In the far Northeast corner of the State of California is the best National Monument you've never heard of: Lava Beds National Monument. While the monument has many interesting historical, cultural, and geologic features to visit, it is primarily the home of the Medicine Lake volcano, which is the largest volcano by volume in the Cascade Range. For over 500,000 (1/2 million years), the Medicine Lake volcano has been erupting; and is a large shield volcano. While there is evidence of over thirty separate lava flows from the Medicine Lake volcano that can be viewed in Lava Beds, one of the most prominent lava flaws is the Devils Homestead. This lava flow originated from the Fleener Chimneys portion of the park around 2,000 to 8,000 years ago, and is considered an aa flow, as it is basaltic in composition and now has a blocky, uneven surface. Today, while the area has some growth in between the hardened lava, to me, it looks like the surface of the moon, and is one of the more surreal places to visit within the park.
So, you want to climb Mount Shasta? Be warned, like anything else in life, it is a task fraught with perils, challenges, and heartbreak. But, like anything else in life, should you have the mental fortitude to address each of these tribulations, you will be rewarded with an enormous sense of accomplishment and the glory of a fine view. Whether Mount Shasta is the first major mountain you are attempting to summit, or the thousandth peak you have bagged, in my opinion, your best chance of reaching the summit is the tried-and-true Avalanche Gulch route. Full disclosure: the Avalanche Gulch route is the most popular route on the mountain, bar none. But let’s pause for a second here: there’s popular routes like the Mt. Whitney Trail, which have a packed lottery system and actual hordes of people on the trail; and there’s popular routes, which just mean that it’s the best and quickest route to the summit.