. If the dogs weren't "veggie," this would be almost like the way dogs are prepared in Mexico, on the streets of any Mexican city or town.
For barbecuing or grilling, oak and hickory are interchangeable. Oak is plentiful around my place, so I simply gather it and cut it into pieces with my chain saw, sawsall and axe.
Photo: Isaac helps me with the grilling duties as he turns over the "veggie dogs" and the ribs.
Photo: Grilled "country style" pork ribs, along with "veggie dogs" were the main course of tonight's dinner. We also grilled potatoes, which aren't shown in the photo.
Photo: Dinner is ready! I made a bowl of corn salsa as a side dish, which proved to compliment the ribs and dogs for tonight's dinner.
Photo: Isaac toasted the rolls over the campfire, and I applied mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, along with diced onion, jalapeno pepper and cilantro to my dog, for an amazing dining experience.
Photo: My dinner plate featuring a bacon wrapped "veggie dog," grilled "country style" pork rib, grilled potato, and corn salsa. Quite a dinner!
Photo: After enjoying an amazing dinner, we sat around the campfire chit-chatting with our neighbors. In the middle background, you can see the sun starting to set over Juniper Lake. That's Brandy's little dog in the foreground.
Juniper Lake, located in the southeastern corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park, has become a yearly "go to" destination for friends, family and myself. It offers solitude, amazing scenery, fine camping, and is just a fine place to "escape" from reality and everyday life. Shhhh.... don't tell anybody!
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