A near disaster for Betsy, a waterfall and lava tube – Hat Creek, CA
We were excited to move on to our next stop at Hat Creek, CA as a home base to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park. This was our second attempt, since heavy snow had turned us away the first time in 2016. As we were humming south on I-5, we forgot that we were crossing into California and had to go through an agricultural checkpoint. But our lemons and other fruits passed muster and we were waved through – for sure it was nothing like the stress of crossing a U.S. border!
Along the way we admired the volcanic beauty of Mt. Shasta, and got a brief look at Mt. Lassen:
About 50 miles short of Rancheria RV Park on highway 89, alarms started sounding on the dashboard and the “Stop Engine” light illuminated. Steve diligently monitors engine conditions while driving, but this alert showed the engine had overheated rapidly, indicating something had gone seriously wrong.
After quickly shutting down the engine we walked back to discover that the lower radiator hose had come off, emptying all of the engine coolant in seconds. Fortunately, the clamp was still on the hose. Although the strength of the clamp was in question (part of our annual maintenance includes checking all hose clamps) Steve was able to re-attach it. We had no choice but to fill the system with 10 gallons of tap water without coolant – me fetching the water and him pouring it in – thankfully we had just enough in our fresh-water tank!
We were very happy that we had enough water and the needed tools onboard to get us back on the road 🙂
Onward we went to our campground after a one-hour delay. I followed in the car so I could give Steve a heads-up if I saw any signs of water leaking or pouring out.
At the campground, Steve spent the afternoon and the next morning purchasing a new clamp and the coolant we needed so he could drain and refill the system again.
We considered this a near-disaster because we were concerned that the turbocharger or engine could have been damaged by the overheating, but everything seemed to survive OK. Being over 40 miles from the nearest town on a Sunday and in an area with no cell signal didn’t help, but that’s a given, right? And thinking about Betsy having to be towed was really scary, as we know that large motorhomes can incur a lot of damage from tow operators who don’t know what they’re doing.
Steve checked the coolant PH with a test strip and found that we were good to go. Whew! Now with that episode behind us, we focused on exploring the area and have some fun!
We didn’t know about this place until we read the RV park’s brochure. The centerpiece of McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, it’s one of the most spectacular waterfalls in California. It can be viewed from near the parking lot, but we also followed the Falls Loop Trail to the foot of the falls, then over a stream and behind the falls before descending to the valley floor:
Snow melt from Burney Mountain 15 miles upstream feeds the falls. The main falls are two large streams cascading from the top with sheets of water streaming over the cliff face,. They are fed from underground springs and create a curtain of water. It was still gushing this time of the year, and we imagined what it would be like in springtime with the snow just starting to melt.
The trail led us along Burney Creek, through Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, and a variety of oak and basalt talus slopes:
About three miles from the campground was another unexpected pleasure to explore. It’s an easy third of a mile walk through the underground world of a lava tube where we viewed the effects of volcanism. If you don’t like caves or darkness this isn’t for you. But we enjoyed it, and it was FREE!
In terms of geology, this tube was created less than 20,000 years ago during volcanic eruptions near present-day Hat Creek. The lava on top, exposed to the air, cooled and formed a hard cap, while molten lava continued to flow beneath. Eventually, the molten lava drained away leaving a hollow cave, and this is what we explored in the dark:
The above natural attractions were unexpected bonuses to our main reason to stop here, which was to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park. And that’s what’s up next…
Next up: Lassen Volcanic National Park