CA – Whiskeytown NRA, The Reopening of Trails (April 2022)

“It’ll come back.” That seems to be a common phrase after huge wildfires. My response is it won’t return to what it was for many decades, if not longer. Where and how do you even start when 97% of a Park has burned? There are financial and environmental issues, there are priorities and resources to be considered. After four long years, several of the longer trails were opened. With expectations in check, I was excited to be the first legal footsteps on the Papoose to Boulder Creek Falls trail.

From the fire overlay on Gaia, with the red representing fire boundaries, it’s easy to see why the 2018 Carr Fire created a huge problem and restoration project.

The Papoose Pass Trail was one of the more recently constructed before the fire and had quickly become a favorite due to the shady canopy and feeling of being in a forest. It was also a great trail for fitness gaining 1,000′ feet in less than 3 miles. I was pleased to find this first stretch looking reminiscent of it’s past.

It quickly became a little less enticing but the grass tread was an indicator of the time given for the understory to recover. This is what four years looks like, and more along the lines I was expecting; after all, I’d spent this time hiking local trails opened earlier but just as burned.

Living with wildfire scars has taught me to focus on the ground level activity where I can find blooms, bugs and butterflies. The Woodland Stars were a great distraction.

The Mountain chaparral lotus, Acmispon grandiflorus var. macranthus, provided lots of color and were one of the most dominant blooming plants on this day.

My one hope for this particular day was that some Dogwoods survived and would be blooming. I was rewarded and also found several new tree starts. These will brighten the forest over the coming years.

Snowdrop Bush and Yerba Santa

Yellow False-Lupine (pea family)

These Kellogg Monkeyflowers (Diplacus kelloggii) made my day!

The ladybugs don’t seem to be bothered by the plentiful poison oak. With all the recent trail clearing, there isn’t any encroaching the trail, a huge win for many sensitive to this evil plant.

This was a new plant for me. It’s in the rockcress family, Lithospermum californicum.

This was perhaps the largest patch of wild ginger I’ve seen.

A benefit of hiking this as an out and back trail was finding these Bleeding Hearts I missed on my way to the falls.

Boulder Creek Falls still flowing, albeit a bit lower than normal due to lack of rain and snow.

Trail infrastructure like these bridges required replacement.

Trail crews are my heroes! When I found these loppers hiding in the shadows of recently cleared trail, I was happy to carry them out.

A friend recently shared her thoughts, “I see beauty in new growth from a fire ravaged area. It’s a testament to how resilient and insistent Mother Nature is.” These new trees speak volumes.

Date Hiked: April 1, 2022

Stats: 11.5 miles 2,400′ elevation gain/loss

Trail: Papoose Trail to Boulder Creek Falls (out and back)

Tips:

  • Plan for lack of shade
  • Avoid on windy days
  • Expect down trees
  • Adjust expectations, sadly this seems to be the new normal in fire susceptible forests
  • Pack a headnet. Whiskeytown is notorious for swarms of gnats.
  • There are three trails leading to Boulder Creek Falls
    • The shortest at 1 mile (one way) from Mill Creek Road Trailhead
    • Next shortest 2.6 miles (one way) from South Shore Drive Trailhead
    • Longest at 5.75 miles (one way) from Papoose/Sheep Camp Trailhead

Resources:

2 thoughts on “CA – Whiskeytown NRA, The Reopening of Trails (April 2022)

  1. Beautiful pictures and great mindset to focus on the new growth! I prefer hiking in a forest canopy but it looks like the burned trees give way to good mountain views. The diversity of wildflowers you have in California is just stunning! Are the flowers mostly natives? Our forests out in the northeast seem to be overrun with invasives and some of the prettiest native wildflowers are getting hard to find.

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