By Sierra Maciorowski

How many people can say that they have been to hell and back? At Sonoma Academy, at least 13. On the weekend of September 24th, a group of 13 of us, including two faculty trip leaders, took a trip to Mt. Lassen National Park, leaving after exploratory on Friday and returning Sunday evening. After what was approximately a five-hour long drive north, we finally stopped at the trailhead for Mt. Lassen and had a quick snowball fight. “It was a great release of pent-up energy,” Oona McKnight, one of two trip leaders, explained, “and good, clean fun.”

After throwing a few snowballs, we got back in the vans and kept driving until we reached our destination at Lost Creek Group Campground. After setting up camp, we went into the forest of dead trees and several people became involved in a new sport: the pushing over of trees. When the sun began to set, we crashed our way back to camp and started dinner. After eating, we sat around the campfire, telling stories about our various injuries.

On Saturday morning, we drove to the trailhead for Cinder Cone, a volcano north of Mt. Lassen. Cinder Cone was an extremely difficult climb. It was, as trip leader Sam Horton explained, “one step forward, a half step back. The angle of repose is 37 degrees. That’s steep.” However, it was still amazingly worth it. After reaching the top, we climbed down into the volcano, and lay on the very bottom of the cone. Karishma Bottari, one of four freshmen on the trip, explained, “It was worth it, just to be able to look into the center of it and see something that you don’t often get to see.” From the center of the volcano, we could see all 360 degrees of the rim.

After our four-mile hike at Cinder Cone, we went to Subway Cave, a huge underground cavern. We first walked through together, going through Lucifer’s Cul-de-sac (or Pat’s Bachelor Pad), and then took solo walks back the way we came, scaring several seventh graders coming from the other direction as we went. Senior Liana Mitteldorf’s favorite moment in the cave was at the end of our solo walks. “People started taking pictures of Pat when he was throat-singing.” It was hilarious.

We got in the vans again and drove to Mt. Lassen. From the parking lot, we hiked about 1.5 miles before reaching the end of the blocked-off trail and turning around. Back at camp, we sat at the fire again later that night. “I loved being around the campfire,” Sam explained, “and hearing the wind in the trees.” It was a gorgeous night.

The next day, we loaded up the vans and started on our way back, stopping for a trip to Hell: Bumpass Hell, that is. “It was really beautiful in this otherworldly sort of way; steam rising up from the earth, bubbly things everywhere,” Karishma pointed out. “It’s just a very surreal landscape.” It may have been otherworldly, and as Liana recalled, “It smelled really bad,” but it was also comforting, in a way. Lia Golden-Byrd, one of two juniors on the trip, explained, “Until I visit a place that’s called Heaven, I think I want to live in Hell.”

Looking back, we had a perfect trip. “I thought the weather gave us everything we could hope for,” Sam reflected. “It was a beautiful weekend.” As well as having ideal weather until, quite literally, the moment we entered the vans after our last hike, we also had an ideal amount of people. “There was just no time to be awkward,” Liana concluded, “we all had to be close.” The overall feeling at the end of the trip was one of accomplishment, disappointment, and happiness.

As Lia explained, “It felt like we should have been there longer, but at the same time, it was long enough, and I think I was ready to go home.”