Day 15. 1/26/2016. Starting Odometer: 145222. Final Odometer: 145547. Mileage: 325. Total Mileage 3303.


I woke up early, and drove north, toward what would be my second-to-last National Park on this road trip. Lassen was barely open — having been buried in snow during the winter, and only one small parking lot and visitor center available to anyone this time of year. Crater Lake would possibly be more treacherous to get to, and with my time window closing rapidly, I decided it would be Lassen, then Redwood National Park (since it was almost on the way), and then home.

I had collected a passport stamp, a sticker, and a patch at every National Park I had been to. Just two more to go, and then no matter what anyone else could say about it, I would have accomplished quite a feat. My biggest worry was just in getting to Lassen before the day ended. It was quite some way, and I ran into construction delays on the route. Thus the early start, the hope in my heart, and the feeling of lightness and peace I had found when the floodgates of grief had opened the night before.

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More so than any other place, the signs of heavy snow were abundant. Not dangerous, not yet, anyway. At one of the construction stops, I talked to a CalTrans worker, who said that a big storm had come through the area just days past, and another big one was due in the next day or two. I thanked my lucky stars, or whatever grace or fortune that had shielded me from bad weather for the entire trip.

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Four miles out from the entrance of the park, the snow drifts on the side of the road were taller than the cab of my RV. The roads were still mostly dry, though, except for patches where snow had fallen from the boughs of nearby trees and deposited onto the surface of the highway in big icy piles. Then, the entrance of the park, and the tiny, snow-plowed path to the only open part: the visitor center parking lot.

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As I suppose I should have expected, a lot like Great Basin National Park had been when I was there, the place was nearly deserted. I found one family that was making the best of it, bundling up their kids for winter snow play, and getting ready for a day of winter fun. Another man had decided he was going to camp right here in the parking lot.

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I found a path to the totally-buried-in-snow visitor center had been dug, and put on my jacket, gloves, hiking boots, and stepped into the frigid, wintry air. All I needed was a stamp, patch, and sticker, and I could get to where the air and earth looked and felt a little more like cool California, instead of cold California. The path seemed daunting, but my spirits were high. Maybe as high as the wall of snow on either side of me.

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And there, in the devastatingly cold, snowy, stark landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park, even this last effort to salvage a victory out of a broken road trip was thwarted.

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And there it was.

It was time to go. Mission failed. Like my life. Like the marriage I was hoping to save. Like the life I was determined to rebuild. The first stop on my new path, and boom, failure, through no fault of my own, beyond not properly preparing enough for the trip to even call ahead and ask if they were going to be open. I grumbled to myself about how I was going to write to the National Park Service and beg for a stamp showing I’d been there on this day. But in the end, it didn’t even matter. I’d been here, and that was what counted. This was my life, my chance to remake myself, to get home, and start being the husband I needed to be, the father my kids needed me to be.

I could take a little something like a visitor center being closed. Hell, I’d taken worse things than that in my life. I’d gone through worse things than that in the previous two weeks.

I made a snow man. I called him Frustration.

I left him in the snowy wastes of Lassen National Park, and went on my way.

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