WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Chinook Pass (Oct 2021)

I knew I was pushing my luck finding peak autumn colors. But the hikes at Chinook Pass were on my POI list and since there was a nearby fire when I was in the area in early August, I took the detour on my southward journey.

When I got started in the morning I was feeling disappointed in myself. Why? Well first when I arrived at the trailhead the previous afternoon the light was optimal and I should have hiked the very popular Naches Peak Loop Trail but the hundreds of cars removed all motivation for that option. Second I missed a spectacular sunrise by arriving about 15 minutes late the next morning. Would it be a 3-strike trip? I certainly felt more optimistic when I turned around and found this view of Mount Rainier and Yakima Peak shortly after starting my hike.

I knew the only way I’d be able to enjoy this hike was to get an early morning start.

There was no doubt I was a couple weeks past peak colors and with the overcast skies I wasn’t going to get great reflections either. But look, no people! I had the pond to myself.

The northern section of the Naches Peak Loop Trail is shared with the PCT until it continues south dropping to Dewey Lake.

As I turned west, I found an obvious well used viewpoint and was happy to have the clouds part just enough for a little peek of these mountains.

As I stood there, I thought I saw more in the background. Is that snow? If so that must be Mount Rainer.

I watched the clouds drift in and out for a good 30 minutes, playing peek-a-boo with Mount Rainier.

Taking time to watch nature’s magic was exactly what I needed on this day.

As I continued the loop I was gifted this view of Naches Peak.

By the time I reached Tipsoo Lakes, the crowds were arriving and it started feeling like Disneyland.

I took a little break at my car before continuing my hike north on the PCT. My first stop was very popular Sheep Lake. I met a ton of people coming down from an overnight at the lake. Can you imagine sharing with 20-50 people? That’s what you get without permits and quotas and a lake 2 miles from a paved trailhead. My destination was Sourdough Gap at the top of the ridge.

This section of trail was much less busy.

Looking down at Sheep Lake as I climbed toward Sourdough Gap.

Sourdough Gap provided views of Three Way Peak. I thought I’d be able to see Mount Rainer as I’d gotten a glimpse as I climbed up to the pass.

The PCT continues north through Sourdough Gap, but after a short traverse it drops to the right below Three Peaks. The trail that stays high is Crystal Lakes Trail and the visible pass invited further exploration.

Success! That was the view I was hoping to find. Upper Crystal Lake is another popular overnight and day hike destination. It’s important to note these lakes are in the National Park. I don’t know permitting requirements but signs clearly indicated dogs prohibited. Sad to say I witnessed many who don’t believe rules apply to them.

Overall I’d call this day a win although I wouldn’t say it was in my top 10 and it’s unlikely I’d repeat except for hiking this full section of the PCT, which I’m still missing on my quest to complete Washington.

Do you know this tree? There were several along this section of the trail and they didn’t seem to belong but they sure were pretty.

I’m so pleased with my continued knee rehab progress.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): October 3-4, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – North Cascades, Blue Lake and Cutthroat Pass (Sept 2021)

Larch Madness! I’d caught the fever and couldn’t get enough as I continued my search for peak conditions.

My larch march began and ended at Ingalls Pass in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (blog link). In between I spent time along Highway 20 in the North Cascades, with two trips to Maple Pass (blog link) bookending trips to Blue Lake and on the PCT from Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass.

Blue Lake

I needed a recovery day so had planned this easier hike. As I was completing preparations for my hike, a large van arrived with a group of at least a dozen teenagers disembarking. Oh no, so much for my peaceful day. I was motivated to stay ahead of them. I decided to explore the junction leading to the Early Winter Spires. The sign at the trailhead indicated this was a climbers route but I figured there would be a reasonably graded hiking trail I could explore while gaining a little elevation. That was not be the case and instead I turned around when the trail became cairn route and rock scramble.

The kids were taking a break at the junction when I returned to the main trail and thus was once again motivated to reach Blue Lake before the masses. I learned later this group was part of a partnership between local schools and the Outward Bound program. I heard several hikers complaining about kids hiking instead of being in school. My thought was how wonderful to expose kids to something besides sports and activities more typically found in PE departments. They were well behaved, respectful and even separated later in the day for individual projects.

I had stopped at Washington Pass earlier in the morning and captured this photo of the other side of Liberty Bell Mountain.

The Tarn Loop Trail offers this view of possibly Cutthroat Peak and/or Whistler Mountain.

I wandered around the far side of the lake for lunch. The kids were gathered on a large rock near the trail junction. This lake offers very little privacy. I wanted to swim so bad. I waited and waited for them to leave but even when they separated for their projects there was just too much exposure. I always think of that saying, “what the eyes can’t unsee.” I wasn’t ready to strip to my underwear in front of these youngsters so instead I watched the fish and the larch reflections.

Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass on the PCT

I was reminded that the autumn season is short here in the far north and although it’s still September, days are short. At 9am the shadows were still more prevalent than the sun.

At 11am I was still climbing and in search of sun.

I finally found sun around 11:45am as I neared the pass.

When I reached the top I found distant snowy peaks.

Looking over the pass I was tempted to continue onward to Granite Pass, but since I was already pushing my limits at a 10+ mile day, I knew it was in my best interest to say no. Besides I have bad memories from my PCT attempt at that pass (WA – PCT Section L . . . as in Lame ) so it was definitely better to save it for another year.

In the photo above where the person and horses are standing is a junction. The PCT continues straight where the trail to the right drops to Cutthroat Lake as shown in below photo. You can access the lake from another trailhead off of Highway 20. Unlike the PCT, the Cutthroat Lake trail is bike friendly and I saw several on this day.

This is looking up at Cutthroat Peak. From the Pass you can see a trail used to climb the peak or ridge. If I hadn’t used up my miles, I might have explored the ridge.

This is a view of Cutthroat Peak from my hike to Blue Lake.

On this day I enjoyed the company of a 70+ year old group of guys. One of the guys, about to celebrate his 75th birthday, was in phenomenal condition. I aspire to being more like him now and into the future!

The larch might not have been at peak but I sure enjoyed all the reds.

As I neared the trailhead I ran into some facebook friends I hadn’t met in person. They were headed to Hart’s Pass on the PCT where they found peak larch colors.

PCT grade is perfect for my knee surgery rehab.

When I began this trip it was to escape wildfires and smoke. Back in early August Joan and I had hoped to land at Rainy Pass where she could complete her remaining PCT miles. But these two fires made that impossible and in fact as I drove Highway 20 in September, the Cedar Creek Fire was still smoldering. The Gaia maps now include several layers related to fires and air quality.

I also use the weather layers on Gaia for hike and travel planning. As we rolled from summer into fall, I found myself running from precipitation rather than smoke.

Monument Creek Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

While I was waiting out storms to return to Maple Pass, I found this trail near Mazama and planned to hike to Eureka Creek from the trailhead.

The bridge across Eureka Creek is long gone, making for a treacherous crossing most of the year. As such signage at the trailhead indicated no trail maintenance beyond this creek for over 25 years. I saw a couple heading out with backpacks. I wondered if they found decent options. It’s hunting season so they may have had other plans.

Spokane Gulch Trail, Methow Valley Trails

I met up with this legendary trail angel and first woman to solo hike the PCT, Carolyn aka Ravensong (Link to article in The Trek).

This is looking down at the community of Mazama and shows just how close the Cedar Creek Fire came to wiping out the town.

Susie Stephens Trail, Methow Valley Trails

I spent time wandering trails in the communities of Winthrop and Twisp. On this day I was waiting out the storms AGAIN.

This storm dropped a little snow which added to my Larch Madness!

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 23-28, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – PCT Section H . . . as in Hike your own Hike, J&J Style (Stevenson to White Pass) (Days 9-12)

In case you missed the previous posts, I’m supporting Joan as she complete this section of the PCT (link to previous post). I’m chronicling what I found to do while Joan was hiking.

Days 9-12 – Williams Mine Trailhead on FR-23 (Mile 2229.9) to White Pass on Highway 12 (2295.9)

Mt Adams Wilderness – We both hiked north on the PCT. My destination was Horseshoe Meadow, Joan’s was White Pass 66 miles away. My reward was a meadow filled with pink paintbrush.

My timing was perfect to find many blooms, and I was ecstatic with my longest hike to date since my knee surgery including 2,000′ elevation gain.

The next day was filled with waterfalls and lakes as I traveled north on FR-23. First up was Big Spring Creek Falls.

Council Lake“Council Lake is a drive up mountain lake on the north west flank of Mt. Adams.  It has a U.S. Forest Service campground.  It is stocked annually with catchable rainbow trout, but also contains eastern brook, brown trout, and cutthroat trout.”

Takhlakh Lake “A very popular campground close to the shore of Takhlakh Lake. The Campground includes ten walk-in sites. The views across the lake of Mt. Adams are outstanding. The northern trails of the Mt. Adams Wilderness are nearby. Takhlakh Loop Trail # 134 originates in the campground and encircles the lake. It’s a 1.1 mile flat hike around the lake. You can also connect to the Takh Takh Meadows trail #136 that leads you to an old lava flow.” Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Pika

Olallie Lake“This campground, on the shores of Ollalie Lake, offers 5 small sites and one larger area with room for RVs. The sites offer scenic views of Mt. Adams from the lake. It’s located in a high elevation stand of lodgepole and subalpine pine.” The trail around the lake wasn’t in as good of shape as that around Takhlakh Lake, the lake was shallower, more buggy and views of Mt Adams not as wow.

Chain of Lakes – This was the least desirable of the lakes I visited. There is free dispersed camping with picnic tables and fire rings but no restrooms. It was very buggy but maybe a fishermen’s paradise although no one was around the morning of my visit. You can access High Lakes Trail from there.

Horseshoe Lake – This was by far my favorite lake as it offered great swimming. It’s a first come first serve no reservation campground and was packed with a large father/kid group. Bugs weren’t too bad and there were views of Mt Adams. “The campground is a rustic site situated on a 24 acre lake, and offers most campers a view of the water. The campground is small with only 11 campsites. Fishing, boating (electric motors only), and hiking are available.”

At White Pass, I hiked north on the PCT to Deer Lake. This was a very somber day as I thought about Kris “Sherpa” Fowler (link) who went missing in 2016. I’ve been very involved behind-the-scenes with the search.

Old signs bring smiles, with another to add to my collection.

Good morning from a new-to-me wilderness.

I was excited to find blooming elephant head orchids.

Deer Lake

Leech Lake – at the PCT Trailhead in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Joan’s last stretch was in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This is a favorite area of mine and I’ve hiked the Knife’s Edge portion three times.

Once off trail we had a J&J day where we explored Skate Creek, a Washington State Park.

Joan’s last section of the PCT to complete is from Rainy Pass north. We attempted this in 2016 (link) but I got shin tendonitis and we had to reverse direction. This time there were fires, and although the trail was open, access was a problem. The good news is that now we had time for more J&J adventures.

Dates: July 18-22, 2021

WA – PCT Section H . . . as in Hike your own Hike, J&J Style (Stevenson to White Pass) (Days 7-8)

I picked up Joan at Williams Mine Trailhead (link to previous post) and after showers, eats, drinks and WiFi in Trout Lake we headed out for some J&J time.

Basket Tree or Peeled Cedar Interpretive Site, Trail #15“This is a culturally historic site in Gifford Pinchot National Forest located in a peaceful stand of old growth forest. The site includes cedar trees that Native Americans peeled to access the under bark.” We found out there are four other somewhat nearby sites of Culturally Modified Trees with the largest consisting of 267 trees with peel dates of 1804-1944 AD. We picked up a brochure at the Ranger Station in Trout Lake which details the locations.

Langfield Falls – Gifford Pinchot Forest Trail #8 is a special interest trail, built as a memorial to an old-time District Ranger, K.C. Langfield.

Day 8 – Sleeping Beauty Trail #37, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

“This 1.4 mile very steep trail starts climbing right away through a dense second-growth forest. The second-growth setting changes to old-growth Douglas fir and mountain hemlock. After 1 mile of continuous grade, the trail levels out near the ridge top. The trail then zigzags over bare rock to the old fire lookout site, affording excellent views of Trout Lake valley and the surrounding peaks. The trail ends at the base of the rock outcrop known as Sleeping Beauty. The formation was named because the profile somewhat resembles that of a sleeping woman. The formation is actually andesitic magma that intruded up into older volcanic rocks more than 25 million years ago. The andesite was exposed as the rocks eroded away. The trail zigzags over bare rock to the old fire lookout site. Rock work in the walls along this section was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The crest is around 750 feet long, but is only 15 to 30 feet in places, with sheer drop-offs on all sides. You can still see the eye bolts that once served as anchor points for the lookout.”

I don’t know why I didn’t take photos with my camera because my phone photos just don’t show the detail. Anyway the trail work was incredible. That’s Mt Adams in the background.

You can see the lookout wires at the top of the boulder. Joan said no thanks.

Joan enjoyed this view of Mount Hood while I scrambled up to the old lookout.

My view of Mount Hood from Sleeping Beauty lookout tower. Link to more information on history of the lookout: http://willhiteweb.com/washington_fire_lookouts/sleeping_beauty_lookout/gifford_pinchot_260.htm

Mount Saint Helens.

Mount Rainier

Team J&J Summit Success. “We conquered that peak. It was #epic.”

Hardest hike since my knee surgery.

Back in Trout Lake it was time to reward ourselves with huckleberry pancakes. I can’t say enough positives about this town. It was very hiker and traveler friendly. It gets an A+ from me.

This is Sleeping Beauty from the town of Trout Lake. Doesn’t look like a sleeping lady to me, at least not from here. There is however quite the legend about the mountain. We got a handout at the ranger station which starts out “Squaw Mountain came into the mountains and fell in love with Wy’East (Mt Hood). To get WyEast’s attention she flirted with his brother Pah-toe (Mt Adams) to the north.”

Back at camp, it was time for Joan to pack up for her next section which included Mt Adams and Goat Rocks Wilderness areas. We’d be camping independently for the next three nights.

My “healthy” dinner after a town stop.

Dates: July 16-17, 2021

WA – PCT Section H . . . as in Hike your own Hike, J&J Style (Stevenson to White Pass) (Days 5-7)

As a recap, I’m Joan’s sidekick as she works toward completion of this section. We are camping together when convenient and I’m enjoying a bit more variety than PCT standard fare. The previous post covered Bridge of Gods to Panther Creek (link).

Day 5 – Crest Camp on FR-60 (2198.9) to Panther Creek Camp on FR-65 (Mile 2183.0)

Both Joan and I hiked south through Big Lava Bed Unusual Interest Area although I turned around at the end and she continued north. According to Wikipedia, “The Big Lava Bed, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in the southwestern area of the State of Washington, originated from a 500-foot-deep crater in the northern center of the bed. The Big Lava Bed is the youngest feature of the Indian Heaven volcanic field. The 0.9-cubic kilometer lava flow erupted from the cinder cone about 8200 years ago. The lava flow traveled 13 km from the source crater. Lodgepole pine, alder, and other pioneer plants struggle to grow, seen sparsely growing between and amid towering rock piles, caves, and strange lava formations. Access into the interior of the lava bed is difficult, since there are no roads or trails crossing the lava field.”

Although I saw a few lava caves and features, it was the penstemon that grabbed my attention.

After my hike I took a detour to swim at Goose Lake.

Next was a short hike to see Panther Creek Falls. There were a lot of warning signs and relatively new fencing. I later learned a person died somewhat recently.

The best part of the day is when Team J&J are back together again.

Days 6 and 7 – Crest Camp on FR-60 (Mile 2198.9) to Williams Mine Trailhead on FR-23 (Mile 2229.9)

As Joan heads north into Indian Heaven Wilderness, this would be our first night to spend independently. We both hiked north on the PCT, but I made a loop to visit Red Mountain Lookout.

From the lookout I had incredible views of the cascade peaks including Adams, Hood, Saint Helens and Rainier.

Mount Adams
Mount Hood
Mount Saint Helens
Mount Rainier

I was really excited to hike nearly 9 miles with 1,400′ elevation gain. My knee felt great and I only had a little complaining by the rest of my body. Bouncing back after about 9-months of little activity isn’t so easy.

I also found some happy blooms to keep me company.

Columbine
Mariposa Lily
Leopard Lily

One of the cool old signs.

I was thrilled to feel chilled. How wonderful to wrap in down in July. Funny it was only 67 but when you are use to 110 and 75-80 degree lows, it takes the body a bit to acclimate.

Dates: July 15-16, 2021

WA – PCT Section H . . . as in Hike your own Hike, J&J Style (Stevenson to White Pass) (Days 1-4)

Jan and Joan were back together again for another section of the PCT. However, things were a bit different as I was still recovering from my knee surgery. So this post will mostly be about what I did while Joan was hiking the PCT. Someone needs to write a book about the best road access points and side-trip options for those providing support. I met Tim Olsen’s support crew as he was working on his FKT. They spent plenty of time researching then driving many roads so they’d be excellent candidates to share these details.

Day 1 – Panther Creek Camp on FR-65 (Mile 2183.0) to Trout Creek at FR-43 (Mile 2177.6)

While Joan hiked south, I sat in Trout Creek recovering from my long drive. I met a couple of hikers, one out for a day hike and another who’d recently began their northbound attempt from Cascade Locks.

We camped together along Panther Creek where I got to try out my new lighter weight tent. It’s a Zpacks Plexamid.

Day 2 – Trout Creek at Forest Road 43 (Mile 2177.6) to Forest Road 2000 (Mile 2166.6)

Joan headed south on the PCT, while Jan . . .

Whistle Punk Trail #59 – This 1.4 mile trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is an accessible interpretive trail that tells the story of forest management from a historical perspective. I enjoyed the beautiful forest path with signage explaining how the local dams and waterways were used in the logging process, and yes I found out the definition of a Whistle Punk.

Hemlock Picnic Area Interpretive Site – What once was a lake controlled by a dam for logging purposes is now a living example of a steelhead recovery site on the historic Wind River Nursery and Hemlock CCC Camp.

Wind River Arboretum – There is a trail that wanders among the mostly dead trees with interesting signage such as when the seed was planted and from where it was sourced.

Port of Skamania, Stevenson Landing, Interpretive Trail – I spent many hours wandering the paved path along the shoreline, watching the wind-driven water sports, as well visiting the local shops and eateries.

Day 3 – Forest Road 2000 (Mile 2166.6) to Bridge of Gods (Mile 2148.1)

Joan continued south on the PCT and it was my day for swimming, waterfalls, interpretive walks and our one and only night in a hotel.

Heaven & Hell Falls – With my 7am arrival I had the place to myself and couldn’t resist a swim in this beautiful pool. “Heaven and Hell Falls is the uppermost waterfall along Rock Creek which can be accessed with notable ease. The falls occur where the creek squeezes through a small cleft then bounces 26 feet over a rounded ledge and runs into what appears to be an ever-sliding canyon wall. Depending on the volume of water in Rock Creek, the falls may stretch to 50 feet or more wide, but due to the shape of the gorge below the falls, viewing the falls at higher flows may not be possible. The falls were named by kayakers who first ran Rock Creek as a descriptive of the fun factor of the drop. The small flume drop at the top of the falls certainly would be the “hell” part of the pairing.”

Steep Creek Falls – this one was a roadside stop. “The drainage of Rock Creek near Stevenson contains many waterfalls, distributed about evenly between Rock Creek itself and its tributaries. Steep Creek creates the most pronounced and easily accessible waterfall in the watershed as it veils 52 feet directly into Rock Creek, smashing on a ledge and creating a striking concave arch of water halfway down the falls. The road passes the falls such that side views as well as head on views are both possible. When Rock Creek runs lower in the summer, it may even be possible to walk behind the plume of water at Steep Creek.”

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, Rock Cove Interpretative Walk, Ashes Lake and Stevenson Waterfront – I didn’t have any trouble getting in my miles this day.

Crossing Bridge of Gods, even with a promised soft serve ice cream was a big fat NO.

Day 4 – It was a J&J day!

Dog Creek Falls – this is a 25-ft cascading waterfall is a very short walk in the Columbia River Gorge Recreation Area.

Guler Ice Cave and Natural Bridges Trail – Caving might not have been on my list of approved knee rehab activities. “The Guler Ice Cave is a 650 foot long cave that has a beautiful display of ice stalactites and ice stalagmites.”

I was super excited to finally see a sugarstick (Allotropa virgata), I was only wishing I had my camera instead of phone.

What a great reunion and first four days in Washington! Stay tuned for the next segment.

Dates: July 10-13, 2021

CA – Lassen NF, Twin Bridges Trailhead, PCT South (June 2021)

It was the dog’s turn. Our last few hikes were in Lassen Volcanic National Park where dogs aren’t permitted so we agreed to choose a dog-friendly trail on this day. The day started with a little surprise. It had been unseasonably hot and while we knew we were in for a break, we weren’t prepared to find snow on the pass as we drove toward the trailhead.

It seemed only appropriate that the first thing we saw was the largest snow plants I’ve ever seen. These registered 17″ using my hiking poles for perspective.

Upon closer inspection I thought they were the candycane or sugar stick variety. But alas just a striped variant.

I was hoping I’d find full fruit aka seed pods, but not quite yet.

One of the cool finds of the day. California Ground-cones just emerging. They are part of the broomrape family.

Views from our turnaround spot. What once was a forest of trees is now manzanita due to fire.

This section of the PCT will have to await until another day. It’s another 1.5 miles and 700′ to the Lassen Park boundary from here. We brought treats for PCT hikers but only met one. We heard there was another who passed through just before we arrived at the trailhead. Cool fact, this was where I provided my first trail magic way back in 2010ish.

We had views of Lassen Peak from our lunch spot. A colorful bird we both thought was a Tanager entertained us. My local birding friend confirmed they do visit Lassen. Cool!

Death camas.

I’ll just call it a lovely Lassen sunflower.

Wallflower

This section of the PCT parallels lovely Hat Creek, offering many opportunity to cool off or sit for spell.

It was a great day! I hiked 7.25 miles with nearly 800′ elevation gain/loss. My knee rehab is continuing to progress nicely. I can’t wait until I can hike for hours and hours but until then I’ll continue to focus on WHAT I CAN DO!

Other jaunts in Lassen National Forest:

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 – 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:

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CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, PCT Eye Candy

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

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

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

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

Tips:

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

Resources:

Links:

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