Yosemite Falls – and then there was MAGIC!

For many Yosemite is old hat, but as one who avoids crowds, this was my first foray into the valley of gynormous granite. Being early season and on the heals of a series of recent storms, most areas in the high country were closed.

My first peek at Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls. Notice the frozen trees along the rim opposite the falls.

Ahhhhh, a frozen paradise!

Perspective from the lower falls viewpoint

The literature indicates this is a 2,700′ elevation gain hike over the 3.4 miles. This information is a bit deceiving as you’ll see in the next photo of actual hiking elevation gain.

Let’s make this 5,116′ hiking elevation gain.

Plenty of views to enjoy along the way.

About a mile up, you find the base of Upper Yosemite Falls; most people stop here.

While the view was gorgeous, the jet traffic made the skies messy and noisy.

Lots of little snow cairns along the trail. I LOVED them!

Looking up at these steep walls made me oh so dizzy.

So much work went into the making of this trail. Lots and lots of rock steps to help with erosion. The snow, water and gritty sand added to the challenge on this day. Can you say slippery?

A fair amount of snow at the top.

Yosemite Creek as it flows into Upper Yosemite Falls.

A view of Yosemite Creek as it becomes Upper Yosemite Falls and then quickly becomes a creek again before going over the next shelf into Lower Yosemite Falls.

The view from the top of Upper Yosemite Falls

Now this view I wasn’t very happy about. The slack line is set up directly over the drop of upper falls. Yes, it provided entertainment value, especially his plentiful hooting and hollering during his multiple attempts before finally succeeding. I’m really surprised this is permitted, nothing like one person ruining everyone’s photos and “wilderness” experience at the top.

On the way down, I was rewarded with magic!

Although I was there on a non-holiday weekday in March, I found the trail too crowded for my liking. Thankfully I expected this and had prepared accordingly. This is a trail where it’s unlikely you’ll find many opportunities for solitude and quiet reflection.


  • I used the free map and guide I obtained from the Visitor Center in Mariposa
  • The park newsletter was also helpful

Merced River – Wildflowers and Archaeology

I had wildflowers on my mind; Hite Cove was my destination. My car and some higher power led me instead to Briceburg, not far from Mariposa on Highway 140, the gateway to the Merced River Recreation Area.

The hike begins at this gated bridge, on nearly flat railroad grade with the river as a constant companion.

Before starting my hike, I happened to meet Vern, a naturalist for the area, who contributed to the local wildflower brochure. This serendipitous encounter resulted in me becoming the lucky recipient of the brochure, hugely helpful in wildflower identification. I encourage you to stop at the Briceburg Visitor Center for your own copy of this excellent brochure; plenty of interesting tidbits included. (If you’re not into flowers, scroll down to learn about my archaeological finds.)

Blue Dicks

Bottle Brush

Fairy Lantern


Pretty Face

Fiesta Flower

Snake Lilly

Harvest Bardiea

Low Phacelia


California Thistle

Long-Beak Stork’s Bill or Fillaree

The poppies were mostly closed on this overcast day, a slight disappointment.

The lupine were stars on this day.

Red Bud was another show stopper.



I always enjoy finding traces of how areas were used previously. In this case, you’ll find evidence of gold mining and railroad activity.

There were long stretches of disentegrating flume along the hillside

I read that this was an old pit mine

There are several campgrounds along the trail, including this one dedicated to the railroad. If you’re lucky, you may hear the ghost train while camped there.

I found this little graveyard a bit spooky, not exactly what you want near your campsite.

Very curious about this 1991 grave.

Mother nature sure provides some spectacular skies

The winding road to Mariposa reminded me of those in the Swiss Alps.




Thompson Lake – A Treasure Hunt Gone Right

Taking the road less traveled has become an overused phrase, but one appropriate for this trip which was all about lollygagging on twisty turny back roads.

Sandwiched between the National Forests of Lassen and Tahoe is Plumas National Forest, home to Bucks Lake Wilderness (geographically located between Quincy and Oroville).  I was drawn to the trails surrounding Bucks Lake and was especially interested in exploring the area where the Pacific Crest Trail passes through the wilderness.

I was quite surprised to stumble upon Thompson Lake.

Thompson Lake lies outside of the Bucks Lake Wilderness boundaries, as does much of Bucks Lake.

Thompson Lake seems to be a gem hidden in plain sight. It is a beautiful glacial lake, with distinct use trails, and is listed as a destination for fishing and leaf peeping. Information about this lake is sparse, although I did find it’s the drinking water supply for many of the surrounding cabins, thus the reason for no swimming and no boating.

Thompson Lake in the foreground; Bucks Lake in the background.

Sunrise over Bucks Lake

While exploring the trails above Thompson Lake, I stumbled upon this geocache. It is a mystery since it was found at Thompson Lake, not Bucks Lake. It is not registered on the official geocaching site, so I assume it was lost before planted and therefore never registered. Maybe someday I’ll retrieve, plant and register this misplaced cache. I’d love to share my story with the originator.


The treasure I was hunting on this particular day was beauty. I found it in the forests, the lakes, the trails. Traveling without an agenda, without expectations, without deadlines allowed me to enjoy my time at Thompson Lake and the Bucks Lake Wilderness. Maybe my return visit will be as a leaf peeper.


Brokeoff Mountain Snowshoe – Lassen

Want to stand at nearly 10,000 feet?

Want a 360 degree view?

Ready for a challenge?

The trailhead is just before the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

From the trailhead at 6,650′, Brokeoff doesn’t look too impressive.

The rocky peak takes shape as you ascend the trail.

The shape continues to change as you approach the summit.

The last section is STEEP! At least on snowshoes it’s easier to go straight up rather than traverse this slope. Having quality snowshoes with excellent crampons and ascension elevators help.

In the summer, you’ll want to visit the rocky sections where most likely you’ll have chipmunks begging to share your snacks. In the winter, BEWARE of the cornices.

From the top, looking northeast at the caldera of Mt Tehama and at Lassen Peak.

Looking down into Sulfur Works.

Looking south to Mount Conard (I believe). This ridge is always impressive in the winter.

I believe this is Snag Lake far in the distance.

It’s always worth stopping at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center before and after this hike. In the winter, they have HEATED restrooms.

Jan’s Tips:

  • For map and trail information, reference my Trail Links page.
  • Additional blog postings about related hikes I’ve taken can be found in my Lassen Volcanic National Park category.
  • Be sure to check the weather and road conditions before heading up in the winter.
  • Prepare for winter safety.
  • A park pass is required. One can be accessed at the Visitor’s Center, or your Annual Whiskeytown Park Pass can be used.

Our route had about a 2,700′ elevation gain.

I’m all smiles at the top after conquering the summit!


PCT – Ash Camp to Butcherknife Creek (near McCloud)

Not far from Lake McCloud (aka McCloud Reservoir) is the Centipede Gulch Trailhead offering easy access to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

From this trailhead, you can hike west toward the McCloud River, quickly passing Ash Camp which fronts impressive Hawkins Creek.

Hawkins Creek at Ash Camp

Foot bridge over the McCloud River

On the footbridge looking west down the McCloud River

Heading east on the PCT (from the Centipede Gulch Trailhead)

Gorgeous mature forest in this gulch

Plenty of shade, moss and soft surface trail gradually ascending toward Grizzly Peak at 6,252′

Fantasy rock formations with moss and ferns adorning them

One of the many small creeks we crossed; I’d be surprised if this one would be running in the summer.

One of the more active streams crossing the trail

Butcherknife Creek stopped us on this March day (which followed a few weeks of significant rain).

Jan’s Tips:

  • For day and multi-day access points along the PCT, I recommend the book, “Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail – California” by George and Patricia Semb.
  • Information about the PCT can be found on my PCT Love page.
  • Additional blog postings about related hikes I’ve taken can be found in my PCT Hikes category and the Hikes near Mt Shasta category.

Roaring Creek Falls – Shasta County Hidden Gems

For those who enjoy visiting places off the beaten path, ones that require research, detective work, good navigation skills, and a fair amount of off-trail bushwhacking and scrambling in some pretty steep gnarly terrain, then I dare say you’ll be delighted with the sights and sounds of the Roaring Creek and Little Roaring Creek Waterfalls.

Roaring Creek Waterfall

Little Roaring Creek Waterfall

Rainbows make everything better!

Jan’s Tips:

Lake Eiler – Thousand Lakes Wilderness

One of the lesser known areas near Lassen Volcanic Park is the tiny 16,000 acre Thousand Lakes Wilderness, assumedly named due to the many very small ponds and lakes, albeit no where near a thousand. As one can imagine, these ponds are mosquito magnets making visits to this area much more attractive during the fall and winter months.

Lake Eiler is the largest lake, with a back drop of Freaner Peak (not to be confused with Fredonyer Peak). I find the geology of this split mountain interesting.

Barrett Lake with a backdrop of (I believe) Magee Peak to the right and Fredonyer Peak to the left.

One benefit of winter hiking is finding out what critters share the trail.

Finding the beauty in the unusual on a winter day is another benefit.

Hard not to stop by Lassen on the way home, especially when lighting is good and it finally has a little white.

At this time of year, I’m normally snowshoeing Chaos Crags.

Jan’s Tips: