Grizzly Meadow, Grizzly Falls, Grizzly Lake but thankfully no Grizzly Bears

My invitation read, MAJOR workout! This trip is going to a real test of thighs, lungs and heart! Those joining must be really fit.

My initial fight or flight response was NO and Hell NO, I’m not in my best shape, I’ve gained some weight, climbing is not my strong suit, scrambling even less so. I was more than a little intimidated by the profile, especially after reading a trail guide that used words such as torture, grueling, steep, rough and tedious to describe the route.01

This was a bucket list hike for my friend Scott, so I knew it would be epic. With a nudge from my friends and a month of preparation time, I hung the profile on my refrigerator, set the countdown timer on my phone, and started thinking a bit more seriously about this potential adventure. My inner voice chattered, “it’s only five miles to base camp, you have all day. It’ll be a sufferfest, but you can do it, YES you can!”Grizzly TH

According to the guide book from the China Gulch Trailhead, it’s a 5,440’ 7-mile ascent to Grizzly Lake and Grizzly Falls, less than that to Grizzly Meadow our campsite destination.  So here we are, mid July 2013, ready for adventure!03

While burned forests are not my thing, wildflowers are my breadcrumbs, they distract me and entertain me, my brain clicks away trying to recall names, my body is happy for the stretching breaks as I pretzel myself to capture the perfect photographic angle. I find myself dancing with the butterflies, singing with the birds, guessing what’s over the next horizon, looking for shapes in the trees and the clouds. The trail to Grizzly Meadow did not disappoint.04-n 04-m Flowers 1 04-k 04-j 137 136 ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? 04-a

Suffering from asthma means I really hate trails that begin with ascents, but surprisingly the first climb of the day wasn’t nearly as challenging as I had imagined during my preparatory month. However the glorious descent was clouded with worry about climbing this beast in a few days time. Grizzly Creek greeted us at the bottom and then taunted us during the climb, just out of reach, but always present by sound and more than an occasional glimpse. The unrelenting sun on this extremely hot day made this ascent much more challenging than the initial one I’d had nightmares about.

I was quickly energized upon reaching the meadow and viewing the grandeur of Grizzly Waterfall and Thompson Peak, at 9,002’ the highest in the Trinity Alps Wilderness.Grizzly Meadow

Base camp was in the trees at the far end of this meadow where we were treated to views of our morning scramble challenge. 06

And a sky filled with near full-moon light.07 a

With early morning light, and the canyon shaded, it was time to begin the scramble. 09

Making good progress; our camp is way down in the trees.10

I personally prefer going UP scrambles, so I was first up this chute. 11

There were cairns leading the way, but at times finding them was a bit like a needle in a haystack. 12

My favorite cairn stood like a soldier guarding over Grizzly Meadow and our campsite.13

A few more scrambles and we had a stunning view of Grizzly Lake and Thompson Peak. Trout could be easily seen skittering through the sun bedazzled water. The granite basin and permanent snow fields make it picture perfect! Do you know the difference between glaciers and permanent snowfields? Did you know permanent snowfields are marked on some maps? Grizzly Lake

The outflow from Grizzly Lake creates this spectacular waterfall that drops 100 feet. 15

From atop the falls, it was impossible to capture them in their entirety. Grizzly Falls

There is nothing quite like the joy I find spending a day luxuriating in such beauty. Invigorating dips in these clear clean waters, followed by naps on large-nature warmed chunks of granite are beyond spa worthy. My mind is occupied with daydreams of scrambling up Thompson or Grizzly Peaks or over to Lois or Mirror Lakes. A repeat trip in the future is imminent. 17

But alas the day must come to an end and the dread of descending the scramble was forefront of my thoughts. 18


Memories of this epic trip are cemented when we relive our day’s challenges and joys around the campfire.  20

At the lake we found a group of four 20 somethings who had arrived a couple days earlier, but found themselves spent after lugging 60+ pound packs up that scramble. When we saw the contents of their packs (i.e. sweatshirts and full-size bath towels), we shared considerable wisdom about lightweight gear options.

Gear talk seems to be part and parcel of a hiker and backpacker’s life. Some will come away with gear envy, others will feel pride in their decisions to date; however, I have yet to meet anyone who has said they are content with their current possessions. This trip found no duplications in brand, model or style of gear among the group. I love that there are so many options and that we continue to desire improvements . . . lighter, more durable, more compact . . .



Jan’s Tips:

(1) See my Trail Links Page for additional information.


2 thoughts on “Grizzly Meadow, Grizzly Falls, Grizzly Lake but thankfully no Grizzly Bears

  1. Thank you for the write up this is some of the better, if not best, first hand info I have found. Grizzly lake is my mission right now but I am spending my annual one or two trips of the summer taking some first time backpackers into more accessible locations. I always take my 2.5 yr old dog wherever I go for work or play and he has handled every steep scramble I have thrown his way but I’m wondering if the Grizzly scramble might be his match.

    • THANKS, glad you found this posting helpful!

      I have 3 canine experiences to report. We saw 2 dogs which made it to the lake. Both were medium size dogs. The first was in the group referenced above which arrived on Thursday and were worn out and needed to rest until their return on Sunday. By the time we saw them on Saturday, the dog seemed fine and they didn’t share any negative experiences.

      We witnessed quite the opposite experience with the second dog. This was a “borrowed” dog by a gal who runs with this dog regularly. They passed by our camp on Friday night heading up to the lake to camp. On Saturday morning the gal had taken the dog for day hike, when she returned to the lake, the dog’s paws (one in particular) was bloody and torn. One of the guys in our party is very experienced hiking with dogs and provided advise about needing to rest the dog and treat his paw. The gal said she’d had to help the dog up the boulders on their ascent. They decided to return to the meadow Saturday evening regardless, with the gal alternating between hauling her pack and going back and hauling the dog. On one of these relays, the dog disappeared and the gal was unable to locate. The guy from our group returned to help and found the dog after a several hour search. It had hidden under a larger boulder. He carried the dog down, applied first aid to the paw and advised about the need for rest and hydration. Once again they didn’t really head his advise and they broke camp before us Sunday morning, with the dog gimping but tail wagging. Our guy applied fresh first aid. We ran into them down the trail along the creek where the gal was resting the dog. We all hiked together up on the last climb where the dog seemed ok, but at the top of the climb, the dog layed down and did not want to continue. Eventually they got it down the hill and reports are it recovered. But it was a traumatic experience for our group witness.

      The third dog came equipped with rubber botties for the granite. The owners actually gave one to the hurt dog which helped. Thus I would recommend booties.

      Best of luck in making this tough decision.

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