CA – Whiskeytown NRA, The Reopening of Trails (April 2022)

“It’ll come back.” That seems to be a common phrase after huge wildfires. My response is it won’t return to what it was for many decades, if not longer. Where and how do you even start when 97% of a Park has burned? There are financial and environmental issues, there are priorities and resources to be considered. After four long years, several of the longer trails were opened. With expectations in check, I was excited to be the first legal footsteps on the Papoose to Boulder Creek Falls trail.

From the fire overlay on Gaia, with the red representing fire boundaries, it’s easy to see why the 2018 Carr Fire created a huge problem and restoration project.

The Papoose Pass Trail was one of the more recently constructed before the fire and had quickly become a favorite due to the shady canopy and feeling of being in a forest. It was also a great trail for fitness gaining 1,000′ feet in less than 3 miles. I was pleased to find this first stretch looking reminiscent of it’s past.

It quickly became a little less enticing but the grass tread was an indicator of the time given for the understory to recover. This is what four years looks like, and more along the lines I was expecting; after all, I’d spent this time hiking local trails opened earlier but just as burned.

Living with wildfire scars has taught me to focus on the ground level activity where I can find blooms, bugs and butterflies. The Woodland Stars were a great distraction.

The Mountain chaparral lotus, Acmispon grandiflorus var. macranthus, provided lots of color and were one of the most dominant blooming plants on this day.

My one hope for this particular day was that some Dogwoods survived and would be blooming. I was rewarded and also found several new tree starts. These will brighten the forest over the coming years.

Snowdrop Bush and Yerba Santa

Yellow False-Lupine (pea family)

These Kellogg Monkeyflowers (Diplacus kelloggii) made my day!

The ladybugs don’t seem to be bothered by the plentiful poison oak. With all the recent trail clearing, there isn’t any encroaching the trail, a huge win for many sensitive to this evil plant.

This was a new plant for me. It’s in the rockcress family, Lithospermum californicum.

This was perhaps the largest patch of wild ginger I’ve seen.

A benefit of hiking this as an out and back trail was finding these Bleeding Hearts I missed on my way to the falls.

Boulder Creek Falls still flowing, albeit a bit lower than normal due to lack of rain and snow.

Trail infrastructure like these bridges required replacement.

Trail crews are my heroes! When I found these loppers hiding in the shadows of recently cleared trail, I was happy to carry them out.

A friend recently shared her thoughts, “I see beauty in new growth from a fire ravaged area. It’s a testament to how resilient and insistent Mother Nature is.” These new trees speak volumes.

Date Hiked: April 1, 2022

Stats: 11.5 miles 2,400′ elevation gain/loss

Trail: Papoose Trail to Boulder Creek Falls (out and back)

Tips:

  • Plan for lack of shade
  • Avoid on windy days
  • Expect down trees
  • Adjust expectations, sadly this seems to be the new normal in fire susceptible forests
  • Pack a headnet. Whiskeytown is notorious for swarms of gnats.
  • There are three trails leading to Boulder Creek Falls
    • The shortest at 1 mile (one way) from Mill Creek Road Trailhead
    • Next shortest 2.6 miles (one way) from South Shore Drive Trailhead
    • Longest at 5.75 miles (one way) from Papoose/Sheep Camp Trailhead

Resources:

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mill Creek Falls (June 2021)

There are still trails in Lassen I haven’t hiked, including this one to Mill Creeks Falls. When a friend called with an invite I said YES!

I’d seen photos of the falls before and knew they weren’t WOWtastic but I figured with it being early season, they’d be at peak. What I wasn’t expected was to find peak blooms of Woolly mule’s ears and Arrow leaved balsamroot.

I have a hard time telling them apart in photos. In person I know the mule’s ears have soft and fuzzy leaves. My botany friend told me these in the photo below are Arrow leaved balsamroot.

Bleeding hearts and stickweed (NOT hounds tongue as I incorrectly assumed) were also in abundance.

California Stickweed (Hackelia californica). There was a lot. Initially I thought it was popcorn flower but looking closer I was sure it was the white version of hounds tongue. But I was wrong on that count also.

First view of Mill Creek Falls with a little paintbrush in the foreground.

Mill Creek Falls, much more impressive in person than this photo shows. According to my guidebook “this is a 75-foot drop and it’s the tallest in Lassen Park. It consists of 3 separate falls: East Sulphur Creek and Bumpass Creek tumble 25-30′ into a swirling pool before their combined waters plunge another 50′ to the base of Mill Creek Falls.”

We found a nice shady area next to the creek to cool off and enjoy lunch before working out way back to the trailhead. There are only about 3-4 areas along the trail with water access. The yellow blooms tried to steal the show.

Wooly Mules Ears with Brokeoff Mountain and I believe Mt Diller.

Nothing FLAT about this trail. You can see on the profile those steep areas that were super challenging for me at this point in my rehab. It was hard to believe the hike was less than 4 miles and less than 700 feet of elevation gain/loss. I’d always had this on my EASY list thus mostly avoiding it. I found out upon returning home it’s really considered moderate because of the incline and rocky terrain. For those looking for a bigger challenge or who have two vehicles to shuttle, the trail continues another 3.5 miles to Kings Creek Picnic Area. The bonus is seeing Cold Boiling and Crumbaugh Lakes as well as Conard Meadows.

Other jaunts at Lassen Volcanic National Park:

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Poison Canyon Trailhead . . . early summer jaunting

Rather than WOW per mile views, on this trip you get WILD per mile experiences. You’ll earn your views and grub by navigating your way through overgrowth, tree debris fields, and faint to non-existent trails. This is a place to find solitude. Over 5 days I crossed paths with 5 hikers. Intrigued?

I read somewhere that conditions had been improved on the Lilypad Lake/Thumb Rock Loop somewhat recently. I found a few cut logs as evidence on the way up to the junction. The trail steadily climbs from 4,100′ elevation at the trailhead to finally this first view of Ycatapom Peak.

While getting slapped in the face a few too many times as I worked my way through the low elevation foliage, I was rewarded with these late spring early summer blooms.

Bleeding Heart

Western Prince’s Pine

Leopard Lily

At 2.8 miles, having gained nearly 1,900′ in elevation, you reach the trail junction to Lilypad Lake and Thumb Rock. Since I hiked the loop in 2014 (blog link) I continued on the Poison Canyon Trail. Having now climbed 2,700′ in 4 miles you arrive at Tracy Trail to Boulder Lake junction. Not too much later you are granted this view of Lilypad Lake (bottom left), Thumb Rock and the beautiful hanging meadows.

To complete the panoramic view, Ycatapom Peak with Lilypad Lake visible in the lower middle. Trinity Lake is in the valley below.

Water becomes sparse and you may limited to meadow puddles in the early summer.

Given my late start and the upcoming water situation, I decided to camp before the ridge. It was breezy and chilly, ending with a 29F degree low and a frosty sleeping bag since I chose not to use my rainfly.

I got an early start the next morning and was treated to views of Mt Shasta as I climbed toward the Parker/Union Divide.

The views from the divide were impressive. At this point I was 5 miles and 3,500′ into my trip.

Landers Lake

My next destination was Landers Lake which is located in the crown of mountains in the middle of this photo. Red Rock Mountain (not to be confused with Red Mountain) is the dominant peak surrounding the lake. As is true within the Trinity Alps, what goes up must go down, sadly with little room to roam at the top. My original goal was to make it to the lake for my first night but between the elevation gain, trail conditions and water situation, it wasn’t in the cards.

This was a fun part of the trail where you got to stay high before dropping into the valley. It reminded me a bit of Knife’s Edge in Washington’s Goat Rocks Wilderness. In my perfect world, there would be lots more of this in the Trinities.

As I started my descent I found this lovely meadow of corn lilies not yet ready to bloom.

I was thrilled to find the first-of-the season blooms on owl’s clover.

These were one of the predominant blooms on this trek. Too many similar blooms to identify for this extreme amateur botanist.

At 8 miles I reached the junction to Landers Lake.

I attempted to reach the lake during my late April trip up Swift Creek, but there was too much snow (blog link).

Looking back from where I’d come.

The colors and textures of these rocks is eye candy to this want-to-be geologist.

And finally I arrived at lovely Landers Lake, 4,200′ and 10.5 miles from the trailhead (plus a 1,300′ descent). Red Rock Peak looks tiny in the background. For those more nimble than I, you can skip a few miles scheduled for my next leg of this journey by going over the shoulder rather than taking the trail.

Although it was quite early, I decided to spend the night as the next leg had water issues and more elevation gain than I was ready to tackle. So I wandered around enjoying the fluttering butterflies and warm sun, although the breeze made it too chilly for a dip.

Red Rock Mountain’s namesake red was very apparent in the early morning light.

Historical Mining Trail Loop

The next leg included the Sunrise Creek, Yellow Rose Mine and Dorleska Trails. I wanted to take one of two short cuts, but I knew from my experience it would end up wasting more time and energy than just taking the trail which meant descending before regaining that elevation. In retrospect I was happy with my decision when I saw I would have had to go through a huge ravine as well as deal with brush. So at 12.7 miles from the Poison Canyon Trailhead, I connected with the Sunrise Creek Trail.

There were a few wildflowers at around 6,000′ including these Mariposa Lilies.

Bog Orchid

Let the fun begin. Where oh where does the trail go? If I were a trail were would I be? Shall I go through the swamp or the bushes? At least these were short enough they didn’t slap me in the face like I found at the 4-5000′ elevation.

If you’re lucky you might find an old blaze on a tree, like this one without bark. How much longer will that tree be standing?

Look at those wide open views with plentiful opportunities for exploring.

At 14.5 miles with 5,500′ of elevation gain and 2,300′ of loss, I arrived at the Yellow Rose Mine Trail.

This notch is the shortcut route to Landers Lake. Doesn’t look too bad from this side. Red Rock Mountain is the left peak.

While many hike this loop to see the mining relics, my primary purpose was to see the mountains that flank the Salmon River drainage including the likes of this, Caribou Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge.

A recent hike included a trip to Horse Heaven, the high point above Tri-Forest Pass (blog link), the knoll at the far end of Sawtooth Ridge.

As you continue along the trail the views get better and better. This is Caribou Mountain with mostly private Josephine Lake easily visible in the middle of the photo. The Caribou Lakes basin is on the other side of the ridge. I believe that’s Caesar Cap Peak in the background, but it might be Thompson Peak.

Preachers Peak at 7,202 look pretty unimpressive and easily baggable at the ridge between Yellow Rose and Dorleska Mines. Wonder who this Preacher dude was as there’s not only a peak but also a campground named after him.

This was the first mining site I encountered except for a couple small pit mines with nothing that caught my eye worth sharing. I believe these are the remains of the Le Roy Mine. This USGS report (link) has some information regarding the mines. See page B131.

I believe these are the remains of the Yellow Rose Mine. This USGS report (link) has some information regarding the mines. See page B127.

The Dorleska Mine sites were spread over several areas. Additional information can be gleaned from the document referenced above, same page as Yellow Rose Mine. It’s hard to imagine hauling all this equipment up these steep trails, made more for mules than humans, but back in the late 1800’s miners were made of hardy stock but by 1938 they were ready to leave it all behind.

This pond just below Dorleska will forever hold negative memories.

I found myself flailing through deadfall on a steep slope and as I exited the shade, I realized my hat was gone. What? NOOOOOO! I usually have it tethered to my pack for this very reason. So back up to the ridge I went, searching searching searching and calling out to my hat, “BLUE oh BLUE where are you?”

Finding myself out of luck and a little mournful as I said goodbye to my old friend Blue. As I headed down toward Bullards Basin, I found this lovely meadow of Blue-Eyed Grass. It helped me deal with my loss.

Foster, Lion, Conway and Big Boulder Lakes

After 21.5 miles with 6,300′ elevation gain and 4,600′ loss, I reached the junction for the Lion Lake Trail, bypassing options to Union Lake.

I got an early morning start climbing up the ridge. I was greeted by this meadow of Cow Parsley.

I had awesome views looking back at Red Rock Mountain and the ring of peaks hiding Landers Lake.

Looking back I can see down to where I camped the previous night, the drainage leading around the bend to those views of Caribou Mountain and of course Red Rock Mountain with Landers Lake in the front and the mines on the other side. You can’t see in this photo, but there is a huge swath of headless trees which I’m assuming are the result of an avalanche at some point in the past.

Finally I was back at Foster Lake, a place I’d visited in 2014 on my loop hike from Boulder Lake trailhead to Foster Lake, then down to Thumb Rock and Lilypad Lake before returning to the trailhead (blog link).

It was time to try out my invention. My eyes are extremely sun sensitive and knew I’d suffer without a visor. So as I was packing I placed my Nat Geo map inside a gaiter which went inside another gaiter. They have elastic cords at one end that usually hold them up and I was able to attach those to my ponytail, using a buff to keep it on my head. I’m happy to report it worked well for my final two days, never bouncing around or falling off. Function wins over fashion!

The trail building efforts from years begone through the granite have remained firmly in place. The staircases are much appreciated.

However, the trail traversing along Lion and Conway Lakes is quickly becoming more of a deer path rather than one for human use. If you have exposure and sideslipping trail issues, I’d have second thoughts.

I loved this stretch showcasing nature’s gardening.

As I dropped elevation I was faced with more down trees, blow down and overgrowth. There was one obstacle so large there wasn’t safe passage but I had to figure out a way and take my chances. This trail needs some love. I was feeling pretty grumpy coming into Big Boulder Lake. I was prepared for it to be busy as it’s very near the Boulder Lakes Trailhead. Upon arrival there was an obnoxious couple cussing up a storm and a group camped on a distant shore. I wandered the shoreline looking for a place I could access the lake for a swim. No real options except in the overused camping area so back I went. As I was getting ready to swim several other groups arrived. One group decided to start a fire. It was 2pm and hot enough to want to be in the shade. What’s next? That’s right the stereo is fired up and the booze comes out. Yep that was my cue to get myself up the trail. On a positive note the swim was invigorating and a few of the lilies were blooming but they were too far from shore to get a photo.

My original plan had been to go off trail to Tapie, Lost and Found Lakes which are hidden behind the granite mounds to the left in the below photo; Big Boulder Lake is in the middle. Since my route had been much more challenging than anticipated, I was not only short of stamina but was also on food rations. I noted the jump off point for a future trip.

Instead I decided to spend the night on the ridge, enjoying a few hours with Mt Shasta and capturing this wonderful sunrise.

With my rationed food selection, it was time to chow and start the long downhill descent.

The bears seem to like this brushy canyon. This was about the freshest pile I’ve seen. Once before I came upon a pile still steaming, but this one was still had a nice urine ring. I saw another pile about a mile later. Never saw a bear but saw plenty of evidence throughout this route.

The next section of trail was through more down trees, blow down, overgrown bushes, through meadows, etc. I was so tired of getting slapped in the face with branches and having my face draped with webs. But I survived and lived to tell this story. There is no better way to end this post than with a few more of the blooms I saw on this lollipop loop route.

Followed by a well deserved meal.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 28 – July 2, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

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

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Tangle Blue Lake Trailhead . . . spring jaunting

While you’ll find information for Tangle Blue Lake in guidebooks, it takes more than casual preparation to find the trailhead as there’s no signage at the highway junction. In fact this sign at the trailhead no longer exists. This is a photo from my 2013 visit. 

This is your 2020 welcome board.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone refer to this as the Grand National Trail, named for an old road to the Grand National Mine. This sign has been defaced since I took this photo in 2013. Maybe because the mileage isn’t exactly accurate. It’s now 3.75 miles from the trailhead to the lake although I’m not sure how far along the trail this sign is located.

This sign is long gone as well. I’d like to think it was removed by the Forest Service for maintenance rather than stolen.

Expect 1,200 feet in elevation gain on a well-used, rocky, easy-to-follow trail. According to Mike White’s Trinity Alps book, “Legend suggests that Tangle Blue Lake and Creek were named by an early resident of the area who started his trip into the wilderness after awaking from a long night of partying to find his feet tangled and the air blue.”

It’s a rare treat to get the lake to yourself like I did. There are far more private campsites along the creek or further up the trail.

Marshy Lakes

There are several options for exploring off the main trail, although signage is somewhat lacking and trails are not necessarily maintained. My goal for this trip was to hike to Marshy Lakes, then up to East Boulder Lakes, followed by a northwest jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail, then returning on the Tangle Blue Lake Trail which connects to the Eagle Creek Trail.

You’ll need decent navigation skills to find the lakes. Along the main spur trail, you’ll see a pond before finding a trail near a “no hunting” sign which leads to Little Marshy Lake.

There is a mighty fine camping area which is on private property, a carve out in the wilderness (shown below on the map). The memorial is for a mule or horse. They even have piped water to a faucet. So fancy!

The lighter shade on the map represents private property which includes a little more than half of Little Marshy Lake, the end with the camp.

At the far end of the lake, you’ll find this waterfall created from Big Marshy Lake’s outlet.

Big Marshy Lake.

East Boulder Lakes

I recommend reversing direction slightly from Big Marshy Lake to reconnect with the old road and current use trail to the PCT. Attempting a short-cut ends up being a lot more wasted time and effort. You can see my track on the above map photo when I wandered to the left of the trail.

When I hiked the PCT in 2015, I wasn’t inclined to add miles so I was excited to see the East Boulder Lakes basin. I explored the ridges on both sides of the pass but wasn’t motivated to hike down into the basin itself.

Pacific Crest Trail

The PCT provided spectacular views down toward Big Marshy Lake and the mountains towering above Tangle Blue Lake.

The close-up details of the rocks was worthy of closer inspection and pondering the geologic history.

You can expect snow on the PCT in early spring. Some patches had serious consequences should you slip.

I spent a night along the PCT where I got to watch this bald eagle hunting for it’s dinner.

It was a perfect place to watch the nearly full moon rise while smiling at this sunset view.

The next morning I enjoyed a brilliant sunrise with Mt Shasta hidden within.

I continued hiking northwest on the PCT. My next POI was Middle Boulder Lakes basin. It was filled with a frog choir. I’d need earplugs to camp there. I considered hiking the loop that connects these lakes with Telephone Lake.

I caught a little cell signal for an updated weather forecast which told me no lollygagging.

I found a great view of the northern side of Caribou Mountain and other major peaks of the Trinity Alps.

I tried to find a view down to West Boulder Lake but without a trail and steep cluttered hillsides, I wasn’t too motivated to play hide and seek. However, there’s a trail junction on the PCT for another lakes basin which includes Mavis, Fox Creek, Virginia and Section Line Lakes.

The lakes aren’t visible from the junction but if you hike up a bit and explore the ridge, you can find this view of Mavis Lake.

I was able to see Virginia Lake with my naked eye, but it was hard to capture with my camera. It’s tucked just below the granite side of the mountain. I met a group who were staying at Fox Lake. They said it was a great base camp from which they’d spen one day hiking to all the lakes in the basin and the next up to the PCT and down a side trail to Wolford Cabin. So many options for loops and trip extensions. Be warned though, trail conditions are a big unknown especially given recent fires.

Bloody Run Trail / Eagle Creek Divide / Eagle Creek Trail / Tangle Blue Trail

I reversed direction back to this trail junction. I had no idea if I’d find remnants of trail or if it would be a big mess or . . . it was a big mystery but one I was willing to at least take a stab at ground truthing. I was happy to at least see this sign on the PCT (it reads Bloody Run Trail and Eagle Creek Divide).  As you may recall I found the sign for the Eagle Creek junction when I was on my way to the Marshy Lakes.

Step 1, go the 1/4 mile to the divide. Take a look around and see if I could find a trail that matched my digital map.

I found the divide without incident on a fairly well used trail to a campsite. From there I wasn’t able to find the trail that connects to Wolford Cabin but found the light use trail continuing down Bloody Run to this junction. By this time I was beyond hopeful as I’d dropped quite a bit of elevation and was not looking forward to reversing direction.

I was thrilled to find this sign at the junction of Eagle Creek Trail and Tangle Blue Trail.

According to the map you can connect to/from the PCT to the Tangle Blue Trail. I didn’t find any evidence on the PCT but I found this sign along the Tangle Blue Trail and it looked like a fairly straight shot through an open meadow but I didn’t check it out so it remains a mystery.

I found a few old trail blazes on trees. I wouldn’t attempt this trail without excellent off-trail navigation skills. When you temporarily lose the trail, backtrack and watch the digital map as the old trail stays fairly true to what’s shown on the maps.

Cairns were well placed in many spots, and very helpful with the navigation game.

It was a beautiful area filled with meadows, flowers, streams and views.

The lower section is more in the forest and bit messier than the upper section. Had I been paying better attention and not gotten off track a one point where I found myself in a manzanita quagmire, I would have been 100% thrilled I’d taken this alternate. Buy hey, I came, I explored, I survived.

I was especially excited to find this sign on my way back to the main trail. Yes, the Tangle Blue Trail exists!

After that wild day, I found a cozy spot to call it a night. If I hadn’t gotten off track, I probably would have camped along the Tangle Blue Trail where I would have had more open views. But that too is all part of the adventure and something that will keep this trip memorable.

Grand National Mine

On a previous trip I took the side trail to explore the mine. I didn’t find a sign this trip, but it’s pretty easy to spot the old road. You can see the red roof of the old stamp mill in the lower left corner of this photo I captured as I was coming down the Tangle Blue Trail from the Marshy Lakes/Eagle Creek junction. You can see the old road above the mill. Someday I want to come back and continue further up the road to the ridge. I’m sure it would offer excellent views.

As of my 2013 visit there was lots of debris left behind. According to the Trinity Lake Revitalization Alliance, “The Grand National Mine produced about 1,500 ounces of gold, 2,200 ounces of silver, and 1,900 pounds of copper between 1934 and 1937. A few ounces of gold and silver were produced in 1930 and 1931. Nearly 54 percent of the gold was from quartz veins, which assayed at an average value of $23 per ton. The owner estimated that some 22,600 tons of material was in the three veins of the main mine diggings as of the late 1960s. At some $20 per ton, that was a value worth pursuing. Of course, now that the mine is wholly within the Trinity Alps Wilderness, it has been retired for all practical purposes.”

Flora and Fauna:

Early spring flowers were abundant on this trip. I was especially happy to see the lavender pasqueflowers just waiting to become Dr. Seuss blooms.

Although I thought these were all bleeding hearts, it appears a couple are really steersheads, all in the Dicentra family.

This trip was devoid of bears, instead my wildlife was this snake and a lot of frogs.

For a high-use trail, it had very little trash or obvious TP. I picked up quite a lot of micro trash on the first section and later on found these sunglasses. They were covered in mud and looked like they’d been lost a long time ago.

A little something new to get used to as we experience this COVID-19 global pandemic.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 2-5, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

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