In August 1997 I spent four days at Willow Lake, about 10 miles northwest of Chester near Lake Almanor, Calif.

Map of Lake Alamnor vicinity

Willow Lake is in Lassen National Forest, just outside the boundary of Lassen Volcanic National Park. It's reachable by foot or by road (5 miles of it very rough dirt road) from Chester. It's a remote and quiet place. I was usually alone. There are several places to camp; there's a toilet and a garbage can but no water. The lake notable for the floating bog around its shores... what looks like a grassy meadow is really a floating mat of sphagnum moss, grasses and several unusual plants. Two miles up the hill is Terminal Geyser, a steam vent really, which sends forth a stream of boiling water. Downstream a bit are small cascading pools which are make perfect little natural hot tubs. I went twice, once at night, under the stars... bliss! The stars were amazing up here, nearly outnumbering the mosquitoes! I will definitely go back.

Willow Lake from the southern end Willow Lake from the southern end where I camped. After getting past the shallow swampy area near the campsite, the lake proper is about a half mile long. Perfect temperature for swimming, and a nifty little pond to paddle around!
The edge of the lake looks like meadow but it's really a floating mat of moss and grasses. The plant species here are unusual enough that the Forest Service has designated Willow Lake a "special botanical area."
A close-up of the bog surface... dozens of plant types, including this pink insectivorous one with its sap-covered fringe.
Two miles up from the lake (on the hill seen in the first picture) is Terminal Geyer (which, I'm told, is technically a fumarole as only steam, no water, emits from its depths). Fumawhatever, it's HOT! Quite a roar of steam escaping here, lots of sulfur on the surrounding rocks, and a boiling stream cascading down the hill:
And here are the wonderful little pools cascading down the hill below. Each a little cooler than the one above it, you can pick the perfect temperature for a nice soak. This one was like a little Japanese tub: small but deep, hot, and, well, muddy on the bottom. But ah, did it feel good! A little dip in Willow Lake afterwards removed the little bits of leftover mud and organic what-have-you.



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