CA – Shasta-Trinity and Lassen National Forests . . . falling into winter

Not only did I spend time this fall in Lassen Volcanic National Park (link), but I also found a few other favorite places in far Northern California to jaunt. 

Hike #1 – Castle Lake Trailhead

Castle Lake 

Little Castle Lake 

Mt Shasta Views 

Castle Crags and Lassen Views (on a smoky day) 

Hiking Date: October 21, 2018





Hike #2 – Trinity Alps, Stuart Fork Trailhead 

Hiking Date: October 28, 2018


Hike #3 – Lassen, Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center 

Ridge Lakes 

Date Hiked: November 30, 2018

Hike #4 – Mt Shasta, Bunny Flat Trailhead 

Black Butte 

Date Hiked: December 2, 2018

Hike #5 – Castle Lake Trailhead 

Date Hiked: December 6, 2018 (no stats on this date)

Hike #6 – Mt Shasta, Bunny Flat Trailhead 

Sierra Club Horse Camp Cabin 

Date Hiked: December 10, 2018



Hike #7 – PCT, Dog Trailhead 

Date Hiked: December 13, 2018

Hike #8 – PCT, Twin Bridges Trailhead 

Date Hiked: December 19, 2018


Hike #9 – Mt Shasta, Southeast Wanderings 

The bears were still wandering around. 

Date Hiked: December 22, 2018

Hike #10 – PCT, Cache 22 Trailhead

Final sunset of 2018

Date Hiked: December 31, 2018 (no stats)

Instead here’s my cheer to you for a fantastic 2019 filled with adventure, good health and plenty of smiles.

And that my friends is a wrap for 2018. Below is my year in review video.


CA – Bear Lakes Trail, Trinity Alps Wilderness

With more fair weather in the forecast, I wanted more time in the Trinity Alps. After my less-than-perfect weather outing on the Canyon Creek Trail, where I was turned around by the creek, I decided to look for day hike options. After collecting a list of seasonal road closures from the Weaverville Ranger Station, I set out to hike to Stoddard Lake, only to find the road closed. So much for advanced prep. Oh well, there are a couple other nearby trailheads. As I traveled north I stopped to check on the supposedly closed road to Bear Lakes. I guess the ranger got things mixed up. No closure! This was a trail I’d never visited but which had always been on my list. Score!

Before you reach this sign, you’ll most likely get your feet wet crossing this creek where the road abruptly stops.

It’s quite a steep drop off and nearly impossible to drop down the embankment thus the trail has been rerouted downstream a bit making for a much more hiker friendly crossing.

Further upstream, the civilized way to cross creeks. I love bridges! Not to get political, but our trails and trailhead access roads are showing extreme neglect from years of underfunding. The Trinity Alps Wilderness trail conditions report was eliminated in 2017. At this point I think it’s going to take volunteers to adopt and maintain trails.

Recent rains and snowmelt from warmer temperatures made for lively waterfalls.

I quickly found this to be a good workout trail. There was plentiful huffin’ n puffin’ as I climbed and climbed and climbed, stopping frequently to release the extra weight from my poles. 

Although great to be able to hike at elevation in late November, the lack of snow is concerning. 

The Bear Lakes basin is comprised of Big Bear, Litter Bear and Wee Bear Lakes. The smooth granite had me wishing for a warm summer day and plenty of time to climb to the ridge. 

Much of the granite was covered in ice, making for very treacherous hiking. In some places like in this photo, water was still running under the ice. I tried to capture a video but in the process dropped my phone on that icy cold granite, face first knocking it unconscious. 

Hoarfrost was also evident. 

Check out the icy pathways. It would have been a good idea to carry microspikes.

There was even ice forming in the trees. 

At 2pm I reached this creek crossing. With dark arriving just before 5pm, the right choice was to wait to see the lakes until I can spend multiple days in the basin. 

I spent a little time enjoying the views. 

My favorite image. Reminds me of Castle Crags. 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: November 30, 2017
  • Mileage (per ViewRanger): ? Phone DOA
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): ? Phone DOA (a good steep climb)
  • Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): ? Phone DOA
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: adequate
    • Terrain: mostly well graded
  • Navigation Skills: minimal to moderate to Big Bear Lake
  • Water availability: moderate
  • Camping availability: moderate
  • Solitude: I was only one on trail in late November; don’t expect the same during prime hiking season
  • Bugs: None
  • Wildlife: Pretty Quiet
  • Precip: None on this date
  • Temp: I believe it was in high 20’s at the trailhead
  • LNT: No problems
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5)


  • Prepare for wet feet crossings
  • In early winter consider carrying microspikes for the icy conditions



CA – Canyon Creek Trail, Trinity Alps Wilderness

I’ve probably spent more time hiking and backpacking in the Trinity Alps than anywhere else. When I returned home in October, I was craving a visit. Sadly I learned most of the trailheads were closed due to nearby summer fires. I kissed time in this wilderness goodbye for 2017. However, after a series of rain storms the forest service rescinded the closure order. The forecast said it’s gonna be a week of clear skies. As an opportunist, I said YES, it’s go time! 

As I drove west toward the trailhead, I soon found myself engulfed in fog, which transitioned to low clouds. I figured worse case if the weather turns sour I’ll make it a day hike. To reach my intended destination I’d need to overnight on the trail. I was prepared either way. Mostly I was just happy to be back on trail in my beloved Trinity Alps. I was welcomed back with treats from recent rains. 

With the calendar about ready to flip to December, it was easy to see autumn falling into winter. 

Snow melt and recent rains led to active waterfalls, steams and creeks. 

For some reason I was propelled forward, even with deteriorating conditions. My heart said, but the forecast said . . . I was certain the clouds would part, the sun would shine and all would be good. 

At 3:45, I came to the Canyon Creek crossing. I was already damp and chilly from the light and intermittent snow, sleet and rain showers throughout the day (love my hiking umbrella). I looked up and down the creek for dry crossings. These logs were an option but they were wet and slippery and required jungle gym antics I wasn’t up for attempting. 

I was confident I’d be wet up to knee or higher. I wasn’t carrying water shoes and I’ve learned my lesson about barefoot travel (just say NO!). Fires aren’t permitted at this elevation or higher at the lakes so I’d have no way to warm up or dry out. With a disappointed face, I made the decision to turn around. My primary reason for going to the lakes was to enjoy the sunset and sunrise views. With the overcast skies that wasn’t going to happen. I’d been before, I’d go again . . . for now it was time to turn around. 

Of course shortly after I turned around, the sky started giving me glimpses of blue. 

The trail has been rerouted to nearer the creek where more waterfalls can be easily accessed. 

I got to see a tiny bit of color as I quickly hiked toward a campsite.

I had second thoughts about my decision to turnaround, or at least considered camping above treeline.

With conditions uncertain, I continued my descent until I found this nice little home for the night. I’d marked several potential sites on my tracking app but as dark was nipping at my heels I grabbed the first flat protected option. This photo is from the next morning as I was packing up. I’m still pretty excited that I’ve been able to sneak in late November backpacking trips the past three years.

My original plan was to hike to Canyon Creek Lakes for my first night followed by a trip to Boulder Lakes. Since I’d elected to skip Canyon Creek Lakes due to the creek crossing, I knew I wasn’t going to want to attempt the more significant crossing required to get to Boulder Creek Lakes. So instead I enjoyed a leisurely hike back to the trailhead. 

As I was putting together this post, I realized that I’ve neglected to include on my blog many of my trips into the Trinity Alps. Someday, I’ll need to rectify that . . . someday . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: November 28-29, 2017
  • Mileage (per ViewRanger): about 14 round trip
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): 2,750/2,2750
  • Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): ? phone died before it could be synced
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: very few if any
    • Overgrowth: very little
    • Signage: adequate
    • Terrain: well graded trail with a mix of forest and granite
  • Navigation Skills: One section took me a while to figure out even with my tracking app. The trail has been rerouted but the section begins in an area prone to flooding. This area needs some serious trail work.
  • Water availability: Plentiful
  • Camping availability: Plentiful
  • Solitude: In late November plentiful, but it’s a very popular trail during prime season
  • Bugs: None around this time of year
  • Wildlife: It was pretty quiet
  • Precip: On this date I had rain, sleet, and snow (LOVE my hiking umbrella!)
  • Temp: 32 overnight
  • LNT: no problems
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5)


  • Prepare for wet feet crossings
  • In early winter consider carrying microspikes for the icy conditions



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.

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)

Trinity Alps – Long Canyon Trailhead (07/14)

The majority of hikers use the Long Canyon Trail to reach the Four-Lakes Loop, as I did last September.

Long Canyon trail lined with Dr. Seuss flowers, aka Western pasqueflower (Pulsatilla or Anemone occidentalis).

If you are one of the few who enjoy route finding, hiking off-trail, bushwhacking, and scrambling, you’ll love the lakes hidden behind this ridge.

From Bowerman Meadow, looking up at the ridge sheltering the lakes.

Lake Anna

Billy Be Damned Lake

Sunrise at Lake Anna

Sunbeam reflection upon Lake Anna

Infinity image at Lake Anna


Jan’s Tips:

  • 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. For example, on the Bowerman Trail, GPS showed we were on trail, but there was absolutely no evidence for at least a mile.
  • Additional blog postings about related hikes I’ve taken can be found in my Hikes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness category.

Trinity Alps – North Fork Coffee Creek (07/14)

I go to the wilderness for solitude, so planning a trip for a holiday weekend requires a bit more thought and compromise. Thankfully the Trinity Alps Wilderness has a multitude of trails and access points.

In 2010, I’d taken a day hike from the North Fork Coffee Creek Trailhead to Hodges cabin and had fond memories of the meadows and creeks. With high temperatures predicted and it being prime wildflower season, my goal was to find a plentiful supply of both. Otherwise armed with maps and trail guides, the plan was to make decisions at each junction, my favorite way of hiking.

Cabin Tour:

Hodges Cabin – Sadly this cabin with an interesting history has experienced degradation due to neglect.

This miner’s cabin is supposedly sometimes occupied. Well . . . maybe by vermin.

Frank Schlomberg Cabin – He was a German cabinet maker who built furniture for the Hodges cabin.

The Wolford Cabin. Another reminder of not relying on hiking guidebook accuracy. This 2010 edition indicated that the cabin is open and available, but we found it locked up tight, and degrading like the others.

Wildflower Tour:

The flowers weren’t nearly as prolific as I’d hoped; however, as expected for lower elevation.

Finding this hidden spring-fed paradise was one the highlights of my trip.

Seeing aphids in the wild, accompanied by the ladybug munchers, was another unusual sight.

Lake Tour:

Lower South Fork Lake – a perfect place for swimming and lazing away a few hours.


Interesting rock formation and a peak down into the Scott Valley. On a clear day, you can see Mt Shasta.

Statuesque trees and rocks

Favorite tree

Trinity Alps ranges to the southwest

Creeks and Bridges:

Thankful for these steel bridges since I’m not the most confident with water crossings.

Just one of many refreshing creeks enjoyed during this outing.

Forest Mismanagement?

A lot of unhealthy forest and deadfall, accompanied by poor trail conditions in those areas.

Lest you think this lower elevation trip was a walk in the park.

Jan’s Tips: