Northern CA,Perfect Travel Today)10/26/13/–Drakesbad Guest Lodges are the official lodging in the Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California about 17 miles from the town of Chester. These cabins and bungalows have no electricity and mobile phones do not work up there, so if you really want to get away for a while then this might be a good option for you.
The season runs from May-October and they are already taking bookings for the 2014 season. We went in late September, and the most important thing you can bring is a decent flashlight to make your way back to the cabin after the evening meal.
Getting there is half the fun, with the final three miles of dirt road a bit of a challenge unless you have an all terrain rental car and don’t give a damn about the shocks and/or suspension of the vehicle. We drove from Los Angeles, and despite setting off at 9 am in the morning and taking a couple of brief stops we still got there at night. The sign posts the final few miles are getting a bit antiquated, but we did manage to find the place eventually. A better alternative might be to fly the corporate jet into Chester Airport, or even fly to Sacramento International Airport and rent a car from there.
Drakesbad was founded by a German and was originally known as “Drakes Place” and well known for the hot mineral springs which can cure a majority of ailments. Alexander Sifford was one of those locals curious about the benefits and after taking an arduous 54 mile trek in horse and buggy in 1900 he finally arrived and fell in love with the place. He bought the property and the family spent virtually all their summers for the next sixty years there. Today the mineral springs is still there and is a very popular swimming pool for guests, and although the changing facilities are ancient and old fashioned, guests next year will see a brand new building they can use.
There is also a communal guest lodge/library where they have wine tastings every evening, so at least guests will have something to occupy their minds before and after dinner.
A major part of the all inclusive deal at Drakesbad is the on site restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, albeit within a strict time limit. Chef David Solum has been there for four seasons, so he knows his customer base which tends to be an older white crowd, but there has been a push this year to attract more kids. Apart from the problems of cabin fever since he lives upstairs and the constant pressure of keeping kitchen staff, he does a fine job preparing quality meals.
A typical evening meal for example would start with a rather elaborate salad, and be followed by griddled salmon with a fresh prawn risotto, or an Oven Roasted Angus Prime Rib with a Montreal Steak seasoning with roasted fingerling potatoes and broccoli. Maybe you will get a Strozzapreti Pasta with wild mushrooms, red onion, fennel and broccoli (yes he is a big fan of the vegetable), or you even get to try his famous lasagna.
Every night there is a wine pairing of choice such as a Chateau St.Michele Pinot Gris from Washington State or Hogue Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Columbia Valley.
Lassen Volcanic Park is one of the lesser known and smaller National Parks, and is the site of four different volcanoes. However there has not been a major eruption since 1915, and following that one much of the forest surrounding was completely destroyed by the molten lava. Much of it has now grown back, but there are still spots where bubbling mudpots, lava beds, cinder cones and boiling springs and it can be dangerous if you walk outside the designated areas.
Most popular spot to stop is Bumpass Point, where you take a hike of about three hours round trip to see the boiling lakes, mudpots and steam vents, or a trip to “Dante’s Inferno.” There are 150 miles of hiking trails in the 106,000 acre park, and there are three horse corrals for those who want to traverse by horseback. Free wilderness permits are available to those looking to seek out the backcountry where crystal clear lakes,alpine meadows and dense forests are the norm.
Fly fishing is a popular activity in the park, and since the lakes and streams are self- sustainable, catch and release is the method here. Bring a three or four weight rod about eight feet long, and a floating line is used most of the time, unless you want to fish the lakes then a sinking line is best. Always use barbless hooks. Best fly fishing is in Caribou Lake, and a web site to use for maps and direction is www.Sherpaguides.com. For those of you more into trout then Kings Creek is the best option, where the local variety such as rainbows, browns and brook trout are extremely lively and eager for action.
If you are unable to get reservations at Drakesbad, then there are plenty of options in Chester alone.
DRAKESBAD GUEST LODGES FOR THE RURAL LIFESTYLE
SITUATED IN THE LASSEN VOLCANIC PARK
Lassen Volcanic National Park, PO Box 100, Mineral, CA 96063
Drakesbad Guest Ranch
60 years of Siffords at Drakesbad by Roy D.Sifford ISBN D-938373-14-5
287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211