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:

CA – Black Butte with views of Mt Shasta

It’s actually quite embarrassing to not have hiked the Black Butte Trail, especially since I’ve driven by the butte at least a zillion times. It stands next to Interstate 5 and looks a bit like a Mt Shasta mini me. I assumed there wouldn’t be much too see except stellar views of the west side of Mt Shasta. It looks like a big pile of rocks. Not exactly something high on my check list. My friend Steve was partnering with me for this adventure and took this sunrise photo to get us motivated. 

It was in the high 20’s when we arrived at the trailhead.

This caution sign was posted at the trailhead. We spent most of the hike wondering about the definition of gabion. 

Much of the trail is on the protected north side, making for chilly, snowy, icy conditions. But look at that fantastic view of Mt Shasta. We marveled at the trail builders who created this path through volcanic rock. 

I’d say this is a pretty accurate description for this trail. 

As I anticipated, plenty of rocks to hike among. 

One of the surprises for me was finding these smaller mounds of lava rocks near the trail. They aren’t visible from afar but are quite large and actually create a channel or canyon. 

In the distance is Mt Eddy (link to recent related post). 

As we neared the summit, there was more of this layered type rock. 

My hiking buddy, Steve, enjoying views of Mt Shasta on his way to the summit of Black Butte. 

The foundation of an old fire lookout tower remains on the summit. I met a couple guys on their first trip to far Northern California. They hadn’t heard of lookout stations, so I spent a bit of time talking about their history as well as pointing out local points of interest. The Black Butte was created for the mules resupplying staff manning the lookout. As a result, it has a gentle grade.  I have a special connection to lookouts as my mom was raised on one near Happy Camp and my dad maintained lookout radios for Klamath National Forest. He frequently saved those trips for the weekend when he could take the family. Photo Credit: Steve 

Our new friends Kyle and Matt at Black Butte summit. 

I like the next couple photos as it shows the technical challenges for those seeking a seat in the lookout foundation. Photo Credit: Steve 

There were some large sections of surface hoar. I’d not seen this variety previously. We tend to get very wet snow but when it’s cold and dry, the powder evaporates and transforms into this very light, dry element. It was about 4-6″ deep and fun to kick through, much like a trail covered in leaves. I’ve since learned this creates serious avalanche conditions. Imagine a sandwich. This loose dry layer wedged between an old base of hard-packed snow and a new layer of wet snow, creating easy slippage in steep terrain. This is why it’s important to take an avalanche course if you’re going to spend time in the back country during snow season. #knowbeforeyougo 

Back to the term gabion “a basket or cage filled with earth or rocks and used especially in building a support or abutment.” In the below photo, you can see how the cage of rocks creates a wall to protect the trail from rock fall. 

The gabion lying perpendicular to the slope slid down from an upper section of trail. 

Extra Credit:

I’d planned to spend the weekend backpacking on the PCT north of Deadfall Lakes (link to recent related post) but found too much snow. As such I spent the day hiking up an ATV road. I found some fun surprises! 

A different type of hoarfrost. Looks like amoeba.

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: December 9, 2017
  • Mileage (per ViewRanger): 5.25 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): 2,175/2,175
  • Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): 4,535/6,231
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: adequate
    • Terrain: rocky, some exposure, some scrambling
  • Navigation Skills: minimal
  • Water availability: none
  • Camping availability: none
  • Solitude: unlikely, we saw about 10 others
  • Bugs: none in early December
  • Wildlife: none
  • Precip: none
  • Temp: high 20’s to mid 40’s
  • LNT: no problems
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 3+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Carry plenty of water. In the summer this trail is pretty exposed.
  • Be prepared for rocky terrain, covered in ice or snow in the winter. Microspikes are a good option.
  • Be aware of avalanche dangers in the winter.
  • In the winter it can be bitter cold and windy.

Links:

Resources:

According to Wikipedia,

Black Butte is a cluster of overlapping dacite lava domes in a butte,[2] a parasitic satellite cone of Mount Shasta.[5] It is located directly adjacent to Interstate 5 at milepost 742 between the city of Mount Shasta and Weed, California. The highway crosses a 3,912 ft (1,192 m) pass, Black Butte Summit, at the western base of the lava domes. The lava domes were extruded at the foot of the cone of Shastina following the period of its major eruptions about 9,000–10,000 years ago.[2]

United States Forest Service fire lookout tower was built on the summit in the 1930s, but destroyed during the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. A new lookout was built in 1963 and operated until 1973. The building was moved by helicopter to a new location in 1975 and only the concrete foundation remains today. A 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km) trail leads to the summit from a trailhead accessible by dirt roads off the Everitt Memorial Highway.[6] The summit boasts an outstanding view of the southwest side of Shasta and Shastina, and on clear days Mount McLoughlin is easily visible 70 miles (113 km) to the north in Oregon.[7]

CA – Mt Shasta Snowshoe, Celebrating Early Season SNOW!

November 11, 2017, that’s a date I won’t soon forget. It’s the earliest I’ve ever strapped on my snowshoes. My friend Steve lives in the Mt Shasta area and knows how to read the weather and snow conditions. So when he invited me on this adventure and said now’s the time, I said YES! 

Sierra Club Horse Camp Cabin 

Lunch with a view. 

The view I was looking at wasn’t quite as nice as the one behind me. 

Plenty cold. 

Links:

Snowshoe Gear:

CA – PCT Section P – Mt Eddy view of Mt Shasta

These gals needed some time on the PCT. I think you can see why my friend Jill’s trail name is Bright. She’s a ray of sunshine!

After spending the previous night on Castle Peak and enjoying a relaxed hike back to the trailhead, we traveled the short-distance to the Gumboot Trailhead.Our first night was spent at Porcupine Lake. Although it was late October and quite chilly, we were joined by a group of three guys planning to summit Porcupine Peak in the morning. Those sunset colors were insane!

The next day, we hiked north toward Mt Eddy. Not to be outdone, Mt Shasta kept her presence known. 

The geology of the Klamath Mountains, of which Mt Eddy is a part, is unique and has been studied extensively. College of the Siskiyous has published an excellent paper titled, “Geologic Overview of the Eastern Klamath Mountains” for those curious (related link). Jill is a bit of a geology nerd and pointed out a few things like intrusions and serpentine.

Serpentinite, produced by the metamorphism of basaltic oceanic rocks, and intrusive rocks of gabbroic to granodiorite composition are common rocks within the Klamath terranes. Source: Wikipedia

In the summer Deadfall Lake (aka Middle Deadfall) is usually a busy place but on this late fall day, we had it to ourselves. 

Upper Deadfall Lake at sunset. 

The summit of Mt Eddy was our first destination the next morning. 

Let’s find the 9,000′ summit. 

Nothing marks success quite like a summit marker. 

Jill’s great idea. We both found it a little challenging to get both the marker and the mountain in focus. 

Such a tapestry of textures, shapes and colors to the north. 

To the south is Castle Crags, recognizable by the pointy spires, but mostly hidden within the smoky blue ridge mountains (due to controlled burns). 

To the west is Mt Shasta dwarfing Black Butte. While exploring this tongue, I noticed a hiker over on the next ridge and discovered a route leading the way. I didn’t have time this day, but I’ll be back to explore that area. 

This is about where my blog banner photo was taken. 

Looking west into the Upper Deadfall Lake basin. 

We choose to spend the night with another view of Mt Shasta. Goodnight my lady . . .

Good morning from the PCT! 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: October 27-30, 2017
  • Distance: About 30 miles round trip

Links:

CA – Castle Peak view of Mt Shasta

When you have a guest, you want to show them the best, right? 

It’s a short jaunt around the shores of Castle Lake and on up to Heart Lake. You can tell by the shadows in the above photo, we’d gotten a late start. Now it was time to earn our grub. 

This is a spot that’s long been on my list. Just like my previous night on Girard Ridge, I didn’t get a WOW sunset, but who can complain about a view like this, perfect weather and spending time with a new friend. 

My 7am view. 

Good morning world!

What a view! Black Butte on the left, Mt Shasta taking center stage, Castle Lake in the middle flanked by what locals call Left Peak. If you look closely near the bottom right corner, you can see the heart of Heart Lake. 

Standing on Castle Peak (aka Middle Peak) we also had front row views of Castle Crags and the many ridges beyond. Fall in Northern California means controlled burn season, which means smoky skies and the opportunity for amazing sunsets, sunrises or in this case misty looking mountains. 

Hidden in the shadows of this ravine lies the PCT. Soon enough it was time to descend through the rubble and manzanita. 

Back at Castle Lake, we could look up toward Castle Peak (aka Middle Peak) but alas it’s a fool’s ridge as the reward awaits only those willing to climb further. 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: October 26-27, 2017
  • Distance:  8-10 miles round trip

Tips:

  • Camping is not allowed at nearby Castle nor Heart Lakes
  • Overnight parking is not allowed at the trailhead

Links:

CA – PCT Section O – Girard Ridge view of Mt Shasta

I’ve spent the bulk of my life with views of Mt Shasta. She was my first compass and with her stately presence in much of northern California she continues to provide visual directional assistance. But more importantly her beauty is deep within my skin and I was craving some time with her when I returned home from my Summer/Fall travels (link to related post).

This front row seat with a view of Mt Shasta was just what I needed. 

I accessed the PCT from Girard Ridge Road out of Castella, then hiked the old Castle Crags Trail aka Tom Neal Trail. It was in excellent condition, I’m guessing thanks to the Mt Shasta Trail Association.

Girard Ridge connects with some very interesting historic trails. The Tom Neal Trail goes from Girard Ridge down Tom Neal Creek to Squaw Valley Creek. It was built by the Neal brothers who worked at the lookout and took hunting clients from Castella up the Castle Crags Trail to Girard Ridge Lookout then down Tom Neal Creek to a cabin they built near its mouth (no longer standing). The Castle Crags Trail was abandoned when the more gentle PCT was constructed. Source: Mt Shasta Trail Association

The forest was alive with color. Seasonal creeks were running.

Castle Crags made themselves known from a distance. 

Even with a mid-day start, I was able to enjoy a nice hike and most importantly spend a night with my mountain. I didn’t get a spectacular sunset or sunrise. The photos are hardly worthy of sharing. Did I have any regrets? Heck no! I was smiling. I giggled a bit as I sauntered through the several inches of leaves piled on the trail, spent time enjoying the creeks refreshed from recent rains, listened to the trees rustling in the wind during the night, awoke to the bird calls . . . 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: October 25-26, 2017
  • Distance: About 11 miles round trip

Links:

CA – Ash Creek Butte and Surprise Lake (07/16)

I’m proud to be a Cherry Picker (a hiker who prefers the best of the best) and an opportunist (just say YES). Pretty hard to say NO after I’d seen Steve’s photos and been invited by the man himself, the one who’d done the hard work of figuring out how to access and successfully summit this special place.

Ash Creek Butte is a rock glacier. According to the USFS page, “Ash Creek Butte Fossil Rock Glacier Geologic Area occupies a 300 acre site. The remains of an ancient rock glacier sits in a north–facing glacially carved bowl, or “cirque”. A rock glacier is a tongue–like or lobate body, usually of angular boulders, that resembles a small glacier, generally occurs in high mountainous terrain. Ash Creek Butte is an 8,378 foot peak situated on the boundary of Klamath and Shasta–Trinity National Forests.”

Step 1 – Find Ash Creek Butte and Surprise Lake on your map (near Mt Shasta), then study the USFS and logging roads, plus topo lines to figure out the best route.

Step 2- Using your topography map, compass and skills, start hiking.

If you are successful, you might find Surprise Lake with Ash Creek Butte not only looming large in the background but also reflected in the lake’s mirrored surface. The peak on the right is the high point of the butte (8,378) and our destination.

On this date in early July, there were still patches of snow. Steve remarked how much had melted since his visit a week earlier.

It’s worth taking a slight detour to climb to the ridge above the lake before skirting to the right and then heading up the ridge (glacial rim). We found paths mostly devoid of the lava type rock. As we neared the rim we found some cairns to guide us the rest of the way.

We were granted nice open views of the east side of Mt Shasta as we began our climb. 

You know you’re in the vicinity when you find the first geologic marker. 

White bark pine trees were a welcome sight. 

The skies were a bit hazy on this day due to the Pony Fire (near Happy Camp). After my recent discoveries of sandstone hoodoos, I’ve been intrigued to also find them in glacial areas. 

Looking down the tongue of the glacial flow and up at the rim, our path of choice.

There were a few patches of these flowers, Sacramento Waxy Dogbane. 

Also saw a few blooming and post-bloom Dr. Seuss flowers (aka Pasqueflower aka Anemone). 

Mt Shasta in the background, the glacial rim we’d hiked up in the foreground, with additional buttes to the right including The Whaleback (8,528′). Surprise Lake is on the right, toward the lower middle of the photo, just in front of the cloud shadow.

The summit survey marker looks like it was originally surveyed in 1931 with this marker placed in 1946 (but I could be misinterpreting). 

More hoodoos and a look down at Surprise Lake. 

Hoodooville, a village of many colors. 

The tongue of the glacial flow. 

How’s this for a chair with a view?

If you are into geocaching, there is one at the summit. 

My friend Steve celebrating his success. Special thanks again for the invite!

Rockhounds would love this place. 

A good reminder, there is NO trail. This is a hike that requires navigation and technical hiking skills. 

Goodbye Surprise Lake and Ash Creek Butte. 

Date(s) Hiked: July 3, 2016

Jan’s Tips:

  • It’s always a good idea to check road condition status. You can stop at the McCloud Ranger Station, 530-964-2184.
  • This was about a 6-mile round trip hike with 2,000′ elevation gain/loss.

Resources:

General Info:

Maps: