CA – Early Winter Jaunting, Far NorCal Style (Dec 2021 – Jan 2022)

The week before the calendar officially declared winter, a big snowstorm arrived in far Northern California. I-5 was closed for about 36 hours delaying distribution of all those holiday goodies. Meanwhile the nearby hills were turning white and I finally had an opportunity to go snowshoeing and test my post-surgery knee. I’m happy to report it was 100%. As for the rest of my body . . . it needs some work.

Lunch with a view at Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park. My favorite snowshoeing lunch is piping hot homemade turkey soup.

On my third snowshoe outing of the season I found myself ascending Diamond Peak at Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was a great cardio challenge and improved my confidence.

Sadly it also gave me my first look of the burned trees from the 2021 Dixie Fire.

I found myself back on Mt Shasta for my fourth outing. By now it had been a couple weeks since our last storms and the wind swept the ridges bare making it obvious more snow is desperately needed.

With hard pack snow conditions I couldn’t resist the temptation to try summiting Brokeoff Mountain at Lassen. I turned around before the top as my legs said not today. I wasn’t disappointed as I was beyond thrilled to be outside climbing mountains again.

On each walk/hike I challenged myself to find something worth photographing and sharing. It’s been a fun game and just when I think I’m going to be skunked I find a gem like the bark of this sycamore tree.

After the frost, comes the dew.

With many of my local trails impacted by wildfire, I’m happy to celebrate the areas that have escaped damage.

I also cheer on the new trees working hard to replace their burned ancestors.

I found the first bloom on January 4th, Wild Radish. I was interested to learn “the entire wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) plant is edible, from the veined purple, white, or yellow flowers to the leaves and roots. Wild radish pods are crisp and peppery, much like the root of a true radish, and can be eaten raw or cooked.”

We have a lot of pretty rock in the area.

The nearby creeks make for nice lunchtime lounging.

Manzanita dominates the landscape, but often when you look closer you find nature’s gifts.

I found a variety of tree lichen or fungus.

And other fungus as well.

This bark caught my eye.

We had crazy warm temperatures for a couple of weeks in the middle of the month and soon enough the landscape began to look like spring. Oh how I love green!

And then it happened, WILDFLOWERS in January! I checked my photo library and blooms are about three weeks earlier than I’ve previously documented. Buttercups appeared first, followed by Shooting Stars, Warrior’s Plume and Pacific Hounds Tongue. Interesting factoid shared by a friend, “The genus name Cynoglossum comes from greek Kynos- meaning dog and -glossum meaning tongue, while the specific epithet creticum is a reference to the island of Crete, where this plant can indeed be found.” 

Glue-Seed, Night Shade, Saxifraga and Redmaids.

Butter ‘n’ eggs, Lupine, Padre’s Shooting Stars, and Blue Dips

When a friend was looking for a backpacking opportunity, I volunteered to join him. We went to the Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area in Tehama County near Red Bluff where the elevation is around 500′. While daytime highs were in the 60’s, we experienced an overnight low of 27F. We camped with this sunset view of Lassen peak. What a great way to end the month!

While the lack of precipitation for the last three weeks of January is bad for the earth, it’s been really good for my spirit. Spending most days under sunshine filled blue skies encouraged daily hikes and sent my typical SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) symptoms into hibernation. This is my best January since 2015 when it comes to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, and that’s saying a lot when so many are suffering from pandemic issues.

Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.

  • Redding Area
    • Clear Creek/Cloverdale Area
      • Horsetown/Piety/Cloverdale Loops
    • Keswick/299W Area
      • French Fry Trail
      • Hornbeck/Waterfall/Lower Ditch Trails
      • Lower Salt Creek Trail
      • Shasta Dam/Upper Ditch Trail
    • Mule Mountain Area
      • Princess Ditch Trail
    • Sacramento River Trails
    • Swasey Recreation Area
      • Wintu/Mule Mountain Trails
      • Meiners Loop Trail
    • Westside Trails
    • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
      • Mt Shasta Mine Loop Trail
      • Oak Bottom Ditch Trail
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
    • Manzanita Creek
    • Manzanita Lake
    • Brokeoff Mountain
    • Diamond Peak
  • Mt Shasta Area
    • Bunny Flat/Horse Camp Cabin
  • Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area
    • Yana Trail/Massacre Flat

On this 27F degree morning, nothing is quite as welcome as the sun hitting my tent.

CA – Klamath National Forest, Living Memorial Sculpture Garden (August 2021)

I returned home from a couple weeks in the Redwoods (link) to more smoke, bad air quality, hot temps and forest closures.

Where oh where to go? There were only a few places showing consistent good air quality. The coast, the Flagstaff area and the Washington cascades. Of course all it takes is a change of winds to dictate new smoke zones.

Since I’m not really a coastal gal and having just spent a couple weeks there, I chose north. I grabbed a bunch of maps prepared to run from the smoke, using Purple Air as my guide.

I stopped to stretch my legs at the Living Sculpture Memorial Garden (link) near Mt Shasta.

It was still quite smoky and I was happy to have N95 masks.

The images are powerful and my timing was appropriate as there had just been deaths in Afghanistan.

This was one of my high school teachers.

Mt Shasta was nearly invisible due to the nearby fires.

You can see on Gaia the colored blobs which represent this year’s fires. Two crossed Highway 97 which I was driving, the Lava and Tenant fires. The Antelope Fire is still burning and hopefully will be snuffed out with plentiful snow and rain this fall.

I was testing an air purifier (Amazon link) suitable for car use with USB power and rechargeable batteries. I’m happy to report it made a huge difference driving through smoky areas as well as sleeping in lower AQI than optimal.

Gaia has a new map layers showing AQI for today and tomorrow. I drove 6 hours to land outside the yellow zone where I found blue sky. I’d hoped to stop at Crater Lake but it was completely smoked in according to my resources, with AQI around 300. The purple blob is where my house lives and what I’d be breathing if I hadn’t escaped. Last year I purchased an air purifier for my house (Amazon link). It helps but being stuck inside is not my idea of fun.

Ah happiness is finding blue sky!

I found a dispersed campsite where I could enjoy some fresh air.

I enjoyed watching the sunset and had hopes for good AQI for nearby hiking the next day.

My heart is filled with much empathy to those who can’t escape and especially those who have homes, family, friends and communities at risk.

DATE(S): Aug 31, 2021

RESOURCES:

Other Jaunts in California (link)

CA – The Eddys, Gumboot Trailhead, PCT (June 2021)

I had so much fun on my recent PCT hike from the Parks Creek Trailhead (link), it seemed time to try another section. I’m lucky to have multiple access points within a couple hours of my home base. I hiked south on this day. Note: I believe this is the only KM sign on the PCT.

There’s Mt Eddy in the distance, near where I was the previous week. It’s about 15 trail miles between the Gumboot and Parks Creek Trailheads.

This is Gumboot Lake, the namesake for this trailhead. It’s accessible via a nearby road and might be worth a stop for a swim at the end of a hike.

The view of Gumboot Lake from near the trailhead.

The highlight of my day was finding Scott mountain phacelia aka Howellanthus dalesianus.

Near the beginning of the hike, the Mumbo Lakes become visible to the west. Once again not all the easily accessible.

A couple miles from the trailhead you reach the junction to swimmable lakes.

Lake Helen is probably the most visited with it’s easier access. Shown here are Upper and Lower Seven Lakes. Someday I want to explore the basin and make my way to all seven lakes.

Although not considered one of the seven lakes in Seven Lakes Basin, Echo Lake is on private property and doesn’t welcome trail visitors. It’s backed by Boulder Peak at 6,968′, not part of the private parcel. I’m sure the PCT Association would be interested in purchasing this property if it ever goes on the market.

A nice view showing perspective of the PCT in relation to Upper Seven Lake. The trail down looks to have been recently groomed. I remember access use to be quite dicey cutting through a lot of overgrown manzanita combined with rocky terrain.

Monkeyflowers were a tiny alpine variety.

The paintbrush was brilliant red.

Bladderpods of Astragalus whitneyi var. siskiyouensis.

The most prevalent bloom of the day was Mt Eddy Lupine, named for this mountain range dominated by serpentine soil.

As is typical for hundreds of miles along the PCT you are granted views of Mt Shasta.

I love this trail image.

I believe these are Torrey’s Blue-Eyed Mary, Collinsia torreyi. These are tiny plants at only a few inches tall. The flowers are less than 1/4″. I can’t believe they are recognizable as the wind was blowing and I figured I’d get a big blurr.

What makes Jan happy? Cool geology, views and blooms. Oh and maybe hiking on the PCT! The terrain was a little rockier with more rolling hills than I remembered but I had a fun day tromping a few miles. I met several hikers out for multiple nights, one gal who was hoping to make it a few hundred miles before returning to her teaching job in late summer. There were also a handful off to the lakes for a swim.

Previous jaunts in this area:

I’m surprised I haven’t blogged more about this section of the trail as it was where I walked my first steps on the PCT. The year was 2008. I’ve been on this section many times with one of my most memorable getting to visit Echo Lake on a snowshoe trek.

It was a magical day where I saw my first and only Circumhorizontal arc.

CA – The Eddys, Parks Creek Trailhead – Let’s Go Hiking! (May 2021)

It’s time for another chapter. Graduation doesn’t mean I’m ready for epic adventures but with increasing feelings of normalcy it’s time to HIKE! The challenge is finding easy trail and this is where time spent on the PCT comes in handy. I knew this stretch would be a perfect test. While most head south to the Deadfall Lakes or Mt Eddy summit, I hiked north toward Cement Bluff and Bull Lake.

Early spring blooms gave me reason to take it slow. Recently I watched a video about botany in the area (Serpentine Botanical Wonders) which taught me I’d been erroneously been calling these Pasqueflowers when instead they are Anemone drummondii.

With their very distinctive leaf shape, I learned these are Viola lobata.

These are very tiny lupine, most likely Lupinus lepidus var. sellulus.

I thought this might be a rare Mt Eddy Lupine, but my botany friends burst my bubble by indicating it is Astragalus whitneyi var. siskiyouensis.

Blue Flax

Hydrophyllum occidentale.

The paintbrush and phlox were the most common blooms.

Lewisia nevadensis.

Claytonia obovata, Spring Beauty.

As I walked toward Mt Eddy I couldn’t help but remember the day nearly 9 months ago when my knee said POP (link). I’ll be back, I have no doubt especially after this hike. I felt strong and ready to start rebuilding my strength and endurance.

My journal post, “I took my knee for a walk and what did I find? Yes miles of smiles! I’m learning to accept #WhatICanDo and making each of those moments meaningful. I hiked 5 miles! YES 5 miles without any complaints or setbacks.”

Previous jaunts in this area:

CA – Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Parks Creek Trailhead . . . Let’s Go Swimming

After a wonderful smoke-free three-day window spent at Bear Lakes in the Trinity Alps (link), I had another day and a half available to play. It wasn’t quite enough time to visit a planned area that I’d saved for these conditions so I decided to see if one of my favorite areas was crowd and smoke free. As I drove by the Deadfalls Meadows Trailhead I was delighted to see zero cars. What would I find at the more popular Parks Creek trailhead? Two cars and smoke-free skies. Decision made!

I headed out knowing I had lots of options. I could lollygag and spend time swimming and enjoying the sun, or I could summit Mt Eddy, or I could hike miles and miles on the PCT, or I could explore some off-trail areas. So many options and I loved having the freedom to choose. I considered each hour a gift, knowing the smoke would most likely return. Nearby the Red Salmon Complex fire was burning in the northwest corner of the Trinity Alps.

I was delighted to find a few late season blooms.

There were signs of fall including colorful seed pods.

Lower Deadfall Lake was at the lowest level I’d ever seen. There was a couple camped nearby. Even though the lake was shallow, I found sufficient depth for swim #1.

Middle Deadfall Lake is spring fed so it tends to be more inviting.

I wandered around the lake finding the perfect spot for swim #2. Surprisingly except for the PCT southbound thru hiker I met near the main trail, I had the lake to myself.

The thought of obtaining drinking water from these lakes is gag worthy. So many swimmers and bathers during the summer months. Thankfully the springs were still flowing. One of the benefits of previous visits and map reading.

The pond between Middle and Upper Deadfall Lakes was not on my swim list.

I found the “crowds” at Upper Deadfall Lake, where I ran into three couples. Knowing views from Mt Eddy would be under a veil of smoke I skipped that hike on this day, opting instead for a walk around the lake and swim #3.

I found some blooming gentians.

Amazingly I’d lollygagged away most of the day and it was time to make my way to one of the unnamed lakes.

Something bad happened on my way to this campsite. My knee made a loud popping sound and I couldn’t support my weight. I sat and rested for a while tried again and after about an hour was able to hobble to camp. I worried all night about my ability to hike out unassisted. This is one of the negatives of solo hiking. I didn’t have a history of knee problems and was quite concerned that it wouldn’t resolve during the night. Plan A was to attempt walking out on my own. Plan B was to text a couple of friends who lived nearby to see if they would carry my pack while I attemped walking without the weight. Plan C would have been hitting the SOS on my inReach, an option I wanted to avoid if at all possible.

Little did I know the orange colored sunset was foretelling about a change in conditions. This is the view the next morning toward Upper Deadfall Lake and is the section of trail where my knee failed me.

Thankfully slowly and steadily I was able to begin my hike toward my car. The full moon was setting. I’d enjoyed the glow during the night which surprisingly escaped the smoky veil.

The Trinity Alps were now invisible.

Sadly this would be the end of my summer/fall hiking season. Upon returning home I went to a walk-in clinic for x-rays, followed by a visit to my primary care, then a referral and visit to an orthopedist, an MRI and finally surgery scheduled for early October. I have a radial tear of the posterior horn medial meniscal root with a 1cm gap.

So after avoiding all indoor establishments since late March when the COVID-19 pandemic began, September was all about potential exposure in the highest risk places. But heck since I was already taking risks, I decided to get my hair cut; that was a boost to my happy factor and will certainly help with healing and recovery.

Adventure Date(s):

  • September 3-4, 2020

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 – January 2020 Jaunts . . . starring Shasta, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties

The past two years I spent New Years Eve in the wilds, after backpacking to some cool view locations. Many recent years were spent snowshoeing at Lassen Volcanic National Park with meetup groups. This year I joined the Native Plant Society on a local hike on Redding’s Westside Trails to plant oak acorns in hopes of restoring areas devastated by the Carr Fire.

The next week I returned to help water our plantings and got tangled in the web of burned brush. That was fun! Thankfully no injuries, just a little blood and mud.

While we had plenty of rain and snow during the month, there were also a fair number of good days like this one where a friend and I hiked in the Sacramento Bend Recreation Area. That’s Mt Lassen in the background and the Sacramento River in the foreground.

Most of my local trails have been burned making them less than pleasurable. I joined some friends to walk paved Sacramento River Rail Trail where not only did we find a burn-free zone but also discovered this waterfall, thanks to all the recent rain.

After a fall and broken hip, my mom landed in a rehab facility near Mt Shasta so I combined jaunts with visits. One place that had been on my never-visited list was Faery Falls.

Nearby is Ney Springs which I also visited on this snowshoe excursion.

The Lake Siskiyou Trail is a local treasure. With low elevation snow fall I enjoyed a snowshoe around a portion of the lake including Wagon Creek bridge and multiple views of Mt Shasta.

I ended the month with this much needed bluebird day snowshoeing at Bunny Flat on Mt Shasta.

What would winter be without prepping for my next travel jaunt? Yep, I’ve been busy restocking my supplies, organizing, sewing, and dehydrating.

Meanwhile with the photo links still broken on most of my blog posts, and no easy fix on the horizon, I’m trying to move on by enjoying sunrises like this (although I’m still mourning the loss).

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 – McCloud Falls . . . a Trio and Trail Worthy of Four-Season Love

My Facebook post about a McCloud Falls snowshoe trek on January 5, 2017.

“This was the least fun day of snowshoeing I can ever recall. There was a 4-6″ crust that I busted through with each step then sunk into the foot plus of powder. After taking a few steps I wanted to quit, but I’d just driven 75 miles and didn’t have a good Plan B. Avalanche danger was high in the mountains, and I wasn’t confident of better conditions elsewhere. It took me 4 hours to hike less than 3 miles. It was 20F when I arrived at 11am and 26F when I finished at 3pm. Oh but the reward? icy waterfalls! (and a kickass workout).”

In the winter, the road to the falls trailhead is not plowed. Typically a berm exists where the plow has created a parking area off the highway. My first snowshoe to the falls was with a group who thought we’d be able to drive over the berm. Ha . . . lesson learned! 

In the summer you can make short jaunts to the three waterfalls by driving to nearby parking areas, or you can hike the connecting trail of 1.2 miles from Lower McCloud Falls to Middle McCloud Falls and another .5 miles to Upper McCloud Falls. The McCloud River Trail continues another 13.4 miles to Algoma Campground. In the winter you might need to hike/snowshoe another 1.3 miles on the road depending on snow conditions. 

Lower McCloud Falls.

Middle McCloud Falls.

Upper McCloud Falls.  

McCloud River Trail. 

If I had to list my favorite river, it would probably be the McCloud River. 

The nearly 15 mile McCloud River Trail provides more to enjoy besides the highlighted waterfalls. 

Mt Shasta! 

Links:

Resources:

CA – Mt Bradley Ridge with views of Mt Shasta

Hikers are a funny breed. I don’t have many friends who are sufficiently motivated by sunrise views to agree to a 5:30am feet-on-the-ground start time. Not only did my friend Steve recommend this crazy adventure, but our new friends Matt and Kyle, whom we met the previous day on Black Butte (link to related post), were also looking for an epic outing. 

Kyle found a perch from which to watch nature’s show. 

Meanwhile I jumped over to Heart Lake to capture this image. 

This panoramic shot captures Castle Lake in the center, Left Castle Peak, Right Castle Peak, Black Butte (which we hiked the previous day) and Mt Shasta.

Mt Shasta got a kiss of pink. 

Soon enough it was time to say goodbye to Kyle and Matt, and resume our focus on hiking Mt Bradley Ridge toward the lookout. Once Steve and I reached the ridge, Castle Crags became the highlight. 

I’ve yet to make it to the Mt Bradley Lookout. It’s on the next hill in the photo, about an hour each direction. But with our unplanned detour to Heart Lake, we were running short of time and energy. 

Mt Bradley lookout, with the Mt Lassen range in the distance. 

From the ridge we got views of Lake Siskiyou, Black Butte and Mt Shasta. 

We stopped by Little Castle Lake on our way back to the trailhead. It’s almost ready for ice skating.

The sun was just about to slip behind the mountain as we returned to partially frozen Castle Lake. 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: December 10, 2017
  • Mileage (per ViewRanger): 10.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): 2,670/2,670
  • Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): 5,381/6,122
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: none
    • Terrain: snow and ice with some steep sections
  • Navigation Skills: moderate, the trail junctions are not signed, some of the trail is marked with cairns, other requires compass or GPS navigation.
  • Water availability: minimal, best to bring what you need.
  • Camping availability: camping is not permitted at Castle or Heart Lakes
  • Solitude: at 5:30am, we had the place to ourselves but by 7am, we had company.
  • Bugs: none during the winter season
  • Wildlife: none except for birds and squirrels
  • Precip: none on this date
  • Temp: 20’s – 40’s
  • LNT: I picked up a mitten, otherwise trail was in good shape.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Much of the trail is shaded so plan for icy conditions at this time of year. Microspikes worked well especially on the steep downhill sections.
  • The access road can also be quite icy. It’s usually sanded but may not be if you’re looking for an early start.
  • This area typically requires snowshoes in December.
  • Be avalanche aware. #knowbeforeyougo

Links:

Resources: