CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Bear Lakes Trailhead

My goal was to find Wee Bear and Little Bear Lakes on this my third trip on the Bear Creek Trail. These are both off-trail lakes requiring navigation and bouldering skills.

With nearby wildfires, smoke had been problematic. I’d saved a few shorter distance trails for times when I could exit quickly if conditions changed. After a week of horrific air quality, we had a couple days with improvement and indications wind would be in my favor. Checking Purple Air and Air Now sites have become a morning routine during fire season.

Big Bear Lake

In this summer of 2020, the Trinity Alps saw unprecedented visitation levels. I was concerned and had several alternative plans if I found a full trailhead. Thankfully on this day, luck was on my side. No cars and I only met two day hikers on my first day of this three day trip.

This has become my summer of swimming. I had plenty of time to indulge after this 4.5 mile 2,800′ elevation gain hike especially since I had the lake to myself for the afternoon and evening. Lucky me! Little Bear Lake can be accessed via the gap shown in the below photo, but it’s not the recommended way. I wandered part way around the lake and quickly found myself blocked by brush that I wasn’t willing to fight my way through.

There are plenty of places to wander around and above the lake. In fact the granite benches host the majority of campsites, including views of Mt Shasta and Mt Eddy. It was a great place to watch sunset and sunrise. Catching alpenglow is one of my favorite reasons to camp.

Mt Shasta and Mt Eddy visible from the benches above Big Bear Lake. The granite mountain to the right is the scramble to Wee and Little Bear Lakes.

Wee and Little Bear Lakes

The trail shown in the below photo is from Big Bear Lake and provides one starting point to the off-trail lakes. There is also a cairn on the main trail below Big Bear Lake. Basically you want to angle your way up this rock face. You’ll find cairns marking a variety of routes. There is no right way, as I say, “pick your poison.” One of my resource guidebooks says “the goal is to bisect the top of the ridge at approximately the midpoint near some dead trees.”

There are a few campsites near the junction with water available from the Big Bear Lake outflow creek. The books indicate this is an EASY scramble. For some it might be, I found it fairly challenging.

This is the mountain you’re traversing. I’ll take granite boulders and slabs over scree any day. While you’ll find cairns dropping you down lower you want to avoid the brush. I stayed high on my way to the lakes and a little lower on my exit. I found the high route much more forgiving as the lower you go the steeper the slabs.

This photo shows the notch you want to reach and why you want to find the mid sweet point so you don’t waste energy going too high or too low.

This is an example of the steep slabs best to avoid, which can be easily done if you stay higher.

On the way back I followed cairns which dropped me lower. I found myself working a lot harder on this mid route.

Wee Bear Lake is more a pond than a lake but it’s very photogenic.

Little Bear Lake is a much superior swimming lake to Big Bear with slabs for diving platforms and debris free exit.

It took me about an hour to reach Little Bear Lake from Big Bear. After a few hours of swimming and relaxing I was inspired to see if I could ascend the ridge separating the lakes.

Although there is a trail traversing the lake, once again I quickly got stopped by thick brush so I backtracked and found another way which included this view of Wee Bear Lake, Mt Shasta and Mt Eddy.

These ramps made for a gentle ascent.

Success! There’s 28-acre Big Bear Lake, depth 73 feet.

Looking down at Little Bear Lake.

The lower ridge in this photo is the unnamed peak you traverse around between Big and Little Bear Lakes.

First kiss of sun on the peaks surrounding Little Bear Lake.

Morning reflections on Little Bear Lake.

The jagged spires surrounding the Bear Lakes are a recognizable sight in much of the Trinity Alps and Castle Crags Wilderness areas. It was so nice to see blue sky after a couple weeks of smoky skies.

Bear Creek signals the return to the main hiking trail.

I enjoyed a few late blooms along the trail like this fire weed.

Possibly Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris).

Red Columbine

There was indication summer was ending and soon fall would take center stage.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 31 – September 2, 2020

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • This can be a busy trail. If the trailhead is full you might want to consider other options especially if you want to camp.
  • In late August, nights were pretty warm. I was glad I’d brought my new summer quilt (link).
  • Always pack first-aid supplies. This was a bleeder. It wasn’t very deep but it bled for 3-4 days.
  • Do your part and pack out what others may have left behind. I walked past this hat several times before I noticed it. I also carried out a bag of used toilet paper, two fishing rod tips, a GSI cooking pot lid, and one sandal plus some micro trash. It’s the right thing to do!
  • I was glad to have my headnet as there were face flies at lower elevation. I met some hikers on their way in as I was exiting and they were very jealous.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

CA – Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Cabin Creek Trailhead (aka Squaw Valley Creek)

What has become known as the fifth season on the west coast is in full swing. Fire and smoke season is one I’d sooner skip and have successfully run from and avoided for several years. With 2020 being the year of COVID-19, I made the choice to stay local. My new normal was checking the Air Quality Index every morning. On this day, I saw some green to the north and decided I best take advantage of this rare window.

The skies were white with smoke. The visibility was limited and I considered turning around several times. I needed out of the house so onward I went. I’d chosen this trail as it would be more of a meander than a strenuous hike, one where I could lollygag along a creek and just enjoy being outside. I of course was worried about crowds since that’s become a norm this summer. Thankfully upon arrival there was only one car at the trailhead. For this smoke sensitive asthmatic, the air quality seemed acceptable.

When I first started hiking about ten years ago, this was the Squaw Valley Creek Trail, but due to political correctness, the offensive word has been removed from most named places. However this hike is still along thus named Squaw Valley Creek. Cabin Creek is a secondary stream further downstream so it doesn’t really make sense to change the name but whatever it is it is.

I was introduced to umbrella plant aka Indian Rhubarb along this trail. It’s probably my favorite water plant. Seeing signs of changing seasons reminded me fire season won’t last forever.

It was a hot day so I was grateful for easy creek side access where I could stay wet and refreshed.

This waterfall provided a perfect lunch break backdrop. Interestingly, Squaw Valley Creek (still named as such) originates on Mt Shasta at South Gate Meadows the destination of my previous hike (link).

There was evidence of recent trail maintenance which is always much appreciated.

If there was any negative to my day it was face flies but thankfully I came prepared with my headnet.

Soon enough bug season will be gone, just like fire season and summer.

Until then I’ll be grateful for this day when I escaped the smoke and enjoyed creek lullabies, a soft trail, bird song, the smell of pine needles and freshly sawed timber. I may have only walked about 1/4 mile on the PCT this day but it brought back the most wonderful memories of when I walked from Burney Falls to the Oregon border.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 28, 2020

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • I hiked this as an out and back, but there is a loop option. I tried the loop several years ago and found it choked with poison oak. I didn’t go that far this time so don’t know condition but something to consider. I’ve been warned of rattlesnakes in that meadow as well.
  • There are a couple of eroded sections of trail and at at least one place where some rock scampering is required.
  • For additional hiking from the trailhead, consider the PCT north or south. The nature trail near Ah-Di-Na Campground is worth a visit although a bit of a drive or a 10+ mile jaunt.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

CA – Mt Shasta Wilderness, South Gate Meadows Trailhead

I hadn’t hiked in a month. Between the heat, fires and smoke, I was on hiking hiatus. It was making me really grumpy so I decided to see if I could find an escape. I checked Purple Air, web cams and the smoke maps. I was hopeful. The skies looked clear but my lungs said otherwise as I drove through the canyon. I took a double dose of my inhaler and donned my hiking uniform. The temperature at 7,800 feet was a pleasant 70F degrees as compared to home where the overnight low had been 75F.

Looking to the west, the brown smoky skies hide Castle Crags and the Trinity Alps.

I was welcomed with this splash of color.

Soon enough I reached the wilderness boundary.

There are plenty of rocky features to explore like this unnamed 8,300′ peak. Meanwhile the plant life is sparse.

Green Butte at 9,193′ is a geologic beauty.

Hummingbird Spring is a one of many reliable springs on the mountain. It was a little past peak wildflower season but a few blooms remained. I didn’t take photos so I must not have been very impressed.

The butterflies enjoyed this oasis.

After hiking through a forested section, you turn the corner and find yourself at South Gate Meadows.

I’ve only hiked this trail one time previously and it was 8 years ago. This photo I took then shows better perspective.

The meadow marks the end of the maintained trail. However there are unmaintained trails inviting further exploration which is of course what I did. It’s important to be mindful of this fragile environment by staying on the well-used trails or rocky surfaces.

You can see the damage throughout the meadow. This is looking east toward Mt Lassen, again hidden by the smoke from nearby wildfires.

When you look at the mountain, your first impression is lots and lots of gray rock. These spring fed creeks create welcome relief.

Shastarama Point draws me upward.

Turning the corner I found colorful delight and more Dr. Seuss flowers, which had been dominant along many earlier sections of the trail.

There were tons of monkey flowers.

After reaching the spring, and then the ridge, I couldn’t help but see if I could find better views by wandering this escarpment.

I was thrilled to find views new to me, most notably Shastarama Point.

A close up of Shastarama.

Rather than retracing my steps, I decided to take an off-trail route through the rocks to create a bit of a lollipop loop. You can now also see a better angle on the side views of this lower part of the mountain. Shastarama Point is at 11,000+ feet whereas Mt Shasta Peak is at 14,000+ feet. Looks are deceptive!

Back on the main trail, this is a different side of Shastarama.

And the view more often seen by peak baggers summiting via the Bunny Flat or Old Ski Bowl route.

For those interested here’s a better perspective.

All too soon it was time to drop back into the smoke. Even at elevation my chest burned from the smoke. I was grateful for the blue skies and a break from the heat. There was a welcome breeze, and of course the streams to keep my temperature comfortable.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 14, 2020

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • There are quite a few permit requirements and backcountry rules in the area. You’ll want to review the USFS information if you want to backpack or disperse camp (link).

  • Check weather forecasts. It can be quite windy and the mountain makes it’s own weather.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, PCT Eye Candy

This is the reason many fall in love with the PCT. The trail meanders, winds, rises and falls. It’s of dirt, grass, sticks and stones. Most of all it’s about dreaming and stories. Who built these trails? Who wandered here before me? What did it look like decades ago? Who will I meet, what will I see? Where will I lie my head each night?

I’ll let the photos tell the story of my jaunt between Carter Summit and Man Eaten Lake, about a 35-mile section. I shared stories about the lakes I visited in a previous post (blog link).  The wildflowers deserved their own post as well (blog link).

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Tips:

  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

 

CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, a PCT Wildflower Jaunt

In addition to the debut of a PCT Swimmer’s Route (blog link), there were plenty of wildflowers to be found between swimming destinations. These photos were taken on a 35-mile section between Carter Summit and Man Eaten Lake.

Collomia grandiflora (Large-flowered collomia)

My book calls the blue in the center pollen; I assumed it was stamen. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen these so I was excited to find them along the trail. I’ve never seen them in groups or patches, always solo with maybe one companion. Hey, that describes me.

Allium

I should have taken more photos. These plants were so whimsical.

Lewisia cotyledon, Siskiyou lewisia

These beauties were fairly plentiful along this section of the trail.

Polemonium ? Jacob’s Ladder ?

I wasn’t able to easily identify these. These blooms were a rare sighting on the trail.

Penstemon and Paintbrush

There were multiple varieties of penstemon along the trail and it probably the most plentiful bloom on this trip.

There were several varieties of yellow flowers along the trail. They added a nice punch of color.

In wet areas I found Leopard Lily. Tigers have stripes, leopards have spots. At least that’s what I was told by a local botanist. 

Western Pasqueflower aka Anemone occidentalis

The first of the season Dr. Seuss mop heads. It was still a bit too early to find the best messy hair versions.

Pyrola crypta (Pine-drops)

This was by far my most exciting find. I had yet to see blooming pine-drops.

Lilium rubescens, Chaparral Lily, Redwood Lily

Not positive on the ID, but loved smelling these lilies before seeing them. They were just starting to bloom. I saw a lot more buds than blooms. Such showstoppers!

And a few more just because I can never get enough.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Tips:

  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, Jan’s PCT Swimmer’s Route

We have high routes and peakbagger routes, so why not a swimmer’s route? I was craving some time on the PCT after my recent travels on unmaintained trails in the Trinity Alps, and thought it would be fun to visit some lakes adjacent to the PCT. I started hiking north from Carter Summit off National Forest Road 93, PCT mile marker 1580.

1. Siphon Lake

My first detour was a side trail to Siphon (or Syphon), Water Dog (or Waterdog) and Russian Lakes. It’s less than a mile from the PCT to Siphon Lake and another to the junction of Deacon Lee Trail. The sign shows the spelling with a Y but the maps, guidebook and online references indicate an I.

From the PCT, this lake rates high on the ease of access scale.

I had good intention of swimming in Russian and Waterdog Lakes but after a late start from the trailhead and lollygagging a bit too much at Siphon, I had to turn around after hiking to the Deacon Lee Trail junction. It looked to be quite a descent and since it was already 7pm I knew I was pushing my luck so those lakes will be saved for a future trip. There is a cairn route to Russian Lake about halfway between Siphen and Waterdog Lakes thus I at least got this photo of Russian Lake and Peak.

I camped at Siphen Lake and had a great swim. There were plenty of fish and newts. I wandered around finding evidence of previous siphening activity in the form of pipes. I was told by a local rancher that the lake was used for nearby mining however I also saw online that it was used for agriculture purposes. I tend to believe the mining theory as Foster Mine is in close proximity. There is a well established camp near the lake so I’m guessing it’s quite popular with the equestrian crowd. Although I had the place to myself I wouldn’t count on it.

2. Bingham Lake

Since I was doing an out-and-back hike, I visited this lake on my return trip. It involves a rocky scramble following cairns. I got off track on my way, going up higher than needed. Tip: the route takes you up the rock pile then to the right into the woods then back to the rock pile then stays near the outlet creek. It’s about .25 mile to the lake from the PCT. There are numerous campsites and it appeared to be a moderate use lake. On the morning of my swim, I had the lake to myself.

The lake was a perfect swimmer’s paradise. With a nice rocky entrance, deep clear water, and great temperature even for this 8am swim. The sun was in my face so I couldn’t get great photos. For those interested in peakbagging, you start from Bingham Lake to summit Russian Peak.

3. Statue Lake

This is one of the more challenging lakes to access. There are at least three ways to reach the lake. The most common is from Statue Creek which is the way I hiked. There is a cairned trail starting where the creek crosses the PCT. Sadly this area was devastated in the 2014 fire making the unmaintained trail a bit of a mess. I got off track a few times but ultimately found myself faced with a wall of huge boulders which needed to be navigated prior to reaching the lake. When I found a campfire ring I figured I was in the right place. It was a little less than one mile and 400 feet elevation gain from the PCT to the lake.

The lake is behind this ridge. You can see the PCT traversing about one third of the way down. Where the PCT rounds the corner is supposedly one option for access. I camped at this spot one night in hopes of finding the access but with the burn you’d have to be really motivated to work your way through the boulders, dead brush and down trees.

The statue of Statue Lake.

From the lake I hiked up to this secret passage.

On my return trip I looked for it from the PCT and upon finding it, my thought was there was a reasonably direct route up the front side and through the notch.

4. Paynes Lake

This is a no brainer stop as it’s right on the trail. There are plentiful campsites although it can be busy as they are used by both PCT hikers and others accessing the area from several nearby trailheads. I was happy to capture this early morning alpenglow view. You can also reach Albert (aka Albers) Lakes from a nearby unmaintained trail. Since I’d visited Lower Albert previously I skipped on this occasion; Upper Albert is still on my list but I remember the manzanita bushwhack and am not very excited at the prospect (blog link).

5. Smith Lake

I looked for use trails as I hiked north with plans to swim on my return trip. I found a cairn marking the route along the PCT at the far northern end which is ultimately the route I followed. This is the view of Smith Lake from the PCT looking east toward Mt Shasta.

It was a steep descent but much less worrisome than Man Eaten as the footing was solid. By the time I reached this tree I was disheartened to see how much further I had to descend especially when I looked over and saw an even steeper route.

At this point I decided I better turn on my tracker so I could find my way out. Since I don’t have a clean recording I’m guessing it was about 500′ in 1/3 mile.

But finally I was almost there.

It was another perfect swimming lake! I found a campfire ring but zero indication of any flat area appropriate for camping.

6. Ruffey Lake

This is a popular day hike trail from the Etna Summit trailhead. The trail is in excellent condition appearing to have been recently maintained. The switchbacks were reasonably graded although you still descend 350 feet in about a half of mile. This view includes both Ruffey Lake and Etna Mountain.

The best place to swim is the rocky side of the lake, shown below in the distance. There’s an easy use trail around the lake and a short-cut trail straight down off the main trail.

There were tadpoles, guppies and fish near where I swam. This lake is a bit more mucky than some and I’m sure gets worse as the summer progresses. On this day like most of the other lakes I visited I had it to myself and I found it perfect for swimming.

7. Fisher and Marten Lakes

It’s a long dry 14-mile hike from Etna Summit to these lakes. I would revise this route to exit at Etna Summit and get back on at another trailhead such as Kelsey Creek or Shackleford Creek. I enjoyed a great swim in Fisher Lake which is right next to the PCT. It’s another lake that is fairly shallow and could be muddy a little later in the summer. It’s twin is Marten just a short distance away, also along the PCT.

Newts are like an aquatic lizard.

8. Man Eaten (aka Maneaten) Lake

I saved the best for last! Having been to this lake previously via other trailheads further north I knew this would be a great turnaround spot (blog link). I won’t lie it’s not a fun descent as it’s a combination of scree and steep loose dirt as you drop 500 feet in about 1/2 mile. This is the view from the PCT.

Finding turquoise-colored water in northern California is a rare treat. It is a deep lake with crystal clear water.

I met a group of 4 teenagers and a dad hiking out as I was arriving. They had caught several fish and sadly appeared to leave behind a bunch of trash. I was so glad I could collect before it ended up in the lake.

The lake outflow provided a nice waterfall.

I’d always wanted to camp at this lake so getting to witness sunset color was the perfect dessert for this trip.

The next morning as I hiked out, I was gifted this reflection.

Lakes I didn’t visit:

Jackson Lake – this is a lake on private property.

Lipstick Lake – I visited this one from the Ducks Lakes side a few years ago so wasn’t interested in a Take 2. That trip made a lasting impression, in a very negative way (blog link).

Taylor Lake – there is a steep use trail from the PCT down to to the lake but this one is much better reached from the direct trailhead.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Tips:

  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

 

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Poison Canyon Trailhead . . . early summer jaunting

Rather than WOW per mile views, on this trip you get WILD per mile experiences. You’ll earn your views and grub by navigating your way through overgrowth, tree debris fields, and faint to non-existent trails. This is a place to find solitude. Over 5 days I crossed paths with 5 hikers. Intrigued?

I read somewhere that conditions had been improved on the Lilypad Lake/Thumb Rock Loop somewhat recently. I found a few cut logs as evidence on the way up to the junction. The trail steadily climbs from 4,100′ elevation at the trailhead to finally this first view of Ycatapom Peak.

While getting slapped in the face a few too many times as I worked my way through the low elevation foliage, I was rewarded with these late spring early summer blooms.

Bleeding Heart

Western Prince’s Pine

Leopard Lily

At 2.8 miles, having gained nearly 1,900′ in elevation, you reach the trail junction to Lilypad Lake and Thumb Rock. Since I hiked the loop in 2014 (blog link) I continued on the Poison Canyon Trail. Having now climbed 2,700′ in 4 miles you arrive at Tracy Trail to Boulder Lake junction. Not too much later you are granted this view of Lilypad Lake (bottom left), Thumb Rock and the beautiful hanging meadows.

To complete the panoramic view, Ycatapom Peak with Lilypad Lake visible in the lower middle. Trinity Lake is in the valley below.

Water becomes sparse and you may limited to meadow puddles in the early summer.

Given my late start and the upcoming water situation, I decided to camp before the ridge. It was breezy and chilly, ending with a 29F degree low and a frosty sleeping bag since I chose not to use my rainfly.

I got an early start the next morning and was treated to views of Mt Shasta as I climbed toward the Parker/Union Divide.

The views from the divide were impressive. At this point I was 5 miles and 3,500′ into my trip.

Landers Lake

My next destination was Landers Lake which is located in the crown of mountains in the middle of this photo. Red Rock Mountain (not to be confused with Red Mountain) is the dominant peak surrounding the lake. As is true within the Trinity Alps, what goes up must go down, sadly with little room to roam at the top. My original goal was to make it to the lake for my first night but between the elevation gain, trail conditions and water situation, it wasn’t in the cards.

This was a fun part of the trail where you got to stay high before dropping into the valley. It reminded me a bit of Knife’s Edge in Washington’s Goat Rocks Wilderness. In my perfect world, there would be lots more of this in the Trinities.

As I started my descent I found this lovely meadow of corn lilies not yet ready to bloom.

I was thrilled to find the first-of-the season blooms on owl’s clover.

These were one of the predominant blooms on this trek. Too many similar blooms to identify for this extreme amateur botanist.

At 8 miles I reached the junction to Landers Lake.

I attempted to reach the lake during my late April trip up Swift Creek, but there was too much snow (blog link).

Looking back from where I’d come.

The colors and textures of these rocks is eye candy to this want-to-be geologist.

And finally I arrived at lovely Landers Lake, 4,200′ and 10.5 miles from the trailhead (plus a 1,300′ descent). Red Rock Peak looks tiny in the background. For those more nimble than I, you can skip a few miles scheduled for my next leg of this journey by going over the shoulder rather than taking the trail.

Although it was quite early, I decided to spend the night as the next leg had water issues and more elevation gain than I was ready to tackle. So I wandered around enjoying the fluttering butterflies and warm sun, although the breeze made it too chilly for a dip.

Red Rock Mountain’s namesake red was very apparent in the early morning light.

Historical Mining Trail Loop

The next leg included the Sunrise Creek, Yellow Rose Mine and Dorleska Trails. I wanted to take one of two short cuts, but I knew from my experience it would end up wasting more time and energy than just taking the trail which meant descending before regaining that elevation. In retrospect I was happy with my decision when I saw I would have had to go through a huge ravine as well as deal with brush. So at 12.7 miles from the Poison Canyon Trailhead, I connected with the Sunrise Creek Trail.

There were a few wildflowers at around 6,000′ including these Mariposa Lilies.

Bog Orchid

Let the fun begin. Where oh where does the trail go? If I were a trail were would I be? Shall I go through the swamp or the bushes? At least these were short enough they didn’t slap me in the face like I found at the 4-5000′ elevation.

If you’re lucky you might find an old blaze on a tree, like this one without bark. How much longer will that tree be standing?

Look at those wide open views with plentiful opportunities for exploring.

At 14.5 miles with 5,500′ of elevation gain and 2,300′ of loss, I arrived at the Yellow Rose Mine Trail.

This notch is the shortcut route to Landers Lake. Doesn’t look too bad from this side. Red Rock Mountain is the left peak.

While many hike this loop to see the mining relics, my primary purpose was to see the mountains that flank the Salmon River drainage including the likes of this, Caribou Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge.

A recent hike included a trip to Horse Heaven, the high point above Tri-Forest Pass (blog link), the knoll at the far end of Sawtooth Ridge.

As you continue along the trail the views get better and better. This is Caribou Mountain with mostly private Josephine Lake easily visible in the middle of the photo. The Caribou Lakes basin is on the other side of the ridge. I believe that’s Caesar Cap Peak in the background, but it might be Thompson Peak.

Preachers Peak at 7,202 look pretty unimpressive and easily baggable at the ridge between Yellow Rose and Dorleska Mines. Wonder who this Preacher dude was as there’s not only a peak but also a campground named after him.

This was the first mining site I encountered except for a couple small pit mines with nothing that caught my eye worth sharing. I believe these are the remains of the Le Roy Mine. This USGS report (link) has some information regarding the mines. See page B131.

I believe these are the remains of the Yellow Rose Mine. This USGS report (link) has some information regarding the mines. See page B127.

The Dorleska Mine sites were spread over several areas. Additional information can be gleaned from the document referenced above, same page as Yellow Rose Mine. It’s hard to imagine hauling all this equipment up these steep trails, made more for mules than humans, but back in the late 1800’s miners were made of hardy stock but by 1938 they were ready to leave it all behind.

This pond just below Dorleska will forever hold negative memories.

I found myself flailing through deadfall on a steep slope and as I exited the shade, I realized my hat was gone. What? NOOOOOO! I usually have it tethered to my pack for this very reason. So back up to the ridge I went, searching searching searching and calling out to my hat, “BLUE oh BLUE where are you?”

Finding myself out of luck and a little mournful as I said goodbye to my old friend Blue. As I headed down toward Bullards Basin, I found this lovely meadow of Blue-Eyed Grass. It helped me deal with my loss.

Foster, Lion, Conway and Big Boulder Lakes

After 21.5 miles with 6,300′ elevation gain and 4,600′ loss, I reached the junction for the Lion Lake Trail, bypassing options to Union Lake.

I got an early morning start climbing up the ridge. I was greeted by this meadow of Cow Parsley.

I had awesome views looking back at Red Rock Mountain and the ring of peaks hiding Landers Lake.

Looking back I can see down to where I camped the previous night, the drainage leading around the bend to those views of Caribou Mountain and of course Red Rock Mountain with Landers Lake in the front and the mines on the other side. You can’t see in this photo, but there is a huge swath of headless trees which I’m assuming are the result of an avalanche at some point in the past.

Finally I was back at Foster Lake, a place I’d visited in 2014 on my loop hike from Boulder Lake trailhead to Foster Lake, then down to Thumb Rock and Lilypad Lake before returning to the trailhead (blog link).

It was time to try out my invention. My eyes are extremely sun sensitive and knew I’d suffer without a visor. So as I was packing I placed my Nat Geo map inside a gaiter which went inside another gaiter. They have elastic cords at one end that usually hold them up and I was able to attach those to my ponytail, using a buff to keep it on my head. I’m happy to report it worked well for my final two days, never bouncing around or falling off. Function wins over fashion!

The trail building efforts from years begone through the granite have remained firmly in place. The staircases are much appreciated.

However, the trail traversing along Lion and Conway Lakes is quickly becoming more of a deer path rather than one for human use. If you have exposure and sideslipping trail issues, I’d have second thoughts.

I loved this stretch showcasing nature’s gardening.

As I dropped elevation I was faced with more down trees, blow down and overgrowth. There was one obstacle so large there wasn’t safe passage but I had to figure out a way and take my chances. This trail needs some love. I was feeling pretty grumpy coming into Big Boulder Lake. I was prepared for it to be busy as it’s very near the Boulder Lakes Trailhead. Upon arrival there was an obnoxious couple cussing up a storm and a group camped on a distant shore. I wandered the shoreline looking for a place I could access the lake for a swim. No real options except in the overused camping area so back I went. As I was getting ready to swim several other groups arrived. One group decided to start a fire. It was 2pm and hot enough to want to be in the shade. What’s next? That’s right the stereo is fired up and the booze comes out. Yep that was my cue to get myself up the trail. On a positive note the swim was invigorating and a few of the lilies were blooming but they were too far from shore to get a photo.

My original plan had been to go off trail to Tapie, Lost and Found Lakes which are hidden behind the granite mounds to the left in the below photo; Big Boulder Lake is in the middle. Since my route had been much more challenging than anticipated, I was not only short of stamina but was also on food rations. I noted the jump off point for a future trip.

Instead I decided to spend the night on the ridge, enjoying a few hours with Mt Shasta and capturing this wonderful sunrise.

With my rationed food selection, it was time to chow and start the long downhill descent.

The bears seem to like this brushy canyon. This was about the freshest pile I’ve seen. Once before I came upon a pile still steaming, but this one was still had a nice urine ring. I saw another pile about a mile later. Never saw a bear but saw plenty of evidence throughout this route.

The next section of trail was through more down trees, blow down, overgrown bushes, through meadows, etc. I was so tired of getting slapped in the face with branches and having my face draped with webs. But I survived and lived to tell this story. There is no better way to end this post than with a few more of the blooms I saw on this lollipop loop route.

Followed by a well deserved meal.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 28 – July 2, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Stoney Ridge Trailhead . . . Late Spring Jaunting

This is possibly my favorite area in the Trinity Alps for WOW per mile geology. It’s where the red meets gray. It’s the story of “mixed up geology” as one author wrote. According to another source, it’s a combination of red serpentine and peridotite rock plus significant intrusions of other kinds of rock. Add to that granite and glacial activity and you’ve got incredible eye candy. It’s well beyond my knowledge base so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

My goal this trip was to see more areas via high points. I had a loose itinerary, as is my typical modus operandi, limited only by the 6 days of food I was carrying. But first I have to share a couple of new-to-me orchids that I was so excited to spy along the trail.

Spotted Coralroot Orchid

Phantom Orchid

Since I’ve previously written about Stoney Ridge Trail, Siligo Peak and Four Lakes Loop (link), I’m going to focus on views from the passes.

Stonewall Pass

From Granite Peak, this is the view looking down at colorful Stonewall Pass flanked by the gray granite peaks separating Stuart Fork and Canyon Creek.

It’s a long steady climb up to Stonewall Pass. According to my Gaia tracker 4.8 miles from the trailhead with 2,650′ of ascent.

From the pass you get views in the distance of Mount Hilton at 8838 feet, Sawtooth Mountain at 8733 feet (not to be confused with Sawtooth Ridge), and Caesar Peak at 8,904 feet. Below is Van Matre Meadows and to the right is Siligo Peak at 7,926 feet.

This north facing slope is a good place to judge conditions for further up the trail, and why early spring travel is not advisable.

This is a view of the pass from further north on my return to the trailhead.

Van Matre Meadows makes a good overnight spot for those who prefer shorter miles or get a late start and want to avoid of crowds at nearby Echo Lake.

To the left is the glacial bowl holding Echo Lake. This little pond offers nice reflection in the early season when there is plentiful water.

Little Stonewall Pass

From the trailhead it’s about 6.5 miles and 3,175′ up mixed with 500′ down to this pass. The views aren’t nearly as impressive although it provides a view down toward Siligo Meadows and Deer Creek Pass. Summit Lake is hidden behind the peak on the left. Long Canyon comes up the drainage to the right.

Even though it was mid June, it was 33F degrees at my camp overnight and much cooler the next morning as I gained elevation.

This is a view of the pass from further north on my return to the trailhead.

Deer Creek Pass

It’s hard not to squeal with delight when you feast your eyes upon this view, even after seeing it multiple times. Deer Lake takes center stage. To the left is Siligo Peak a perfect example of red meeting gray. The geology of this area is so interesting. The trail to Summit Lake includes a traverse along the left slope. This north facing slope is a real deterrent in early season, with potential serious consequences. It’s 8.25 miles and 3,750′ gain with 900′ loss to reach this pass. In the far distance is Caribou Mountain at 8,339′. The nearer ridge to the right includes Packers Peak, Black Mountain, Russian Peak and Red Rock Mountain.

Looking back toward Deer Creek Ridge and I believe Middle Peak in the distance. This view shows the traversing trail with potential steep snow fields; looks can be deceiving.

I discourage snow hiking novices from attempting this when snow is present as the conditions were varied and following old steps weren’t always best practices due to heat/melt/freeze cycles. There were several places with rotten or hollow snow. Early morning it was still quite solid and icy. Afternoon was soft and more forgiving.

Summit Lake / Siligo Peak Pass

It’s a little over 9 miles to this junction, with 4,000′ of elevation gain and 1,000′ of loss. You can see the switchbacks going up. Once again this is a place where experience matters.

While beautiful, Summit Lake is usually quite busy. Your only drinking water source is the lake which is also used for swimming and bathing. Furthermore there is limited nearby areas for taking care of personal business so I expect more ends up in the lake than you’d want to know.

Diamond Lake with views including Sawtooth Mountain and Little Granite Peak.

Smith and Morris Lakes are hidden up on Sawtooth Mountain on one of those shelves. They are still on my must visit list. I came close once but ran out of time (link).

Looking back at the ridge where there was a tricky descent to avoid the broken snow cornice.

Getting down to Luella Lake required more snow navigation. From this ridge you can see the west facing side of Seven Up Peak which looks completely different than the gray granite eastern side. The trail to Granite Lake starts at the dip where red meets gray.

Looking back up toward Deer Creek Pass and Siligo Peak, which is well worth a side trip (link).

Morning light.

Tri-Forest Divide

The view from Black(s) Basin to the high point above Tri-Forest Divide. It’s the green peak in front of Sawtooth Ridge.

The view from the Seven Up traverse trail.

Continuing down the Deer Creek Trail leads to a junction with Stuart Fork Trail as well as to seldom used Tri-Forest Trail (aka Willow Creek Trail), the passage to Big Flat Trailhead.

You won’t find a sign until you start up the trail but the junction has been marked by rock cairns.

Despite the fact this trail gets little use and is rarely if ever maintained it was fairly easy to follow with well placed cairns. It was devoid of major obstacles or bushwhacking, although it could use some raking as there was a lot of tree litter covering the tread. It is well above average grade however making it steeper than I like. According to my tracker it’s 2.5 miles from the trail junction to the high point with 2,200′ in elevation gain.

I’d say it gets more 4-legged visitors than 2-legged humans.

I found proof that occasionally others found this a worthy side trip. How do you lose a lens? Later I found a pair of glasses (on a different trail).

When you reach the divide, you say YES to more climbing. YES YES YES! When I was introduced to this viewpoint I was told it was called Horse Heaven. I’m guessing it had to do with all the green that kept the horses happy while the humans went sightseeing.

Soon you’ll see the Sawtooth Ridge.

Looking down at Stuart Fork including Morris Meadow and Emerald Lake.

To the upper left is Deer Creek Pass; to the right is Stuart Fork.

The meadow high up on the left is Black Basin. Deer Creek Pass is in top middle.

Although I really wanted to camp at Black Basin, I’d zapped all my climbing energy. There are several nice campsites near the Deer Creek/Black Basin Trail junction.

It was great to get cleaned up and take care of laundry. Having a little shade was nice as well . . . although I was still wishing for views.

There’s a large group campsite near this view.

Black(s) Basin / Bear Creek Pass

As viewed from the high point above Tri-Forest Divide, the meadow in the center is Black or Blacks Basin. To the right is Seven Up Peak. The trail drops off to Bear Creek and Bear Basin in the distance. It’s about 3 miles and 1,700′ from the Deer Creek Trail junction up to and around Black Basin to Seven-Up Pass.

This photo shows Deer Creek drainage running down the middle with Black Basin in the upper left, and Deer Creek Pass in the upper middle. You can reach this area from several connecting trails including Swift Creek, Long Canyon, Stoney Ridge, Stuart Fork and Big Flat.

From Blacks Basin you get views back toward Tri-Forest Divide and the Sawtooth Ridge, as well as the mountains dividing Stuart Fork and Canyon Creek.

This is the north/northeast side of Seven Up Peak.

Seven Up Pass

This view from above Luella Lake shows the west side of Seven Up Mountain with Seven Up/Black Basin/Bear Creek Pass on the left and Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass on the right where the red and gray meet.

From the pass you have a view of Mt Shasta as well as the descent into Bear Basin.

The pass provides easy access to summit Seven Up Peak. On this day I opted not to summit given the snow status.

The trail traverses along the east side providing awesome views of Luella Lake and Siligo Peak.

Switchbacked trail runs down the red side toward the lake. The trail to Luella is a bit tippy and eroded in places; probably not the best place for those nervous about exposure. I met a family who said the same about the trail traversing Seven Up Mountain.

This was the worst part of the Seven Up traverse trail, at least in my opinion.

You get excellent views of Sawtooth Ridge and the high point above Tri-Forest Divide.

As well as the mountains flanking the Stuart Fork drainage.

The view toward the Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass as you continue along the traverse.

Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass

This view from above Luella Lake shows the west side of Seven Up Mountain with Seven Up/Black Basin/Bear Creek Pass on the left and Swift Creek/Deer Creek Pass on the right where the red and gray meet.

Looking at the switchbacks from the pass down to Deer Creek. You can see Round Lake and if you look closely Luella Lake as well.

From the pass looking down toward Granite Lake, Trinity Lake and the Swift Creek drainage.

A closer look at Granite Lake and Gibson Peak. I should have scrambled around a bit more for a better perspective.

Reconnecting to Deer Creek Trail with a long ascent to return to Deer Creek Pass. According to my tracker 1,110′ and 1.65 miles.

There was still snow on the trail returning to the Deer Creek Divide.

Back at Deer Lake and the great bug hatch.

And finally back at Deer Creek Pass.

Granite Peak

Stonewall Pass is around the corner and up toward the left. It appears you could access Granite Peak near the pass or at least Red Mountain Meadow and although tempting to retain currently elevation gains, I’ve learned about those long short cuts. The trail actually starts much lower and stays more to the right side of the mountain. According to my tracker it’s about 1.5 miles with 1,200 feet in elevation gain from the trail junction to the lookout site.

I camped in Red Mountain Meadow so I could get an early start on my summit attempt.

I was on the trail by 7am. I was looking forward to my post-hike dip in Trinity Lake.

The trail junction sign is high on a tree and not obvious. The trail itself is fairly obvious but I’d recommend watching your GPS map.

The trail was in pretty good shape until I got to a few stream crossings. I found myself off track in a messy forest before stumbling upon these items from probably a hunter’s camp. I added my findings to my cache to retrieve upon my descent and add to my LNT credits.

Also found my friend yogi again, well at least his scat.

Granite Peak can be accessed via a dedicated trail off of Highway 3 or this one from Stoney Ridge. This is the junction where the two are joined.

First signs of the old lookout.

It appears the lookout was constructed in 1941. I looked online for a photo but was unsuccessful. The best source I’ve found for lookout history is at californialookouts.weebly.com, and this is what it had to say (link). It too was missing a photo. “DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1954 (LSB) THE STATION IS THE APEX OF THE GRANITE PEAK LOOKOUT HOUSE WHICH IS A WHITE FRAME STRUCTURE ABOUT 20 FEET SQUARE AT THE BASE AND APPROXIMATELY 16 FEET IN HEIGHT. THE BUILDING IS SURROUNDED BY A 3-FOOT CAT WALK AND ENCLOSED WITH WINDOWS. IT IS THE PROPERTY OF THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE.”

The actual peak is at the top of the rock pile. On solo adventures I generally avoid scrambling so no true summit on this day.

The peak register was located in the foundation of the old lookout, so I could say I was there regardless.

The 360 views were pretty great although air quality wasn’t the best on this date. Mt Shasta took center stage, while Granite Peak hung out to the left and Trinity Lake invited a swim.

This is the view back to Stonewall Pass.

Granite Peak doesn’t look very exciting from the trailhead.

Flora

Do you know about galls? According to Morton Arboretum, “Galls are abnormal growths that occur on leaves, twigs, roots, or flowers of many plants. Most galls are caused by irritation and/or stimulation of plant cells due to feeding or egg-laying by insects such as aphids, midges, wasps, or mites. Some galls are the result of infections by bacteria, fungi, or nematodes and are difficult to tell apart from insect-caused galls. Seeing the insect or its eggs may help you tell an insect gall from a gall caused by other organisms. In general, galls provide a home for the insect, where it can feed, lay eggs, and develop. Each type of gall-producer is specific to a particular kind of plant.” My friend Joan helped helped produce a video for Arches National Park about these cool anomalies (link).

I loved how this phlox found a way to take root on this rock.

The Dr. Seuss flowers were nearly ready to pop.

What would a spring trip be without blooms?

Adventure Dates:

  • June 16-20, 2020

Hike Details:

Tips:

Signage in the Trinity Alps can be confusing. This was the first time I’d heard of Willow Creek and had to research to find out it was the Tri-Forest Trail that connects to Big Flat. You need a map to know alternate trail names. If you are going by signs it’d be easy to take the wrong option. For example the Long Canyon option also returns you to Stoney Ridge.

Resources:

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Tangle Blue Lake Trailhead . . . spring jaunting

While you’ll find information for Tangle Blue Lake in guidebooks, it takes more than casual preparation to find the trailhead as there’s no signage at the highway junction. In fact this sign at the trailhead no longer exists. This is a photo from my 2013 visit. 

This is your 2020 welcome board.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone refer to this as the Grand National Trail, named for an old road to the Grand National Mine. This sign has been defaced since I took this photo in 2013. Maybe because the mileage isn’t exactly accurate. It’s now 3.75 miles from the trailhead to the lake although I’m not sure how far along the trail this sign is located.

This sign is long gone as well. I’d like to think it was removed by the Forest Service for maintenance rather than stolen.

Expect 1,200 feet in elevation gain on a well-used, rocky, easy-to-follow trail. According to Mike White’s Trinity Alps book, “Legend suggests that Tangle Blue Lake and Creek were named by an early resident of the area who started his trip into the wilderness after awaking from a long night of partying to find his feet tangled and the air blue.”

It’s a rare treat to get the lake to yourself like I did. There are far more private campsites along the creek or further up the trail.

Marshy Lakes

There are several options for exploring off the main trail, although signage is somewhat lacking and trails are not necessarily maintained. My goal for this trip was to hike to Marshy Lakes, then up to East Boulder Lakes, followed by a northwest jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail, then returning on the Tangle Blue Lake Trail which connects to the Eagle Creek Trail.

You’ll need decent navigation skills to find the lakes. Along the main spur trail, you’ll see a pond before finding a trail near a “no hunting” sign which leads to Little Marshy Lake.

There is a mighty fine camping area which is on private property, a carve out in the wilderness (shown below on the map). The memorial is for a mule or horse. They even have piped water to a faucet. So fancy!

The lighter shade on the map represents private property which includes a little more than half of Little Marshy Lake, the end with the camp.

At the far end of the lake, you’ll find this waterfall created from Big Marshy Lake’s outlet.

Big Marshy Lake.

East Boulder Lakes

I recommend reversing direction slightly from Big Marshy Lake to reconnect with the old road and current use trail to the PCT. Attempting a short-cut ends up being a lot more wasted time and effort. You can see my track on the above map photo when I wandered to the left of the trail.

When I hiked the PCT in 2015, I wasn’t inclined to add miles so I was excited to see the East Boulder Lakes basin. I explored the ridges on both sides of the pass but wasn’t motivated to hike down into the basin itself.

Pacific Crest Trail

The PCT provided spectacular views down toward Big Marshy Lake and the mountains towering above Tangle Blue Lake.

The close-up details of the rocks was worthy of closer inspection and pondering the geologic history.

You can expect snow on the PCT in early spring. Some patches had serious consequences should you slip.

I spent a night along the PCT where I got to watch this bald eagle hunting for it’s dinner.

It was a perfect place to watch the nearly full moon rise while smiling at this sunset view.

The next morning I enjoyed a brilliant sunrise with Mt Shasta hidden within.

I continued hiking northwest on the PCT. My next POI was Middle Boulder Lakes basin. It was filled with a frog choir. I’d need earplugs to camp there. I considered hiking the loop that connects these lakes with Telephone Lake.

I caught a little cell signal for an updated weather forecast which told me no lollygagging.

I found a great view of the northern side of Caribou Mountain and other major peaks of the Trinity Alps.

I tried to find a view down to West Boulder Lake but without a trail and steep cluttered hillsides, I wasn’t too motivated to play hide and seek. However, there’s a trail junction on the PCT for another lakes basin which includes Mavis, Fox Creek, Virginia and Section Line Lakes.

The lakes aren’t visible from the junction but if you hike up a bit and explore the ridge, you can find this view of Mavis Lake.

I was able to see Virginia Lake with my naked eye, but it was hard to capture with my camera. It’s tucked just below the granite side of the mountain. I met a group who were staying at Fox Lake. They said it was a great base camp from which they’d spen one day hiking to all the lakes in the basin and the next up to the PCT and down a side trail to Wolford Cabin. So many options for loops and trip extensions. Be warned though, trail conditions are a big unknown especially given recent fires.

Bloody Run Trail / Eagle Creek Divide / Eagle Creek Trail / Tangle Blue Trail

I reversed direction back to this trail junction. I had no idea if I’d find remnants of trail or if it would be a big mess or . . . it was a big mystery but one I was willing to at least take a stab at ground truthing. I was happy to at least see this sign on the PCT (it reads Bloody Run Trail and Eagle Creek Divide).  As you may recall I found the sign for the Eagle Creek junction when I was on my way to the Marshy Lakes.

Step 1, go the 1/4 mile to the divide. Take a look around and see if I could find a trail that matched my digital map.

I found the divide without incident on a fairly well used trail to a campsite. From there I wasn’t able to find the trail that connects to Wolford Cabin but found the light use trail continuing down Bloody Run to this junction. By this time I was beyond hopeful as I’d dropped quite a bit of elevation and was not looking forward to reversing direction.

I was thrilled to find this sign at the junction of Eagle Creek Trail and Tangle Blue Trail.

According to the map you can connect to/from the PCT to the Tangle Blue Trail. I didn’t find any evidence on the PCT but I found this sign along the Tangle Blue Trail and it looked like a fairly straight shot through an open meadow but I didn’t check it out so it remains a mystery.

I found a few old trail blazes on trees. I wouldn’t attempt this trail without excellent off-trail navigation skills. When you temporarily lose the trail, backtrack and watch the digital map as the old trail stays fairly true to what’s shown on the maps.

Cairns were well placed in many spots, and very helpful with the navigation game.

It was a beautiful area filled with meadows, flowers, streams and views.

The lower section is more in the forest and bit messier than the upper section. Had I been paying better attention and not gotten off track a one point where I found myself in a manzanita quagmire, I would have been 100% thrilled I’d taken this alternate. Buy hey, I came, I explored, I survived.

I was especially excited to find this sign on my way back to the main trail. Yes, the Tangle Blue Trail exists!

After that wild day, I found a cozy spot to call it a night. If I hadn’t gotten off track, I probably would have camped along the Tangle Blue Trail where I would have had more open views. But that too is all part of the adventure and something that will keep this trip memorable.

Grand National Mine

On a previous trip I took the side trail to explore the mine. I didn’t find a sign this trip, but it’s pretty easy to spot the old road. You can see the red roof of the old stamp mill in the lower left corner of this photo I captured as I was coming down the Tangle Blue Trail from the Marshy Lakes/Eagle Creek junction. You can see the old road above the mill. Someday I want to come back and continue further up the road to the ridge. I’m sure it would offer excellent views.

As of my 2013 visit there was lots of debris left behind. According to the Trinity Lake Revitalization Alliance, “The Grand National Mine produced about 1,500 ounces of gold, 2,200 ounces of silver, and 1,900 pounds of copper between 1934 and 1937. A few ounces of gold and silver were produced in 1930 and 1931. Nearly 54 percent of the gold was from quartz veins, which assayed at an average value of $23 per ton. The owner estimated that some 22,600 tons of material was in the three veins of the main mine diggings as of the late 1960s. At some $20 per ton, that was a value worth pursuing. Of course, now that the mine is wholly within the Trinity Alps Wilderness, it has been retired for all practical purposes.”

Flora and Fauna:

Early spring flowers were abundant on this trip. I was especially happy to see the lavender pasqueflowers just waiting to become Dr. Seuss blooms.

Although I thought these were all bleeding hearts, it appears a couple are really steersheads, all in the Dicentra family.

This trip was devoid of bears, instead my wildlife was this snake and a lot of frogs.

For a high-use trail, it had very little trash or obvious TP. I picked up quite a lot of micro trash on the first section and later on found these sunglasses. They were covered in mud and looked like they’d been lost a long time ago.

A little something new to get used to as we experience this COVID-19 global pandemic.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 2-5, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

 

CA – Marble Mountains Wilderness, Mule Bridge Trailhead . . . Spring Jaunting

There isn’t a lot of information available about the trails in the Marbles. Thankfully I have Art Bernstein’s book, “Best Hikes of the Marble Mountain and Russian Wilderness Areas, California” written in 1996 but to date still the best resource (available at Amazon). However, since it is aging, it’s best to visit a local ranger station such as the one in Fort Jones as the Klamath Forest Service website doesn’t offer many clues either although I did find they are keeping a trail conditions report (link). Many years ago I picked up some handouts they offered. I don’t know if those are still available either.

It’s a little confusing that the trailhead name doesn’t correlate with the trail name which is North Fork Salmon River. There isn’t a trail name sign nor other indicator that this bridge is the beginning of the trail.

You know you’re in the right place when you see the wilderness boundary sign.

The trail is in good condition for the first few miles as it meanders along the river, crossing multiple creeks. Most of the early crossings can be easily done without getting your feet wet but later on plan for a couple that are deep and swift.

Along the creek and river was lots of Indian Rhubarb, one of my favorite flowers.

There were also plenty of other flowers like these sedum and Naked Broomrape (Orobanche uniflora).

I believe these are Senecio integerrimus (aka Lambstongue ragwort, Mountain butterweed). It was fun observing them in various stages of development.

And a nice mix of so many more spring blooms with critters as a bonus.

I found a perfect rocky bank for a break where I could watch the river cascading downward. Something caught my eye in that waterfall. At first I thought it was a log but as I studied it more carefully I was amazed to find a river otter. What a treat to watch him bob up and down and gracefully power past me. No photos only the memory of this moment.

While sitting on this special rock, I had a couple of visitors. I couldn’t figure out why they were so inquisitive and hanging out within inches of me until I noticed a new hatch of some type of insect. They were having a feeding frenzy.

It was also on this rock where I found a large distribution of Siskiyou Lewisia.

It took me about 3 hours to reach bridge #2, the last of the easy dry-feet river crossings.

Fire, age and neglect are evident at Abbot Ranch.

At 6.5 miles from the trailhead, this sign marks the junction of Right Hand Fork, which continues to Shelly Meadows requiring a water crossing, much too swift this day. In fact I couldn’t easily determine where the path continued on the opposite shore. This area includes several well used campsites, one which I called home.

The deer used the nearby trail for quick access to the water. They were curious but not deterred by my presence.

The next morning, back at the junction, it was time to continue going north/northwest along the North Fork of Salmon River.

It didn’t take long to find much different trail conditions with some of my favorite obstacles.

Water crossings went from ankle to crotch deep with at least two being through swift water.

There were a couple of sections of trail with fairly serious drop-offs. The trail was sufficiently level and wide, although it might make some hikers and livestock nervous.

The forest was a mix of some mildly burned areas to other more severe areas. These burned areas limit potential camping in otherwise topographically friendly zones bordering the river.

I saw quite a bit of fresh bear scat and activity, but no bears during this visit.

Knowing horses use this trail makes me happy as they help remove the down trees and maintain the trails for equestrian safety.

With the recent burns, conditions seemed right for morels. I believe a permit is required to harvest from the wilderness.

This was an unusual white or albino mushroom/fungus.

The actual signed location of the Lake of the Island trail junction is nowhere near where it’s shown on USGS digital map. It’s quite a ways further west and 11 miles from the trailhead. There’s an unsigned light use trail near where it shows on the map. I didn’t explore but guessed it was to a campsite. The trail is more properly placed on the USFS map.

The Abbot Lake/Wooley Creek junction was a better match to the digital map at 12.25 miles from the trailhead. It too is signed although the trail to Abbot Lake was not evident as it begins through a grassy meadow.

This way to Abbot Lake.

This way to Wooley Creek and several lakes including Horse Range and Wild Lakes as well as Lakes Katherine and Ethel. In the guidebook this is referred to as the Big Meadows/Bug Gulch Trail.

There is a well used campsite at the junction where I found some leftover utensils and this saw which I considered taking for trail maintenance. My pack was heavy with 6 days of food, so I decided to reconsider as I exited.

My next objective was English Lake and then hopefully English Peak.

I loved this big old tree, which I believe is incense cedar.

It was impossible to resist taking a break on top of this huge piece of rock. I was looking forward to a possible view.

And views I found! Looking back toward the trailhead.

The junction to English Lake around mile 14.5 isn’t marked but hard to miss. The campsites are in the shade of the trees. The shoreline is choked with willows making it challenging to find a spot to gather water, fish or swim.

I wandered for an hour trying to find a campsite location where I could see the lake and peak. This was the best I could find. I also wanted as much sun as possible as it was quite chilly with a breeze.

It dropped to a very frosty 25F overnight.

It was obvious I wouldn’t be hiking to 7,350′ English Peak nor over the ridge to Hancock Lake. So I decided to leave camp set up so my tent could dry out while I hiked as far as I could to obtain views of English Lake and Peak from a different perspective.

The trail traverses to the right of English Lake.

Upper English Lake is visible at the top of the meadow in this photo.

This heart of snow may have caused me to detour but it didn’t deter me from continuing upward.

Eventually these slick, post holey, unstable snowfields were a big enough deterrent to encourage a little bouldering for a better view.

This looked like a reasonable objective.

When I made it to the ridge I could see the lookout on top of English Peak.

I could see the distant peaks over the ridge and imagine the location of Diamond Lake, one of my original objectives.

If I would have made it to the lookout, Mt Shasta is said to be visible.

It was exciting to spy Hancock Lake, another hopeful objective of this trip.

English Lake to the left and English Peak to the right.

English Lake

A funny story came out of this trip. About a mile from the trailhead, the bridge had recently been replaced and the crews were finishing up with installation when I arrived. They told me it would be several hours before I could drive across. I parked below the bridge across from another trail. I talked to the crew and verified it’d be okay to park there and gained permission to walk the bridge. As I drove through Etna I noticed a USFS Law Enforcement vehicle at the gas station. I stopped to chat about another issue only to find out the officer was about to initiate SAR on my behalf. The construction guys were sure this “old lady with a day pack” was in trouble. They reported their concerns on Thursday. The officer ran my plates and upon noticing my PCT sticker decided I was probably one of those thru hikers who carries a tiny pack. He was on his way to check on my car again when I appeared. Good thing since I wasn’t expected for a few more days. I have to say I wasn’t offended and instead feel honored to be part of the gray-haired club who’s earned a little extra TLC.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 20-23, 2020

Hike Details:

Note: This includes extra mileage as I parked a mile from the trailhead. I also spent time exploring, meandering and wandering so just consider it a vague idea as to what your might experience.

Tips:

  • Stop at the Ranger Station in Fort Jones for information on trail conditions.
  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.

Resources:

Links:

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