Trinity Alps – Alpine, Smith and Morris Lakes (07/15)

This sign along the Stuart Fork Trail has taunted me for several years.

The scramble trail shown on the map reminded me I’d prefer a partner and needed to be in great shape. After all the ascending and descending I’d done in the Sierra recently, I was as ready as I’d ever be to tackle this beast.

One of the latter sections of trail climbs 2,500′ in 2.5 miles. It took us nearly 4 hours to hike the last 3.8 miles, the same as one author mentioned in his book. Obviously more fit and agile hikers could cover this terrain in less time, likewise others may need more time. 

One author describes the trail as brutally hot through manzanita and ceanothus on rocky, brush covered tread.  I agree!

Another calls it an arduous hike with steep and rocky pitches. Again, I agree!

En route you will be distracted by views of Red Mountain and trees such as this nearly perfect conifer specimen (Brewer Spruce).

It’s exciting to finally see the canyon hiding Alpine Lake. Just around the corner, right?

Each switchback adds a decibel or two of waterfall music. In normal snow years, this waterfall would be raging.

As the trail plateaus below the lake, the meadow invites different thoughts.

The first glimpse of the lake elicits an automatic swim response, not that my brain hadn’t already been dreaming of washing away the sweat and grime of overgrown vegetation from my weary limbs.

Evening had me mesmerized by the spires surrounding Alpine Lake.

Morning light is my favorite. Alpenglow at Alpine Lake.

5:45am reflections at Alpine Lake

7am reflections at Alpine Lake

With Smith Lake only a mere 2+ miles from Alpine Lake, it’s pretty hard to ignore the pull, especially with descriptions such as “the lake and its awesome cirque have natural wonders like a queen has jewels.” The temptation however is tempered with warnings such as “strenuous route” through “dense demonic brush” using the “least offensive route . . . you should come out somewhat unscathed . . . bring plenty of bandaids” while allowing “at least a half day for the 2-mile off-trail climb.”

Yep, that’s the “demonic patch of brush” harboring the “least offensive route.”

Once through the manzanita, the way was open to views and climbing up steep granite slabs and over less desirable boulder fields.

Moving slowly and resting often gave us plenty of time to appreciate the surrounding beauty.

Being able to identify the ridges, canyons and peaks from previous trips made our slow progress more enjoyable.

Are we there yet? Nope, but that peak represents one side of the notch we’ll be passing through.

Woot Woot, we found the notch! Navigation success! However, we’re not there yet and we’ve been hiking over 3 hours at this point.

Happily it only took us about 15 more minutes to make it over those boulders and around the corner. We’re even happier to see an easy chute.

The view from the top of the notch looking back in the direction we’d ascended.

Look who’s joined the party, Mt Shasta!

On the other side, surprise! More granite slabs and boulders before we can reach that peak in the distance which holds the lakes. I feel the clock ticking . . . we were day hiking . . . we still had another mile to reach Smith Lake.

Another Oh Shit moment!

And there she is, the beautiful glacial cirque with Smith Lake most obvious and above it on a shelf to the left Morris Lake.

A grand view of the entire cirque.

The drainage to the right is an optional route ending at Morris Meadows. From our angle it looked more inviting than our route, but resources say it’s much less friendly.

I can’t reiterate enough how time-consuming and challenging it is to hike across these debris fields.

The glacial sculpting of the area was art. The lines, shapes, colors blew me away.

Sadly, with our time short, we had to make the tough call to turn around at our view point. This is coming back up to the notch from the Morris/Smith Lakes side. It took us about 3 hours to descend what had taken us 5 hours to ascend. Both ways were steep and tough on the legs. We wished we’d started earlier as it was extremely difficult to turn around so near the lakes and miss out on a swim and seeing the lakes from shoreline. We also found a better cairn course to follow on the way down which would have saved us time on the way up.

Jan’s Tips:

  • I neglected to take any photos of the Stuart Fork Trinity River crossing. The river status will determine whether you want to proceed as you need to ford the river to access the continuation of the trail to Alpine Lake.
  • Many sources will indicate there is water available about .75 mile from the river crossing. It’s a steep descent to the water and in my opinion not worth the effort. Take sufficient for the 4-mile climb (possibly over 4 hours).
  • The Stuart Fork route from Oak Flat is the most recommended route to Alpine Lake, with the other option being from Canyon Creek up the Bear Creek Trail. There is also an option to Smith & Morris from Morris Meadows along the Stuart Fork or further up Canyon Creek.
  • Having a GPS track will help immensely with (1) figuring out where to cross Stuart Fork Trinity River and reconnect with the trail on the western shore, (2) following the trail across the Alpine Lake outlet, (3) finding the trail in the meadow as it meanders across a creek, and (4) selecting the most efficient route to Smith & Morris Lakes.
  • Unless you are a glutton for punishment, or there has been increased traffic, I don’t recommend following the rumor of a premiere campsite at the inlet end of Alpine Lake. There is a faint trail that appears and disappears, but we spent more time climbing through bushes and over granite boulders than following a friendly trail. We finally gave up after about 30 minutes.
  • It was a tough call deciding whether to day hike or backpack up to Smith and Morris Lakes. Getting through the overgrown shrub path would have been more challenging with a pack. Carrying the extra weight up and down the steep slopes would have strained my already tired thighs.
  • Reference my Trinity Alps Trails Link Page for maps, books, online resources, etc.
  • For travel in the Trinity Alps, I highly recommend having a GPS device. Except for the very popular, over-used trails, most other trails listed on the maps and in guidebooks are overgrown, filled with deadfall or scree, or are nearly non-existent. Some trails have been rerouted, with no updated reference on GPS.
  • Additional blog postings about related hikes I’ve taken can be found in my Hikes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness category.

Lassen – Bumpass Hell, Cold Boiling and Crumbaugh Lakes (07/15)

If one didn’t know better, the names of attractions at Lassen Volcanic National Park could be a deterrent, names such as Bumpass Hell, Devil’s Kitchen, and Boiling Lakes.

From the Bumpass Hell trailhead, it’s about 1.3 miles to this large hydrothermal area. You’ll know you are getting near when the strong rotten egg (sulfur) odor invades your nostrils. This area was named after Mr. Bumpass who lost his leg in 1865 when he broke through the surface of a scalding hot mud bank in an active geothermal area.

Bumpass Hell

Continuing down the trail, Cold Boiling Lake will be reached in 1.9 miles.

Hard to call this a lake (Cold Boiling Lake)

A pond adjacent to Cold Boiling Lake

The first body of water seen while hiking down to Cold Boiling Lake is Crumbaugh Lake.

Crumbaugh Lake

It’s about a half mile from Cold Boiling Lake to Crumbaugh Lake. Another option is to access this area from King Creek Picnic Area where it’s less than a mile to Cold Boiling Lake.

The wildflowers were blooming along the trail between Bumpass Hell and Cold Boiling Lake.

This huge active bee’s nest was using a corn lily as it’s host. 


Jan’s Tips:

PCT – CA Section H . . . as in Happily Humbled

Dates Hiked: June 29 – July 10, 2015
Direction: Southbound
Section H: Crabtree Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows
-Miles: 175.5 (plus mileage for resupply & exit trails)
-Elevation: Low Point 7,480′, High Point 12,963′, Gain 30,646′, Loss 28,455′ (plus adjustments for taking the JMT alternate and any resupply/exit trails)

As a southbounder, I’m going from right to left on the chart.

The high sierra went on my bucket list as soon as I saw the amazing photos in PCT hiker journals several years ago.

Due to logistics, I decided to hike this section south. I parked in Lone Pine (the Dow Villa Motel has long-term parking for guests), then took the Eastern Sierra Transit bus to Lee Vining where I picked up the YARTS bus to Tuolumne.

My friends told me the scenery would overshadow my concerns about a successful hike, but many times along the way I found myself asking WHY. WHY? WHY!

  • Why did I CHOOSE to challenge myself with the most physically difficult section of the PCT? Remember, I’m not a climber, I have exercise/altitude induced asthma, and I’m not 20 or 30 or 40 or . . .!
  • Why did I CHOOSE to start this hike with thunderstorms forecast for the next few days?
  • Why did I CHOOSE to carry so much food (rather than more frequent resupplies)?
  • Why did I CHOOSE such an adventure over joining my friends in Tahoe relaxing at the cabin and beach?

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words . . . so you can judge for yourself.

Tuolumne Meadows

Lyell Canyon

The pink mountain heather was prolific.

White mountain heather became one of my favorites of the trail.

It doesn’t take many miles to clear Yosemite National Park and Wilderness. As of this date, the Ursack (rather than a bear canister) can be used in the surrounding wilderness areas.

At Donahue Pass, it’s worth dropping your pack and scurrying the short distance up Donahue Peak for a 360.

Water was plentiful, lakes and rivers invited a swim, waterfalls and cascades provided music . . . mosquitoes were not too bothersome but my clothes had been treated with Premethrin which made a difference given others were complaining mightily of bites.

First glimpse of Banner Peak, IMPRESSIVE!

Clouds provided plenty of reflective drama, as well as a welcome cooling for the climbs.

Thousand Island Lake (notice the thunderstorm clouds; lightning made first appearance around 2:30pm)

Allergies? There was plenty of pollen around (photo of Garnet Lake).

Early morning at Garnet Lake

How can you not love these furry creatures?

These flowers look very similar to the pink mountain heather, but the vegetation looks much different.

Leaving Yosemite, the forest shows it’s real face. In one section, I actually lost trail and had to use my Trimble app to navigate my way back to the trail.

Cheery flowers make up for the dreary forest.

There is a convenient alternate trail to reach Red’s Meadow (food, laundry, camping) and Devils Postpile.

Devils Postpile

Best part of the side trip was GARBAGE!

I believe these are snow plant flowers

There was a large swath of old burn areas, but the bright green ferns added texture to the headless trees.

I was surprised by the lack of scat and tracks on the PCT/JMT. This was the only bear scat I saw, and it was a recent deposit. I suspected during the night trail pooper scoopers cleared the trail, much like on a parade route. It also seemed there might be an invisible electric fence protecting the trail corridor from wild animals.

Purple Lake

Sierra Columbine (Aquilegia pubescens)

Virginia Lake

Silver Pass looking north at Chief, Warrior, Squaw and Papoose Lakes. Love how my shadow photo bombed this pix.

Water, water, water!

Marie Lake

Selden Pass looking down at Marie Lake

Celebrating Independence Day on Selden Pass (another hiker shared his flag for this pix).

Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) was my resupply location. I was hoping beyond hope that maybe they’d have a room available. It was Day 6 on the trail and a shower plus real food sounded great. But alas, it was not to be. I arrived at 2:30 and was booted at 5. Thankfully MTR offers a large camp area and hot springs nearby where me and around 100 others spent the night celebrating July 4th. I could have used a day off, but this environment was not quite what I had in mind. I left with 9 days of food in my Garcia bear canister and a pack weighing 26-27 pounds. This would get me to Crabtree Meadows, plus a day of food to summit Whitney, and two days to exit via Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadows followed by a hitch to Lone Pine. There was a slight chance I’d get a Whitney Portal permit once I reached Crabtree Meadows.

This also marked an exit from John Muir Wilderness into Kings Canyon National Park.

The granite became softer and more sculpted. The trees changed to more sequoia’s (?) and water was the predominant feature.

Aspen trees were quite a surprise.

I spent much of the day taking breaks along the San Joaquin River and Evolution Creek.

Evolution, McClure and Colby Meadows along Evolution Creek provided opportunities for watching wildlife.

It was a great night to watch as storm clouds transitioned into a colorful sunset.

Evolution Lake

Who put this rock here? It just doesn’t belong . . .

I love when others add a little humor to our stone friends.

Wanda Lake was HUGE, but oh so windy. Met a gal camped there who said it’d been windy all night.

See the pyramid? That’s the top of Muir Hut. It sure motivated me to motor the rest of the way up this hill.

Almost there

When I arrived, I was excited to find not a soul around. I could have sat around an pondered for a while, but within 10-15 minutes a few other hikers arrived to interrupt my solitude.

Notice how the architecture of the hut mirrors the mountain in the background.

The ceiling of the hut is a marvel.

This little guy had a yellow underside.

This was my second fawn sighting. The first I startled and it tumbled down a hill onto the trail. It was quite young and it took a while to untangle those gangly legs and get them walking again. Mom was not far behind and safely got the fawn off trail.

The “Golden Staircase” leads to Palisade Lakes. This climb was a burner. Met a CCC crew rehabbing the trail, which gave me a good excuse at each turn to stop, thank them, and BREATHE!

The view from the top of the Golden Staircase down into the valley from which I’d just come.

Looking up toward Palisade Lakes and Mather Pass

This helicopter flew up the canyon and then dropped into a canyon opposite Palisade Lakes. I worried about a rescue but later found they were dropping a resupply for the CCC crew working on the Golden Staircase.

Lower Palisade Lake (notice thunderstorm building and I still have Mather Pass to cross today (11:15am)

A lot of amazing trail building in this granite-dominated landscape. LOTS and LOTS of stairs or steps, sometimes tiny like here, sometimes giant 2-3′ steps, really tough on short-legged gals.

Upper Palisade Lake

Today’s rock art, am I a whale or a shark? Am I friend or foe?

From Mather Pass, looking north toward Palisade Lakes

From Mather Pass, looking at the much more rugged peaks to the south.

Good morning Marmut! So cute, but so cunning, definitely opportunists.

Loved these sculpted peaks

Lake Marjorie

Transitioning to this red rock on my way up Pinchot Pass was a highlight of this trip.

Red rock plus green grass equals MAGIC!

Only saw these flowers in two places. High up on Pinchot and Glen passes. Definitely a bright spot hidden among the granite.

It had been a rough evening, with flash floods causing us to move our tents, which now mucky with damp contents, needed to be packed up. It’s hard to get motivated to keep going when clouds are low and visibility is limited. It does provide a different kind of beauty.

I was feeling optimistic by 8:45am when the skies seemed to brighten.

Within an hour, it had snowed, hailed, and showed us her mighty power with bright one-second-distant lightning and long growling thunder. Oh Mother Nature, stop throwing these tantrums!

When the lightning stopped, it was time to get back to hiking, especially since I was in an exposed area and wanted to make it to some tree cover before Mother Nature threw another tantrum.

Dollar Lake was a welcome sight, but with skies clearing it was time to hike on.

I sheltered a couple more times while Mother Nature continued her tantrums. I even had to set up my tent when one storm lasted several hours and I was too chilled to wait it out. I believe this is the infamous “Fin Dome” on Upper Rae Lake. Time is 2:15 and with the storm clearing it’s time to high tail it up Glen Pass.

Looking up at Glen Pass and the fresh snow, it was time to take advantage of this window of opportunity before another storm rolled in. Sadly 15 minutes from the top, the clouds dropped and I had zero visibility for photos. It was a race down the south side before another tantrum was unleashed.

I decided to exit the trail via Kersarge Pass into Onion Valley. I awoke to this beautiful view of the Kersarge Pinnacles and Lakes.

I was anxious to get to the trailhead in hopes of a ride. This photo was taken at 6:45am when the trail was still filled with a light pack of snow.

I didn’t have any information about the Kearsarge Pass Trail except distance. I had no idea about length or elevation of climb. The previous night I’d hiked until I found water. By then it was sleeting again and time to find a campsite.

I was at the pass at 6:45am, made it Onion Valley trailhead where I found a ride to Lone Pine and was checked into the Dow Motel by 9:30am.

Priority #2 FOOD at Alabama Hills Cafe! Priority #1 was a shower, 12 days of grime . . . ahhhh clean hair was the best!

Then time for a little laundry. I’ve learned to pack Oxyclean to soak my clothes both at resupply stops and at the end of a trip. This stench could not ride in my car :)

I left this section incomplete by exiting at Kearsarge Pass. Forester Pass and Mt Whitney will need to wait for another day.

I’m working on my gear list and will add that as a separate post.

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

Marvelous Marbles – Am I Dreaming?

Take interesting and eye-popping geology, mix it with a popurri of prolific flowers, and you might just think you’re living in a dream.

This is the iconic Marble Valley photo, an area considered to be the heart of the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

While there are several trailheads used to access the Marbles, Lovers Camp is by far the most popular and accessible, and the one I used this trip. This is first large chunk of marble visible prior to reaching the cabin.

Word of caution about the Lovers Camp trailhead . . . be sure to check out the profile, it’s about a 5-mile ascent to Marble Valley. Most is gentle climbing through shaded forest with plentiful streams on well-maintained trail. BUT, there’s one small steep section that can either be called “The Stairway to Heaven” or “The Marble Stair Hellmaster.” There are about 400 steps!

White and Black Marble Mountains dominate the views.

Upper and Lower Sky High Lakes, Frying Pan Lake, Sky High Valley, and the Marble Mountain Range.

Shadow Lake sits on a shelf high above the Sky High Valley. Tips: There are a limited number of tent sites and they are mostly on hardpan, so be prepared with a free-standing tent or to camp under the stars, and have a Plan B option in case the sites are all occupied. Sky High Lakes or Summit Lake are good options.

Shadow Lake            Tip: There are two trails off the PCT leading into the lake. The one nearest the Sky High Lakes trails is better maintained and maybe a little less steep, than the one nearer the Summit Lake trail.

A view of Cliff Lake from the PCT. It can be accessed from the Shackleford Trail which also provides access to Summit and Campbell Lakes.

The PCT passes very near Man Eaten Lake and I’m sure tempts many thru hikers, however, the steep scree descent dissuades most from touching the waters.

Man Eaten Lake. Such an interesting name, I can’t help but wonder how many men have been eaten? and by what? the newts perhaps?

The turquoise-colored water of Man Eaten Lake is among the clearest I’ve ever seen. It definitely invites a swim but at 112 feet deep, it retains it’s icy temperatures well into the summer.

I could have sat here at Man Eaten Lake all day!

The Marble Rim is a worthy place to explore. There are two trails that provide access, both intersect the PCT. Between the two white mountains is what’s known as “The Gap” accessed via the Marble Gap trail. The other is the Marble Rim trail. Both provide exceptional views.

A better view of the gap.

The Marble Rim trail initially takes you to the end of the bald area at the far end of this photo. It continues further around the rim, but on this date I did not have time to hike that section.

A peek over the Marble Rim down into Rainy Valley.

Left side of the rim.

Right side of the rim.

The back view of the White Marble Mountains.

Couldn’t resist sitting on the edge of the rim.

Typically the best time for experiencing the prolific explosion of wildflowers in the Marbles is late July. During that time the trails and meadows are an overgrown jumble of reds, yellows, whites, blues, pinks . . . The bees are buzzing, the humidity becomes a bit stifling and even a flower lover like me, might cry “uncle.” I’ve never seen such a mass of wildflowers especially in such ginormous proportions, taller than me in many cases. But with it being mid June, things were a bit more tame although still far superior to most anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Link to more blog posts in the Marble Mountain Wilderness


PCT – CA Section R . . . as in Relishing the Rewards

Dates Hiked: June 3-6, 2015
Direction: Northbound
Section P: Seiad Valley to Ashland
-Miles: 63
-Elevation: Low Point 1,362′, High Point 7,091′, Gain 11,887′, Loss 8,989′My overnight in Happy Camp was exactly what I needed to physically and emotionally prepare for what I’d been warned would be hell day. The climb out of Seiad Valley has a reputation of brutality much like the one leaving Sierra City. My friend Ron had encouraged me to hike it southbound, but for some reason I was compelled to continue my footsteps north. Ascending 4,547 feet in 7.4 miles while fighting through overgrown trail, being taunted by poison oak, attacked by fox tails and burrs, and blasted by the unrelenting sun will most certainly equate to more of that Type II fun. After arriving on the Stage bus around 8:30am, I lollygagged a bit by savoring breakfast by Chanda at the Siead Valley Cafe, home of the infamous pancake challenge. Might as well enjoy my sufferfest!

My day shall not be ruined by those fish hook dry grasses darning themselves into my shoes, nor the burrs taking ownership of my Dirty Girl Gaiters, nor those down blackened trees providing early morning callanetics. I shall smile and enjoy life’s little pleasures – a little puff of cool breeze, brightly colored flowers, views of the hills and valleys, fresh cold water, shade, wonderment, bird song . . .

Aptly named Fern Springs, this was a wonderful stop just a couple miles from town where I could gather water for the next 4 miles and most importantly take advantage of the “shower” to wet my hair, buff and shirt. Not only is it refreshing, but nature’s air conditioning wards off heat exhaustion.

These are interesting seed pods or ?? Love the shapes and dimensions.

Flowers along the trail make for a stark contrast.

The fire opened up VIEWS . . . as I climbed ever up, Seiad Valley grew ever distant.

Sections of clear trail were to be celebrated.

Storm clouds and bear grass added plenty of drama.

This snake gave me quite a fright. I was looking for a campsite in the Kangaroo Springs area. He quickly retreated to his hole but then stuck his head back up to keep an eye on me. Thankfully it was most likely a non-poisonous gopher snake.

It had been a cold windy night, one in which I used my umbrella inside my tent as a wind break. First time using this technique and it worked great (thanks Wired for the suggestion). I was quite surprised to awake to fog and mist. While I missed out on some views, I found the mystic walk quite enjoyable.

Life is good, right?

Such an inviting sign, the prettiest I’ve seen. If the visibility had been better I would have explored, but since I was walking in a cloud . . .

These bright sunflowers made my day!

Photographing bleeding hearts has been such a challenge. I was happy to finally fine an acceptable capture.

Size perspective!

I was intrigued by these clear cuts. The ground appears tilled, all signs of trees are gone, and the fields are now filled with little puffball flowers, often Dr. Seuss flowers, occasionally grasses or ferns. I learned from my brother that these are private swatches purchased by mills after they’ve been logged; they’ll replant with appropriate timber and harvest many years from now. By the way, that’s Mt Shasta in the background with the multiple layers of mountains keeping her company.

Gotta love this sign

Another favorite

Several miles previous, I began hearing what sounded like chimes. Listening closely I recognized the sound from several years ago when I was backpacking in the Marble Mountains Wilderness . . . oh no it’s cow bells . . . deja vu . . . especially as I’m headed for a spring and that time we found it stampeded by these bovine friends. The clanging was so loud I tried unsuccessfully to record the sound. I had several sightings of the beasts as I proceeded down the trail . . . thankfully they seemed to prefer the road.

I found this box in the middle of this stream interesting. Not sure of the purpose. It had a tiny amount of water in the bottom but doesn’t seem like it would fill adequately for use by stock. Any enlightenment?

I found these dirt road intersections most interesting. I believe this one had 5 roads coming together.

The Oregon border was my original goal, so each step as I closed the gap, I felt my heart leap with joy. I’d walked from Burney! I know not as impressive as those who’ve walked from Mexico, but for me quite an achievement . . .

Donomore Meadow was so green and lush, the creek flowing nicely.

The Donomore’s had a nice spread, even a peak named after them, and I bet spectacular hunting. About 10 miles earlier I’d seen a lot of fresh elk scat and finally my first elk in the wilderness. And, about 5 miles before that I’d seen lots of fresh bear scat, but with the poor visibility I didn’t see any bear. Near where the cows were grazing my map is marked “bearground.” I didn’t see any scat in that area . . . maybe the bears found those cowbells downright irritating too :)

WooHoo!!!!!!! Sadly the border register was in shambles with just scraps of paper littering the box. I’m thrilled to report after posting a request online, a beautiful new logbook has been added for the Class of 2015!

Logbook and photo credit to Mark A.

A few patches of snow remaining near Observation Peak (mile 1692).

Welcome to OREGON!

Piped spring water is the best!

I found myself on the section of trail near the Mt Ashland Ski Area Road on a Saturday. It encourages easy access to a beautiful section of trail and I found myself overwhelmed by the 20-30 people I encountered. Most in a hurry, but others wanting to chat and find out more about my adventure. The previous day, I’d met a 79-year old guy out training for a 50k race on this section of the PCT in late July when he’ll be 80. AMAZING!

Interesting erosion pattern . . . that’s pilot rock far in the distance.

Yep, Oregon has tree jungle gyms also . . . after my days with charcoal-covered trees, clean ones were a nice change of pace.

This is a nice place to add a bit of water for the last 5-6 miles (typically HOT and DRY) down to I-5.

My friend Johanna hiked up the trail carrying her little guy, Dane. He and the carrier weighed more than my pack, and she was hiking UP while I was traveling mostly downhill on this very hot afternoon. It was great to see her and have company for the last few miles. THANK YOU Johanna!

What an adventure this has been. So proud of my accomplishment of hiking from Burney to Ashland, 300 miles! When I arrived home, I was surprised by the generosity of my neighbors. One left me the food on the top shelf, another the second shelf. They take care of things for me at home while I’m adventuring . . . I’m ever appreciative! I was definitely feeling loved and spoiled :)

I’ll post my gear list in the near future. Until then, please join me in saying goodbye to my beloved pink shirt . . .

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Backcountry permits are not required to backpack within Section R
  • Campfire and camp stove permit is required (online link)
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are VERY limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather.
  • Once in Seiad Valley, if you’d prefer a room to camping at the RV park or elsewhere, there is lodging in Happy Camp. There is a bus (Stage) that travels between Seiad Valley and Happy Camp on Monday, Wednesday & Friday (Schedule). I stayed at the Bigfoot Cabins. It was clean and reasonably priced, has a laundry room on site, with grocery store and post office across the street, pizza down the road.
  • Sections O-R have poison oak, some places such as near water and around Seiad Valley are much worse than others.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section R (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • Seiad Valley to Cook & Green Pass (15.1 miles)
    • Cook & Green Pass to Wards Fork Gap (18.8 miles)
    • Wards Fork Gap to Siskiyou Gap (13.3 miles)
    • Siskiyou Gap to I-5 (17.3 miles)

PCT – CA Section Q . . . as in Quintessential Quagmire

Dates Hiked: May 30 – June 2, 2015
Direction: Northbound
Section Q: Etna to Seiad Valley
-Miles: 56.2
-Elevation: Low Point 1,372′, High Point 7,023′, Gain 5,669′, Loss 10,277′My hosts from the end of Section P, Catherine and Bruce, made it easy for me to quickly complete my chores and get back on trail. They coordinated transport for me from Etna back to trail. Thank you to Bruce 2 for the great ride and conversation. I truly appreciate and enjoy all the people I meet throughout my journeys.

The PCTA is proactive at trying to keep bicycles and motorized vehicles off the trail, but it’s nearly impossible to manage. I’ve seen telltale signs of misuse throughout Sections O-R. Thankfully I’ve not ran into these folks on this trip, although I have on previous trips in some of these areas.

The profile for this section is extremely deceptive. There is plenty of steep up, much steeper than the average PCT 18%. The climbs aren’t sustained, they just have a substantial grade.

Just like the Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness areas, I have spent many miles and days in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. Sadly the wildfires burned this area in 2014 also. I’d seen evidence in the distance and was not looking forward to seeing it in person.

The Backcountry Horsemen have this great comment/suggestion box not far from the beginning of Section Q. The problem was that I’d already mailed my Section P maps home and have a crappy memory so couldn’t write anything. Others seem to have the same problem as it’s being used as a trail register instead. It would be great if they provided an email address or texting number.

This is a magical traverse and photos just don’t do it justice. It’s near Shelly Lake around mile 1607. The trail is narrow and passes through several types of geology and includes spectacular views. I enjoyed it almost as much as Knife’s Edge in the Goat Rocks Wilderness section in Washington (my favorite thus far).

After a night with the full moon, I’m treated to this early morning view! Sun is rising and just barely revealing Mount Shasta and the lush green of Scott Valley. It was the noisiest night though. Do bats make sounds? What other birds hunt at night? Lots of communication from my fine feathered friends.

Excited to be heading into the heart of the colorful Marble Mountains today.

White and Black Marble Mountain in the distance.

Near mile 1613, there is a junction between the original (Kidder Lake trailhead) and rerouted PCT. There was a group of hikers at the intersection who recognized me. I got distracted and ended up on the original PCT which led me to this snow traverse.

The Original PCT provides this great view of the Cliff & Campbell Lakes (and yes a steep snow slope).

This is when fun becomes Type II fun (or not so much fun). I had a little slip which could have easily become one of those times when I might have needed to activate my SOS. Thankfully I came away with only a bruised rib and ego. I spent the next few hours beating myself up about my navigation error. I continue to learn . . . and still wonder what I could have done to prevent the slip.

As a result of taking the Original PCT, I missed a close-up view of Maneaten Lake so I hiked south for a bit to at least get this distant view. I’d been down to the lake previously so I knew what I was missing, and once again was kicking myself for my silly navigation error, and now bruised rib.

The 2014 fire was originally named Man after Maneaten Lake near where it began.

Cliff Lake

This photo shows the snow traverse I was on while hiking the original PCT route.

I hiked in and out of burned area from Maneaten Lake to the Sky High Lakes trail junction.

A better view of the Black and White Marble Mountains, the Marble Rim and the burn.

Summit, Cliff and Campbell Lakes. The Shackleford drainage appears to have survived the burn.

The area of Sky High Lakes, Marble and Little Marble Valleys, the Marble Mountains and on over toward Paradise Lake did not receive fire damage. It burned up toward Shadow Lake but I don’t know if it was overrun again.

The opening to one of the many caves in the marbles. Many people go caving in this area.

One of my favorite areas behind Black Marble Mountain where there is lots of white marble to enjoy.

My favorite sunset photo.

Finding lush green en route to Paradise Lake was a pleasure after being in burn for a good portion of the previous day.

The burn begins again at the far end of Paradise Lake. I’d like to explore King’s Castle one of these days.

Paradise Lake looks like . . . well Paradise. I really enjoyed having the lake to myself on this day.

I’d not been north of Paradise Lake previously and was intrigued by the change of geology.

Turk Lake

Red Rock Mountain with Bear Lake in the basin

A storm arrived creating plenty of visual drama.

It quickly became one of those days I was glad for my umbrella.

Where’s the trail? Walking through wet foliage is sure to swamp your trail runners.

The madrone trees really popped when wet.

Add a little charcoal to the wet red madrone and you get magic!

This was a really big fungus (8-10″)

Sip of water anyone?

This “bowl” was about 15″ in diameter.

Miner’s Lettuce was everywhere. Of course I picked some to add to my dinner. Just be careful to avoid poison oak.

I’ve been told this is a moth. It was HUGE about 5″ across.

From the ashes shall arise a little art.

I found a tree to shelter me a bit from the rain.

While it wasn’t raining the next morning, it was plenty wet. Pro Tips: (1) use bread bags over your socks as a moisture barrier to prevent blisters from wet socks (2) use trash compactor bags to line your pack or liner bags such as the ones Gossamer Gear sells (3) protect your down bag (4) dry clothes during the night by laying between mattress and floor of tent (5) Frogg Toggs Dri Ducks Ultralight Rainpants are an inexpensive lightweight option (6) consider an umbrella (hands-free instructions), (7) disposable gloves work great for both taking down your tent in wet mucky conditions or wearing while hiking to keep your hands warm and dry.

I’d been dreading the Grider Creek crossings as I heard the bridges were damaged during the fires. Crossing #1 is marked with a detour for those going north (not south) and consisted of crossing two shin deep tributaries.

Bridge #2 was supposed to be broken in half but usable. Recent rains split the bridge pushing half to one side of the creek and sending the other down stream. Getting down to the creek is a challenge in itself. The other option is this log not too far upstream. With shaky legs and a beating heart, I walked the log (successfully I might add).

Bridge #3 is fully intact!

Bridge #4 into the campground is fully intact, although a note is attached indicating burns to the wood planking has been damaged.

Rumor is that bridges 1-3 will be replaced with steel bridges in the future. Funding has been designated.

The bright green of meadows and corn lilies make my heart sing.

Flowers were colorful near springs.

When wildflowers mingle.

I wonder what these blooms will look like? The buds sure were stunning.

My favorite bouquet!

Unusual to see a Pussy Ear mixing with a sedum.

Pussy Ears are so fuzzy.

I was excited to find the Western Pasqueflower ready to bloom. I’ve only seen them after they’ve bloomed and they become Dr. Seuss flowers.

This pine cone was quite showy with it’s outlined edges.

I’ve been told this is a gopher snake. I had to gently encourage it to move off the trail.

It looks like it has a dirty head but I guess it helps with camouflage.

Plenty of fresh bear scat but only one bear sighting in this section (and no photos).

I also got to see a Pine Marten. It was dark brown weasel looking character. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Celebrating the end of Section Q, well ALMOST . . . still had to complete the hot 6-mile road walk. It was a day of bad luck. Just as I was leaving I met a couple who had been dropped off just minutes before. No other traffic on the 3-mile campground road, only 3 cars going the opposite way on the next 2-mile section. Once on the main highway, a few cars passed and about a mile before town a nice lady gave me a lift the rest of the way. Yeah, my first successful hitch! Sadly I arrived at the Seiad Valley Cafe just after the 2pm closing time, so no good eats, but thanks to the intel by the couple I’d met, I secured a ride to Happy Camp. After a couple of wet days, I was looking forward to a place to dry out and get cleaned up. Bigfoot Cabins provided exactly what I needed with on-site laundry, grocery across the street, and a bus ride back to Seiad at 8am the next morning. Life is better than good!

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Backcountry permits are not required to backpack within Section Q (exception: Marble Mountain Wilderness).
  • Campfire and camp stove permit is required (online link)
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather.
  • There were several serious erosion areas between miles 1642-44 that are not horse safe and could cause problems for those with height sensitivities.
  • Once in Seiad Valley, if you’d prefer a room to camping at the RV park or elsewhere, there is lodging in Happy Camp. There is a bus (Stage) that travels between Seiad Valley and Happy Camp on Monday, Wednesday & Friday (Schedule). I stayed at the Bigfoot Cabins. It was clean and reasonably priced, has a laundry room on site, with grocery store and post office across the street, pizza down the road.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section Q (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • Etna Summit to Kidder Creek Trailhead (21.0 miles)
    • Kidder Creek Trailhead to Lover’s Camp Trailhead (17.9 miles)
    • Lover’s Camp Trailhead to Paradise Lake Trailhead (10.9 miles)
    • Paradise Lake Trailhead to Grider Creek Campground Trailhead (22.9 miles)
    • Grider Creek Campground Trailhead to Seiad Valley (6.5 miles)

PCT – CA Section P . . . as in Persistently Practicing Patience (Part 3)

Dates Hiked: May 26-29, 2015 (Part 3: Miles 1537.19-1597.2)
Direction: Northbound
Section P: Castella to Etna
-Miles: 98.5 (Halfmile 1498.7-1597.2)
-Elevation: Low Point 2,157′, High Point 7,769′, Gain 17,594′, Loss 13,770′The storms are over and I’m antsy to return to the trail. It’s time to complete Section P, PERSISTENCE will pay off!

Thanks to my friend Rebecca I’m back at the Parks Creek Road trailhead heading north once again, first to Cement Bluff (see 5/13/15 post), then onward towards Highway 3, Sawyers Bar Road and finally Etna to resupply.

Bull Lake with Mount Eddy in the background

I love these miles of long fairly level traverses (see the trail in the distance?)

Hard to complain about colorful sunsets

and colorful sunrises

I’m always curious how trails are made through rock fields such as these.

Why yes, it’s a black BLACK bear. In Section O I saw a cinnamon-colored BLACK bear and later in Section P I saw a light brown or possibly blond colored BLACK bear. Lucky me!

It was great to have the opportunity to meet and personally thank a Backcountry Horsemen crew out clearing trees. They are one of the unsung heroes! If you see them, take a moment to say thank you.

There was about a 5-mile section that was a huge mess of down trees and accompanying debris (mile 1571-1574).

As per usual, tree jungle gym goes hand-in-hand with early season travel.

I’ve backpacked more miles in the Trinity Alps than anywhere else, thus it holds a special place in my heart and in my memories.

The Tangle Blue and Marshy Lakes basin.

Still some lingering snow

Looks like someone was busy with a bit of splash painting, but alas thank you mother nature for providing us such color and texture.

East Boulder Lakes

I’d guess this is a hunter’s camp. In the meadow below was a bear roaming around.

Not a great photo, but you get the idea. I believe it was a blond black bear, or at least very light brown. Very unusual.

My heart hurt as I witnessed the devastation of the 2014 wildfires.

I have many fond memories of backpacking trips in the Russian Wilderness. The wildfires were especially bad through this area, how bad?

Impressive trail building

Reminiscent of Castle Crags type granite

Seeing burned areas in the distance is one thing, walking through it is quite another story.


Trail was in decent shape, all trees were removed through the burn area and only a few areas will need serious tread work.

Manzanita and poison oak are the first to come back.

As I exited the burn area, I was treated to a view of Mt Shasta and ? Lakes (can someone help me out)

First views looking down into Scott Valley (which includes Etna).

I was surprised by the amount of climbing approaching Sawyers Bar Road

Smith Lake, Scott Valley and Mount Shasta

Snow was hiding on these north-facing protected slopes.

I saw several of these frogs and found them challenging to photograph. Was pretty happy to catch this one in motion.

There were lots of butterflies, and caterpillars of course.

Bear Grass

Thankfully there were plenty of colorful wildflowers to offset the stark charcoal areas.

These were magenta colored to the naked eye. They are tiny growing on a 1-2″ stem and are a wild onion.

This is a Pitcher Plant bloom. Hard to find at this stage.

First time I’ve seen a wilderness morning glory.

Pine Cone Flower

I’m curious to know more about these shoots. Anyone know anything?

I love the shape and texture of the leaves of corn lilies.

Who walks there? Who rides there?

Mud, snow, sand all provide evidence of shared trail users.

I wondered about the many holes along the trail . . . watch out for those ants!

Poison oak became more abundant around water sources starting around mile 1573 (near Section Line Lake)

Meeting other hikers on the trail is always a highlight of my day. Hiking off-season makes this a rare treat, and what a coincidence when I found a gal sporting the exact same pattern on her Dirty Girl Gaiters! By the way, these do such a terrific job keeping crud out of your shoes. I’ve been wearing them for about 5 years now and as they say I never leave home without them.

As a hiker, my feet have been growing. Sure hope they never get this big! I think Bigfoot set these prints across Highway 3.

Seasonal creeks were plentiful and always a nice place to do a little laundry (tip: diaper pins work better than safety pins, and hang socks by toes so they are more apt to be dry). In this photo, you can see my solar panel charging my external battery, my umbrella ready for the sun or precip, my Sawyer Squeeze being used inline, and my Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack. I’ll be providing a gear list in another post.

This was not the best campsite selection for a possible stormy night, but sometimes you have to take what’s available when it’s time to stop for the day. Instead of a storm, I had a perfect viewing platform for a great sunset and sunrise.

Another “room with a view” night.

This was to be my first hitching experience, needless to say I was extremely nervous. Instead I met a guy as he merged onto the PCT from a side trail about a mile before Sawyers Bar Road. He was headed to Etna and I was able to secure a ride. From there I was swept away by my new friend Catherine for a night of yummy food, chores and great conversation. Thank you Catherine and Bruce for being such great trail angels and hosts!

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Permits are not required to backpack within Section P (exceptions: Castle Crags State Park, Castle Crags Wilderness, Trinity Alps Wilderness, Russian Wilderness).
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section P (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • I5/Soda Springs to Dog Trail (7.9 miles)
    • Dog Trail to Gumboot Trailhead (18.2 miles)
    • Gumboot Trailhead to Parks Creek Road Trailhead (14.3 miles)
    • Parks Creek Road Trailhead to Fen Trailhead (12 miles)
    • Fen Trailhead to Highway 3 (10.9 miles)
    • Highway 3 to Carter Summit Trailhead (19.9 miles)
    • Carter Summit Trailhead to Etna Summit (20.2 miles)