“He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.” Psalm 107:35
It was obvious that I was near my destination because of the aroma. The fresh, clean scent of pine, which had previously filled the air, was now replaced with the smell of rotten eggs. From the top of the hill I looked out across the landscape into the basin below. I beheld the remnants of former volcanic activity and the peculiar beauty of Bumpass Hell, one of the major attractions at Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.
Below, the source of the foul smell revealed itself in the chalky white and sulphur-splattered yellow walls of the geo-thermal basin. The boardwalk snaked its way through sparkling blue hot springs and bubbling gray mud pots, scattered among fumaroles hissing and thumping like steam engines and spewing the offensive odor of sulphur into the air.
Anxious to get to the bottom of the hill and walk among the thermal wonders, I hurried down the winding, rocky path. Sounds of gurgling mud, mingled with bubbling water and hissing steam, filled the air. Hot blasts of vaporized water floated through Bumpass Hell, moving with the breeze, sometimes burning my face and blocking my view and then blowing away to reveal the glorious sight of colorful hot springs and mud pots. Milky white creeks meandered around sky blue and turquoise pools. One particular hot spring was full of “Fool’s Gold”, giving it a thick metallic gray color.
Indeed, the beauty of the hot springs wiped away all thoughts of the obnoxious odor.
Why Bumpass Hell? In 1864, explorer Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, lost his leg when he burned it severely after falling through the thin top crust of a boiling mud pot. He agreed with the author, Virgil, that the “decent to Hell was easy”.
Today, there is a boardwalk protecting visitors and the fragile basin from each other.
To me, Bumpass Hell was not a place of torment. Rather, it was a reflection of God’s creation, sparking the senses by blending mystery, beauty, delicacy and even danger all in one.
“When there were no depths, I (wisdom) was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I (wisdom) brought forth:”