CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Long Canyon Trailhead . . . early spring jaunting


COVID-19 message from Shasta-Trinity National Forest. “Please continue to recreate locally and practice self-sufficiency & responsible recreation when visiting the forest. Pack it in, pack it out. Pick up all of your trash and dispose of waste properly. Trash overflowing the receptacles becomes potential sources for the spread of COVID-19. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. Please avoid visiting national forests if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. If an area is crowded, move to a less occupied location. Also consider avoiding the forest during high-use periods.”


At 3,800 feet, this trailhead is between Stuart Fork and Swift Creek Trailheads, both logistically and elevation wise.  But as you’ll see beginning elevation does not always equate to similar snow conditions.

On this day, my objective was Bee Tree Gap, the pass at the top of this photo. Looks can be so deceiving. The summer trail is on the left through the snow.

You get glimpses of the pass well in advance of arrival.  It’s a continuous 5-mile climb from the trailhead to just below the pass.

You’d think it would be no problem to find a way to the pass given these conditions.

Well . . .  on this early season jaunt, looks were indeed deceiving. The purple track represents my efforts. The green line is from a February snowshoe adventure (the tent symbol was from that trip and the objective on this day). The red is the summer trail. After a couple hours of effort, it was time to cry uncle. Microspikes might have helped.

Early spring trips for me mean taking time to enjoy the journey. Views like these make every step worthwhile.

It’s a time to be grateful for sleeping mosquitoes.

It’s a time to enjoy watching the sun slide behind the mountain.

How cool to see the shadows of the western peaks overlaid on the eastern ridges.

Sunset magic is a part of the journey.

And if you’re really lucky you might be perfectly positioned to catch the full moon rising.

Early to bed, early to rise.

With a foiled attempt at going higher, it’s nice to have other options.

The trail to Bowerman Meadows has much lower use than the Deer Creek Trail. In early spring, the first consideration is whether you’re up for a wet feet crossing of the creek.

Then you have some fun navigating through thin to non-existent trail tread. Tip: stay to the right side of the first meadow and look for the trail darting into the woods.

There were a few ties marking the route.

While down trees and deadfall is typically indicative of early season, my guess is that this is no longer a maintained trail.

You might find some patches of snow.

I believe this is an old snow survey station.

I have photos of me sitting on this boulder from my first trek on this trail many years ago.

Continue staying high and to the right.

You’ll be tempted to drop down low, just say NO!

Watch carefully for this escape hatch to cross the creek.

Notice the cut branches.

The white rope trail markers switched to a few red ribbons.

These miles are hard earned. But the reward is worth the effort.

Remember that snow patch I showed earlier? It was obvious that bear prefer the trail to bushwhacking. There was plenty of bear scat along the trail, some nice footprints and finally a beautiful shiny black-colored bear in the green meadow. While drinking coffee the next morning I watched, mostly likely the same bear across the ravine from my campsite. The bear’s location is circled in yellow in the top right photo. The zoomed image is on bottom right. I thought the left bottom photo was funny with a beer can between two piles of bear poo. Hmmm did the bears take it away from a human?

Keep your eyes peeled for little tree frogs.

What else does spring mean? That’s right wildflower blooms.

Early spring means it’s a little winter mixed with a little summer. It’s best to key your eye on the weather and make plans to exit the high country when you see a forecast like this one, unless of course you like risking hypothermia.

Adventure Dates:

  • April-June, any year, depending on winter snow levels

Resources:

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

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Swift Creek Trailhead . . . early spring jaunting


COVID-19 message from Shasta-Trinity National Forest. “We ask the public to please recreate responsibly. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing, etc., or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. Please read our frequently asked questions on the U.S. Forest Service Coronavirus (Covid-19) webpage http://www.fs.usda.gov/about-agency/covid19-updates”


With the trailhead at 4,000 feet, it’s a gamble to find out how far you can get before finding high water creek crossings or snow fields requiring a bit more effort than reward. The majority of hikers, especially those out for a day jaunt, target Granite Lake or Foster’s Cabin.

License plates serve as snow survey trail markers. It’s hard to imagine the snow being that deep.

Spring snow melt makes the cascading waterfalls exciting and noisy.

If you choose to follow the trail to Foster’s Cabin, the first obstacle is Parker Creek. The bridge was washed away years ago and early spring means you’ll either need to ford the creek or find logs up or down stream.

I like that this trail provides access to many other trails which can be used to create loops or longer out and back hikes. With federal budget cuts, trail condition and recent maintenance reports are not easy to access. Some trails are considered “maintained” while others have been left to volunteers or to return to nature. I’d like to volunteer with the forest service to make this information more available.

Sometimes the cabin is locked, other times not.

Continuing west past the cabin means a wet feet treacherous crossing of Swift Creek.

If you’re lucky these logs upstream might still be in place making for a nice dry feet crossing of Swift Creek.

Landers Creek Trail

Getting to Landers Lake early season might prove to be a bit of a challenge. First, this sign is to the east of Landers Creek whereas maps show the trail starts to the west. Second with blow down and snow it’s nearly impossible to find clues as to where the trail might be.

The trail veers far to the east as shown by the blue line on the right. You can see the black dotted line showing possibly the original trail. The blue line on the left was me attempting to find the trail. This is the digital map on Gaia. I tried several layers and none showed the location of the current trail. My paper USFS map matches this view.

I located the trail just before this wet feet crossing of Landers Creek.

Once located, I found the trail to be well maintained and in excellent shape.

Snowmelt continued to provide delightful waterfalls.

Soon it became apparent Landers Lake would not be reached on this day. Staying on the main trail to gain additional heights and these views was a better option.

Looking down at this unnamed lake, my viewpoint into the Union Lake drainage and turnaround was at about 7,100 feet. Those ridges to the west looked worthy of some future exploration.

A little extra off-trail navigation might be necessary to avoid meadows that have become ponds.

Finding dry places to camp can be a bit of a challenge.

Parkers Creek Trail

It’s easy to miss the sign that signals this junction off the Swift Creek Trail. Fair warning: this is a steep rocky trail with some erosion issues but otherwise easy to navigate.

Wet snowy trail is a given.

This is where the trail crosses Parker Creek. With a steep slippery snow slope, it marked my turnaround.

Upstream options didn’t look any better.

Finding this tarn was a fun reward.

Deer Flat Trail

Along Parker Creek is a junction for the Deer Flat Trail.

The first obstacle is getting across Parkers Creek. This giant log upstream made for a dry feet crossing.

This is definitely an unmaintained and wild trail. Yogi likes these conditions.

This was a fun blowdown to work around. The tree was huge!

Cairns mark the route in many open meadow areas. I’m guessing Deer Flat is accessed more frequently from the Poison Canyon Trail.

Knowing weather was changing, I took advantage of this view of the 7-Up Peak ridge to find a home for the night.

There were also view of Lassen as well as Trinity Lake.

It turned out to be a good location to watch sunset.

First light invited another day of exploration.

The forecast said otherwise.

Overnight temperatures reminded me it was still more winter than summer.

I love seeing the blue ridges.

Early blooms will keep you entertained.

Adventure Dates:

  • April-June, any year, depending on winter snow levels

Resources:

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

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Stuart Fork Trailhead . . . early spring jaunting


COVID-19 message from Shasta-Trinity National Forest. COVID-19 message from Shasta-Trinity National Forest. “Please continue to recreate locally and practice self-sufficiency & responsible recreation when visiting the forest. Pack it in, pack it out. Pick up all of your trash and dispose of waste properly. Trash overflowing the receptacles becomes potential sources for the spread of COVID-19. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. Please avoid visiting national forests if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. If an area is crowded, move to a less occupied location. Also consider avoiding the forest during high-use periods.”


I like the mystery of early season hiking. Going somewhere knowing you’ll most likely be turned back by unsafe creek crossings or snowfields that are hard and icy, soft and wet, or filled with post-holing Type II fun. It must be the curious adventurer in me that doesn’t care about miles covered instead just wanting to see what I can see, go where I can go, while being completely fine turning back when things show me that’s best for this day.

Spring has it’s own schedule. How much snow did winter bring? With the trailhead at 2,800 feet, it’s one of the lower elevation options and a good place to test conditions. Most often you can’t get far until late May or early June. These mountain should still be draped in heavy white coats.

In a few weeks most of the white will be gone. This is Bear Gulch, one of the less popular ways to reach Morris and Smith Lakes.

Morris Meadow will soon be filled with lush green grasses and cheery wildflowers.

With few hikers and campers, the bears roam free.

Signs of spring are everywhere.

Snowmelt means raging waterfalls.

Mother Nature reminds you to pay attention to the weather forecast and to be prepared for springs storms.

While Emerald Lake shares a little reflection, Sapphire and Mirror Lakes remain masked beyond the fog.

These prayer flags added a punch of color to this well-used campsite on this dreary day, but they don’t belong in the wilderness. I gained a few LNT credits by taking them with me.

I go prepared for wet feet on these spring jaunts. Between water crossings, wet meadows, creek-like trails and snowy traverses, it’s just a fact of life.

On trips like these I’m happy to have my phone loaded with e-books for those times I might need to spend time in my tent waiting out a storm. It doesn’t hurt to find a great view campsite where you can be entertained by the storm.

The aftermath of rain, is magic.

The warm sun might encourage a few breaks to recover from the rain showers.

Wandering off the beaten path might lead you to find cool geologic features.

And you might just find a perfect campsite.

You can find early spring blooms to observe and photograph.

I’m happy to find trails free of litter but I always seem to find lost items that need to be hauled out.

Adventure Dates:

  • April-June, any year, depending on winter snow levels

Resources:

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

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Stuart Fork Trailhead . . . Memorial Day Weekend Memories


COVID-19 message from Shasta-Trinity National Forest. “Please continue to recreate locally and practice self-sufficiency & responsible recreation when visiting the forest. Pack it in, pack it out. Pick up all of your trash and dispose of waste properly. Trash overflowing the receptacles becomes potential sources for the spread of COVID-19. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. Please avoid visiting national forests if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. If an area is crowded, move to a less occupied location. Also consider avoiding the forest during high-use periods.”


This is the time of year I think about my introductory backpacking trips into the Trinity Alps. The year was 2012 and I was still a newbie but thankfully had a friend who was happy to share his knowledge and experiences by planning and leading trips. Late May access to roads and trails is determined by winter snow levels and spring melt. With the trailhead at about 4,000′ we hedged our bets and took the gamble.

This image seems to match John Muir’s words, “and into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

I haven’t looked at these photos in several years and it’s nice to recognize the improvement in my photography skills. I believe these are Western azaleas (Rhododendron occidentale).

I remember a lot of details about this trip but the moody skies were a surprise revealed only in photos. The beauty of Morris Meadow was lush and green just as I recall.

Emerald Lake was a highlight! I’ve returned several times since but it was this first visit that had me saying WOW.

The granite and waterfalls grabbed my heartstrings.

The old dam structure at Emerald Lake is also a memory that remains. Note: This photo was taken during a different trip.

We hiked around Emerald Lake with intentions of reaching Sapphire Lake. This is the view from the far end looking back down the Stuart Fork canyon. Tip: where you see the group of trees and scrubs along the lake (north side) is where the “trail” runs. The manzanita requires a bit of a bushwhack. It’s not considered a maintained trail but that section is well used and easy to follow. Once you get to the rocks it’s cairns and personal choice.

The manzanita bushwhack getting around Emerald Lake.

The boulder scramble between Emerald and Sapphire Lakes.

Along the way is a lot of old mining equipment.

This is the one and only time I’ve made it to Sapphire Lake. For those interested in scrambling further Mirror Lake lies beyond. It’s still on my bucket list.

The Emerald Lake outlet stream had dramatic waterfalls.

Nearby the Dogwood Trees were blooming.

Caribou Trail

Hiking the 90ish switchbacks 2,200 feet up to Sawtooth Ridge provides an opportunity to look down at Emerald Lake as well as enjoy views of Caesar Cap, Thompson Peak and Wedding Cake (places I can only dream of climbing).

This image of Sawtooth Ridge reminds me of Castle Crags. I believe this is about where the trail reaches the pass. One of these days I need to hike this again in conditions where I can drop into the Caribou Lakes basin.

Views from the ridge include this one into Caribou Lakes Basin, where I’ve spent time but still need to create a blog post. Although the trail was clear on the Stuart Fork side, there was a blockade of several feet of snow on the ridge and nothing but white on the other side. We met another hiker who’d planned to descend but changed his mind after this reality check.

The 360-degree views were worth the effort. This is looking back down Stuart Fork drainage toward the trailhead.

Looking down at Sapphire and Mirror Lakes, surrounded by Caesar Cap, Thompson Peak and Wedding Cake. I remember the even more stunning view I captured on a clear skies day when reaching the ridge from the Tri-Forest Trail (yes, another missing post).

Looking down at the Caribou Trail and across at Sawtooth Mountain.

On our descent, we noticed something red across the canyon.

We couldn’t safely access but we took zoom photos and GPS coordinates to submit to law enforcement. I don’t think we ever heard back regarding a missing person or if they collected and determined contents. It left us with a creepy feeling, worried that there might also be a body somewhere nearby.

Back down off the mountain, we found tree art courtesy of the local bears.

Morris Meadow showcasing corn lilies and the greens of spring.

Resources:

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

This memory is dedicated to my friend Scott who introduced me to the Trinity Alps and helped me fall in love with photography and this backyard wilderness.

2020 – Blooming April, Spring Doesn’t Care

I recently read a poem about how spring goes on regardless of this pandemic. Since spring brings me joy, I’m choosing to spend as much time seeking out the treats mother nature provides in this all-too-short season.

2020 is proving to be a spring I’d rather forget. I like many others, most likely including yourself, are wishing we could fast forward into summer and be done with Stay Home orders. I’ve learned to let go of things I can’t control and instead focus on those things I can such as my personal happiness. The dark short days of winter can bring on bouts of depression, something I’m more likely to avoid in spring when I happily languish in the warm sunny days. Instead of travel and backpacking, I spent time running, biking and walking primarily from my house. My car didn’t leave my garage for three weeks.

I discovered and fell in love with these rock roses.

Since I’m missing my wilderness wildflowers, I really appreciate neighbors who share their blooms.

The Sacramento River runs through town bordered on both sides by about 20 miles in trails. It’s within walking distance of my house and gives me plentiful green space and a place to breathe.

The trail harbored these colorful jewels.

When I finally decided to drive 10 miles to a dirt trail, I found so much joy.

With flowers lining the trail, I didn’t even mind hiking through lands dominated by fire.

I’d never seen such a mass dispersion of pussy ears (aka Calochortus tolmiei). If this was all I’d seen I would have been happy.

But no, my treasure hunt continued. What a delightful way to spend a few hours.

I stopped at Black Bear Pass where I found this wreath, which I though was a lovely tribute to the aftermath of the 2018 Carr Fire. When I got home and was processing my photos I couldn’t believe what I saw at the base of the stump. It took some work to lighten enough to see the surprise. I still can’t believe I didn’t see it when I was taking the photo. My guess it was hauled up on horses.

I finally decided to drive a bit further for my next hike and was thrilled to find these beauties.


I closed out the month hiking among more of nature’s jewels. I hope you all made the most of this forced pause.

What will May bring? Maybe some waterfalls to go along with more wildflowers? The draft policy for opening my home county indicates a ban on non-essential travel out of the county. Will I continuing being just a tiny bit of a rebel? We topped 90F degrees so that’ll be my motivation if nothing else. Air conditioner vs wilderness?

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.

Links:

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)

Tips:

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

Links:

Resources: