September 30, 2019 by Deborah W. Trotter
“You can’t go home again” is a phrase that I have always understood to mean that home is not really a place but more of a concept that evolves as time passes. So without a time machine, you can’t ever return home, or if you do, it won’t be the same as you remember it.
Imagine my surprise and delight earlier this month when I returned to a place in Lassen National Park that I have not been to in over 30 years, and experienced the exact same place I hiked to many, many times in my life.
The trail to Ridge Lakes (or Lake, as it was the day of my visit because the water level was still high) starts steeply up the ridge from the parking lot for the Sulphur Works, not far from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the southwest entrance to the park. It is 1.1 miles long, but climbs steadily from just under 7,000 feet at the start to 8,000 feet at the lake, so it is rated a very difficult trail.
The climb takes you past the geothermal area above the Sulphur Works and then into a forest where you continue up and up and up, across a meadow, and up very steep and rocky terrain until you top the final hill and see the lake. As I puffed my way slowly upwards, from start to finish I truly inhabited a time warp. It was amazing to feel the same feelings from the many times years ago that I had taken the hike. And sitting by the lake, eating my apple, I could literally feel the presence of the past – past visits, past voices, past pleasure.
I think at least in part, I had the experience I had because I was lucky to have the hike mostly to myself that lovely day. I saw as many deer as people (seven), and at the lake itself, only three other humans appeared and departed during the 45 minutes I was there.
The sky was clear, the sun was warm, the water was blue-green, calm and reflective, and the shores of the lake were populated with butterflies, lingering lupine blooms and the rich colors of late summer flora.
When I finally departed the lake, I hiked down without encountering another soul, and I made it back to my car in 20 minutes (in contrast to the hour and 20 minutes it took me to climb up to the lake)!
I can confirm that a favorite hike and destination from days gone by is still on my list of favorites. I won’t wait so long to return again.