Many months earlier Willie had asked me if I wanted to check out Lassen National Park. It was one of the California parks that I had never been to and we had seen photos of the Painted Dunes from some amazing photographers like Brian Rueb, so I immediately said "YES"! It didn't seem worth getting a hotel for just a few hours so we made the (crazy) decision to drive 12 hours round-trip, all in one day.
The hike up the Cinder Cone is *grueling*. It's basically straight up an 800 foot ancient volcano and since the ground is volcanic sand called "loose scoria", it's basically 1 step back for every 2 steps forward. I'd count 100 steps then call for a break, and then we'd repeat until we were at the top. Once there, the views of the "Painted Dunes" were spectacular! Created from layers of oxidized ash falling on top of still hot lava flows, the colors in this area are just stunning.
Just as the sun was dipping below the mountains, the scene became even more gorgeous. The tips of the trees turned golden yellow and the colors of the dunes started to glow pink and purple and orange. We ran around like crazy people trying to photograph all the different spots of the dunes with the different trees and shapes and patterns. After the hike down we made it back to home without falling asleep on the 6 hour car ride!
Nikon D850 w/Sigma 150-600mm:
210mm, f/11, 1/20 sec, ISO 640
Viewed best nice and large