CA – Fall/Winter Jaunting, Far NorCal (10/22-2/23)

I returned home from my 5-month jaunt (link) in mid October, where I was welcomed by early fall colors.

Our foothills were painted white in early November.

I got out for my first snowshoe outing on November 11th, possibly the earliest in my history.

Ice was yet to form on Manzanita and Reflection Lakes at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

It was a clash of seasons.

Meanwhile autumn colors were grabbing my attention at lower elevation.

It was hard to ignored our sad trails, still surrounded by burned skeleton trees and bushes.

Escaping to the Trinity Alps was a welcome respite from our local burned trails.

I had such a wonderful time, I returned the next week with another friend.

Moody skies make paved trails so much more interesting.

It was great to have more consistent snowshoe opportunities this winter, although windy conditions made many days uninviting.

I was thrilled to find this art installment in place of graffiti on the river trail.

I spent New Year’s Day with our local Native Plant Society chatting about post-fire recovery.

I make it a practice when I’m home to catch sunrises and sunsets. I don’t have much of a window to the sky so it’s always a gift when I get to witness one like this.

I found my first blooms on January 10th, wild radish.

The rain brought us lots of fungus in the form of mushrooms.

Toyon berries keep the robins singing and provide welcome color along our trails.

Manzanita trees have so much character with their red bark which is especially shiny when wet.

Blooms on Manzanita shrubs.

Interesting macro detail.

Look at the bright green color on these new fern starts.

I found the first Pipevine blooms on the last day of January.

Spring was about 3 weeks earlier in 2022, but that wasn’t the norm. Blooms seem to be more on schedule this year with this Hounds Tongue discovered on February 6th.

Shooting Stars followed a week later.

This saxifrage was found on February 12th.

On the same hike Warrior’s Plume was blooming.

Blue Dips

Snow continued to accumulate on the mountains. I finally made it to south Lassen where the Visitor Center was nearly buried.

The restroom is under the mound.

The moss bands on the trees indicate several more feet of snow are needed to reach normal depth.

Ridge Lakes will stay hidden until summer.

With the significant rain it’s been a great time to visit seasonal waterfalls.

This image shows how fire damage takes a long time to recover. This fire was over four years ago.

In some areas trees are growing and in fact taller than me. Those give me hope.

On Valentine’s Day, I found this budding Fritillaria Checkered Lily. I wonder how long it’ll take to bloom?

Snow dropped to 500′ toward the end of February.

I got out early to capture photos.

It was super wet snow. I got about 2.5″ of water from 3.5″ of snow.

The above photos were taken on trails around Redding, California, as well as Trinity Alps Wilderness and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

And now it’s spring jaunt time. Where oh where will I land?

You know it’s nearing time when food prep begins.

I make my own muesli by combining Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli with steel cut oats, old fashioned oats, raisins (or other dried fruit), cinnamon, brown sugar, and chia seeds. Sometimes I’ll add more nuts or seeds. I like to prep some meals in individual serving sizes for backpacking while the rest I package in food sealer bags for use while traveling.

Much of my time this fall/winter was spent taking care of ignored chores while away, repairing/replacing travel and hiking gear, as well as getting ready for 2023 jaunts. Links:

NV – Great Basin National Park (10/22)

I’ve found this park to be a perfect detour along my Nevada crossings. Although I’ve visited several times there are still many trails I haven’t hiked. This was my first visit to this south entrance.

Snake Creek Canyon

Johnson Lake, Dead Lake and Overlook Trails

Look at that signage and beautiful trail leading into aspen groves just a bit past peak color.

I love this time of year with chilly mornings leading to perfect hiking temperatures. My phone and inReach devices were confused about the time given I was near the Utah border and mountain time so it kept switching by an hour, thereby confusing me too. I wondered why it was getting light so late. But alas I live by nature’s light so by 8am I was on trail.

I was impressed with trail conditions and signage.

The reds were serviceberry, the yellows aspen. Although on the drive to the trailhead there were plenty of cottonwood trees also displaying their fall yellows.

I was shocked and delighted to find a few late blooming lupine.

I’ve learned you need to shoot into the sun to capture this brilliance.

My plan was to return on the Dead Lake Trail after an out-and-back detour to Johnson Lake. At this junction I’d hiked 2.7 miles with 1,500′ elevation gain.

This next section of trail includes a lot of history. “Carefully tucked into the scenic western slopes of east central Nevada’s Snake Range and almost 11,000 feet above sea level, Johnson Lake Mine today lies in ruins. The remains of a few log cabins, mining equipment, and artifacts (trash) from miners and their families are left to tell the story of this mining district. The mine probably played a role in the wartime efforts of the United States during the early 20th century. The deteriorating structures and the vestiges of an aerial tramway are part of what makes Johnson Lake Mine a valuable cultural resource. Today a historic landscape in Great Basin National Park, Johnson Lake Mine’s story actually begins in the early part of the 1900s, when the mineral tungsten was first discovered in the southern Snake Range. At Johnson Lake Mine tungsten was extracted and milled onsite and then transported a great distance to be refined and then used to make alloy steel. Alloy steel was used to create things like weapons, tanks, and transmitter radios during World War I. Following the war, mining activity was sporadic until the 1930s when a snowslide rushed over the mine and halted production. After that, the mine was closed and abandoned. Now in disrepair, with much of the mining equipment salvaged for use at other mines or collected by mining buffs, the site still possesses archeological resources. Archeologists are following clues, dusting off the remains of the past, and discovering the day-to-day practices of the mine and the people who inhabited the region.Source Link

I like it when interpretative signage is included. My head is always buzzing with questions and often these signs answer them.

Not a bad place to live, at least at this time of year. Winters are harsh.

This is the pass between Johnson and Baker Lakes. If you look closely mid photo you can see the trail. I was glad it wasn’t my destination as that section of trail appears to be quite rocky. Notice it’s called a “route” vs trail which means it could be Type II fun.

First view of Johnson Lake.

I hiked up above the lake a bit for better views and found remains of the aerial tram and miscellaneous mining relics.

Looking down at Johnson Lake and distant peaks. I met three NPS biologists who were collecting bugs, from the yellow raft, to determine if cutthroat trout could be reintroduced.

I took the Dead Lake Trail to complete the loop, and indeed it was dead, or at least empty. I was glad of my choice to take this trail at the end as it didn’t provide the WOW views of the Johnson Lake trail and it was more shaded which provided some respite from the warm sun, which would be intense on warmer days.

Near the trailhead is the junction to the short Snake Overlook Trail. I took this detour. By the way these walk-in campsites were only about 1/4-1/2 mile from the trailhead and can be secured on a first-come basis. They are impressive with picnic tables, campfires rings and a nearby creek.

Sadly the view is very limited as the trees are now quite tall. I accepted this color as a compromise. The surface of this trail lends itself to wheelchair access.

This was a 9.4 mile, 2,700′ elevation gain/loss lollipop loop hike.

I caught this soothing sunset from the trailhead.

Shoshone and Snake Divide Trails

The next morning I was off to find some Bristlecone Pines.

This trail begins from the Snake Creek Trailhead, same as the Johnson and Dead Lakes Trails.

I found more colorful aspen as I began the climb up the Shoshone Trail.

I reached the junction after 1.5 miles and nearly 700′ of elevation gain. The Shoshone drops down at this point. No thanks!

The Snake Divide Trail needs some serious maintenance. The long traverse section is slip sliding off the traverse with several steep transitions; those with exposure anxiety wouldn’t like it. The final section through a rocky area on the opposite side of the divide had some navigational challenges with little evidence of a trail; occasional cairns and colorful flagging helped. Eventually I found views!

There were many distant peaks inviting exploration. The colors reminded me of my backyard including the Trinity Alps and Klamath mountains.

I continued onward through the bristlecone forest which I learned later contains both Limber and Bristlecone Pines, which are similar yet different. “Bristlecone pines and limber pines are often confused with one another. They grow side by side, along the same elevation, often sharing the same groves. The best way to distinguish the Great Basin Bristlecone pine from the Limber pine is to look at the needles, which on the bristlecones are about one-inch-long and grow in packets of five. The Limber pine trees, on the other hand, have needles in packets of five that are 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, which only grow toward the ends of branches.” Source Link 

These trees are such survivors. Crazy amazing!

Nope not dead. Look at all that new growth on the left side of the trunk.

How old is old? Some are said to be 7,000 years old. “Great Basin Bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva) are remarkable for being the oldest non-clonal species on the planet. This strange tree, shaped by the wind, snow, and rain has survived over thousands of years, overseeing the rise and fall of great empires, growing through ice-ages and catastrophic volcanic eruptions. But their ability to survive these harsh environments and adverse growing conditions is exactly their secret to great longevity.Source Link 

I asked a ranger about this tag and he said it was from an old research study and didn’t have access to details.

I needed to hike to at least to the top of that hill in order to see Mount Washington but I just couldn’t find the energy, so I turned around at the base.

So close to the junction . . . but 5 miles seemed a good place to turn around.

I found a few high alpine blooms surviving.

On the way down I had time to enjoy this view.

This autumnal carpet is a reminder that this season will soon come to a close.

This distant view of Wheeler Peak kept me hopeful that I’d have the opportunity to hike it during this trip.

This was a 10-mile 2,600′ elevation gain/loss out-and-back hike.

Wheeler Peak (13,063′)

Summit Trail

My timing has never been right for hiking this high altitude exposed trail. Last time it was too windy so I hiked the Lakes and Rock Glacier Trails (blog link). The mountain was covered in snow on my first visit when I snowshoed from Upper Lehman to Wheeler Campground (blog link). Initially I thought this was going to be another strikeout when I found a sign at the visitor’s center implying the entire area was closed for the next three days. Luckily I stopped at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center and the trails were open.

This is a good visual showing the way to the peak. The trail works it’s way up to the sand-looking ridge, along the ridge and up to the flat-looking peak.

The rockiness of the trail increases with elevation gain.

I was prepared to turnaround if the trail degraded to bouldering or hiking through scree fields.

The trail remained easy to follow and in good condition with stable rocks. You gain about 1,000′ in the last mile.

I’m always happy to find the Benchmark Survey markers.

Success! Hey I’m a peak bagger, at least on this date.

Looking down at the false summits and Mount Moriah (12,072) in the distance.

A good perspective of the ridges used to access the peak.

One of the reasons I wanted to hike this trail was to look down at the rock glacier where I hiked on a previous trip. You can also see several high alpine lakes from this vantage point. The air quality in the valley was subpar which seems to be from dust, and sadly has become normal.

At the summit the views weren’t as WOW as some places as I’ve been, but I enjoyed looking around and was super happy for the light breeze instead of the normal gusty winds.

Look at that forest hidden in this valley.

So many bands and colors. This is what I could see when I hiked into the rock glacier and looked up at Wheeler Peak.

I found some more high alpine beauties.

And a tiny patch of snow.

I was thrilled to mark this summit as a success!

This was an 8.7 mile 2,800′ elevation gain/loss out-and-back hike.

Dog and hunter-free trails is a luxury I enjoy, especially after both being bitten and shot. Thank you NPS!


More Jaunts at GBNP:

UT – Fishlake, Pando Forest, Spawning Salmon and Butch Cassidy (10/22)

This was my year to bounce between Colorado and Utah, thanks to several opportunities to hike with Joan. But finally I said goodbye to Colorado for the final time this year and hello to Utah.

I spent a few days backpacking Grand Gulch with Joan (blog post) before starting my long drive home. One of the places I had marked to visit was the Pando Forest at Fishlake. Little did I know along the way I’d find Butch Cassidy and a few crossings of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail marked with this pack train.

There was an obvious connection between this trail and Fishlake (aka Fish Lake), my next destination.

Although I came to see the Pando Forest and found Fishlake underwhelming, I came upon kokanee salmon spawning in Twin Creeks. That provided at least an hour or more of entertainment. I learned from a local that this creek is also spawning grounds for cutthroat trout.

Finding Pando was the reason I’d been drawn to the area. “When the Pando clone was discovered, scientists named it with a Latin word that means “I spread.” Pando is an aspen clone that originated from a single seed and spreads by sending up new shoots from the expanding root system. Pando is believed to be the largest, most dense organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds. The clone spreads over 106 acres, consisting of over 40,000 individual trees. The exact age of the clone and its root system is difficult to calculate, but it is estimated to have started at the end of the last ice age. Some of the trees are over 130 years old. It was first recognized by researchers in the 1970s and more recently proven by geneticists. Its massive size, weight, and prehistoric age have caused worldwide fame.Source Link

Specialists are concerned with Pando however, because the clone is showing signs of decline. There are two reasons thought to be the cause of this decline. They are a lack of regeneration, along with insects and disease. Additionally, it is thought that the lack of regeneration is due to over browsing from deer and other ungulates. Insects, such as bark beetles, and disease such as root rot and cankers, are attacking the overstory trees, weakening and killing them. A lack of regeneration combined with weakening and dying trees, in time, could result in a smaller clone or complete die off. The Forest Service in cooperation with partner organizations are working together to study Pando in order to address the issues of decline. Over the years, foresters have tested different methods to stimulate the roots to encourage new sprouting. Research plots have been set up in all treated areas to track Pando’s progress. With each treatment, foresters have been able to learn from Pando and adapt.Source Link

The aspen were past peak color.

I wandered the nearby trails finding a few colorful trees.

I enjoyed collecting leaves that represented the color change progression.

The open grazing detracted from the experience. I was grateful for the fenced enclosures where gates created a safe zone for human travelers, free of cow poo and moos.

The Lakeshore Trail was overrun by the cows.

This group was being herded somewhere and held up traffic for a while.

This was a little section of the National Recreation Trail. Cows are just out of the photo to the left.

I had planned to spend a couple days in the area hiking around the lakes and through the forest in hopes of finding the mother tree, but between the cows, flies and a bee sting I was ready to move on. I’m sensitive to stings and bites often getting bacterial infections.

I carry antibiotics and preventative benadryl/pepcid combo. I was dismayed to find all were long expired but decided it best to start the regiment in hopes I could avoid an out-of-state urgent care visit. Thankfully they worked!

Continuing my travels across Utah I came across this roadside attraction. I’m always looking for good places to stretch my legs and take walks to break up my drives. Sort of funny to memorialize this criminal.


CO – Lizard Head Wilderness (Sept/Oct 2022)

I hiked a loop through this wilderness in the fall of 2017 (blog link). A couple of incidents remain strong in my memories. First was a connector section that was more rock climbing than hiking, way outside my comfort zone especially solo. The second was the snow storm providing a stunning scene the next morning.

There are two trails near Lizard Head Pass. I hiked the Lizard Head Trail one day and the Cross Mountain Trail the next. Many will hike both as a loop. Since I wasn’t interested in the 2.5 mile road walk on the highway I decided independent hikes were more to my liking.

I camped near the trailhead where I was treated to these views. Notice the recent snow on the peaks.

The colors are striking.

When I saw the sun sweep across the forest, it felt like magic.

The light changed again keeping me saying WOW!

Lizard Head Trail

As I’m putting on my shoes I notice this dog. I looked around for the owners.

Instead I hear baa baa and see hundreds of sheep flooding the parking area and thankfully moving below the trailhead. Little did I know that trail traversed the hillside and they indeed were on my path. Another group of hikers arrived and we began together. The dog and sheep didn’t seem to mind our presence.

There were a few trees displaying their fall colors.

The trail climbed gently via nicely graded switchbacks until finally the ridge was reached and the first of several false summits.

The reward! This is why I huff n’ puff my way of climbs. I love dramatic landscape views. First view of THE Lizard Head rocky outcropping.

My turnaround was at Black Face Peak where I had amazing 360 views.

I didn’t scamper up Black Face to see if there was a Benchmark survey marker. The faint trail on the ridge continues on to eventually connect to the Cross Mountain Trail I planned to hike the following day.

I’m guessing this area will be quite colorful in a couple weeks.

Looking down at Trout Lake. Further in that canyon is Hope Lake where I’d planned to hike, but instead found a road closure.

There were pikas in these rocks.

I was shocked to find these surviving bluebells.

I enjoy studying the details. Nature is amazing!

These were the first leaves on the trail I’d seen.

The hills are alive with color.

This was an 8-mile 2,000′ elevation gain/loss out-and-back hike.

I would love to find a way to get nearer these peaks.

I found another view campsite where I could watch the storm activity and light changes. Lizard Head Peak is to the left and a developing rainbow on the right.

The most bizarre sunset lighting.

The next morning I stopped at the restroom near the Lizard Head Trailhead. Across the highway I could hear sheep with the smell easily making it my way. I was easily amused the next morning watching the sheep being loaded up for market. I’m sure all those campers weren’t thrilled to find themselves in the middle of sheep central. The large mountain in the background is Sheep Mountain. Ah how appropriate.

Interpretative signs confirm this long-standing tradition.

Cross Mountain Trail

The first section of trail is open to bikes, the the trail splits and the main trail heads into the wilderness where bikes are prohibited.

The objective is obvious from near the start of the trail.

I believe this mountain in the foreground is part of Black Face where I’d been the previous day.

I think this Jacob’s Ladder was quite confused.

This was a day for quickly changing weather. It rained and hailed, the wind blew and the sun made occasional appearances.

Geology LOVE!

I heard the now familiar sound of fighter jets and knowing they typically come in at least pairs I quickly grabbed my camera and started shooting.

The drama continued as I debated whether I should continue toward the high point or turnaround.

I was so happy Mother Nature gave me the go ahead.

Once again, geology WOW!

This is the pass I came down on my 2017 loop hike. If you look closely toward the right of the photo you can see the switchback trail.

This is what the “trail” looked like when I came down from the pass in 2017. Notice Lizard Head to the middle right.

This was the nightmare pass I crossed back in 2017. Super sketch super scary for me.

With rain in the distance there was no time to dilly dally. I remembered the beauty of this area from my 2017 hike when I arrived here the morning after it snowed.

The 2017 comparison.

There were four horses on the trail in front of me. They started from the Lizard Head Trailhead while I was using the restroom and watching the sheepherders. They rode the loop minus the road connector. I found out they are a guide service and had a couple of clients that day and shuttle a car to retrieve the horse trailer so they can avoid the dangerous no-shoulder road walk.

Unlike the Lizard Head Trail, there aren’t any switchbacks on the Cross Mountain Trail. It’s a continuous uphill slog. This was a 7.4 mile 2,000′ elevation gain/loss and-and-back hike.

Six Days Later

Black Face from the Cross Mountain Trailhead

Lizard Head from the Cross Mountain Trailhead

Looking toward Sheep Mountain and San Miguel Peak.

Woods Lake Campground

There are several trails accessing the wilderness from the campground. After the storm I knew my options would be somewhat limited but a friend told me the colors were outstanding and indeed they were. Not a bad campsite! I had views of Fowler and Boskoff Peaks in one direction, and Delores and Middle Peaks in the other.

Overnight temperatures are getting a bit chilly. This was ice on my car after freezing rain.

Delores and Middle Peaks, evening colors after fresh snow.

Morning view of middle peak.

I wandered a bit on the lake and canal trails capturing a few early morning images.

Little Cone Peak

Fowler and Boskoff Peaks

Middle Peak

Sheepherder arborglyph or fraud?

A few days later I returned with my friend Jackie to see how the colors were changing.

I still wanted to see more oranges and reds. I’d call this success!

There were still plenty of green and yellow leaves, promising to extend leaf peeping season.


CO – Grand Mesa National Forest (09/22)

I’ve learned plans are guidelines with options. I initially planned to return to this location for fall follow-up hikes but then when the opportunity presented to meet Joan in the Uintas (blog link) I changed my itinerary to head north through Wyoming and Montana. With smoky skies that was not a reasonable option, so with thoughts of easy hiking and aspen leaves I made a U-turn. Hello Colorado, I’m back!

Mother Nature had a few other ideas. Rain, rain, rain! It forced me to slow down and take a much needed break. After 130 plus days of traveling this season, I wasn’t complaining. I’d been motivated to keep hiking through the weeks of amazing weather and smoke-free skies. Slowing down felt in line with the season. Shorter daylight hours, cooler temperatures and less than ideal conditions for hiking made reading and relaxing my vice.

It was fun comparing views with those from my first visit in May when the ground was still white with snow, the lakes frozen and melting (blog link). I hiked trails inaccessible during that early spring visit and spent time in town seeking sunshine below the fog.

This stand of aspen are considered the bell weather of fall foliage. I watched it progress over the week I spent in the area. The visitor center staff said it would be another 10 days before the mesa was at peak color.

A few days makes a lot of difference.

Crag Crest Trail

I not so patiently waited for ideal conditions to hike the premier trail at Grand Mesa, Crag Crest Trail. I checked the weather forecast and watched the skies. Meanwhile it rained and hailed, keeping the warmth of the sun away.

Finally on the 6th day I was rewarded with a bluebird day. There were many who hiked this on no views days but with plenty of other options I wasn’t willing to make this sacrifice.

You can see why they call Grand Mesa the land of lakes. There are about 300 natural lakes and 100+ reservoirs on the mesa.

This interpretative sign provides good perspective of the location of the Crag Crest. Most signs and maps spell it Crag but this sign shows Craig. I forgot to ask at the Visitor Center about discrepancy.

This photo of the Crag Crest was taken from the Scales Lake Loop.

This is a good description of the trail.

This trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail, although this sign is about worn off.

The trail meandered through meadows and forests, gently climbing to the crest.

Occasional lake views were offered.

I enjoyed walking through the changing seasons.

The first viewpoint on the ridge included Cottonwood Lakes and mesas above Grand Junction.

The “crest” part of the trail wasn’t flat. Some with height and exposure anxieties might not like this section.

Some of the trail was rocky but other times it was smooth dirt.

It was very windy this day, with the gusts trying to push me off occasionally.

I loved all the views.

After this high point the trail drops down to the area on the right with all the down trees. In retrospect I wish I would have turned around here.

One of the last views looking back from where I’d come.

And then it was down, down, down . . .

Views of hidden lakes are a reward.

This flat section was nice especially with fall colors lining the trail.

On a hot day Upper Eggleston Lake would be a good place to cool off.

This is why I wished I hadn’t hiked the loop, although it was nice to see Crags Crest.

This area smelled of cows and sure enough soon they were on my trail and I was herding them off.

You can imagine how hot this area would be on a summer day. There was also a lot more ascending over the final miles by doing the loop.

This was a 10.9 miles 1,100′ elevation gain/loss loop hike.

Land of Lakes Trail

This is a short paved lollipop loop trail where you’re provided great views on a clear day.

Lost and Mesa Lakes Trail

It was a lovely walk through the woods with interspersed views of Mesa Lakes. The rangers at the Visitor Center said this is a good fall foliage hike.

Oh my Lost Lake was a gorgeous green. Had it been a little warmer, I would have been tempted to swim.

This was a short 3.5 mile 500′ elevation gain/loss loop hike.

Mesa Top Trail

Visitor Center staff recommended this trail for a potential rain day.

It was a nice combination of forest with soft duff trail and open meadows with plentiful views.

I was surprised to find a lupine still in bloom.

There were a few harebells still around as well.

I loved all the details of this mushroom.

The clouds threatened but the rain stayed away until I finished this hike.

I turned around at this aspen grove.

This was a 4.7 mile 200′ elevation gain/loss out-and-back hike. The trail continued but I was motivated to avoid a major rain storm. This trail seems to be popular with equestrians; I met a a group of 5-6 gals riding this day.

Baron Lake Trail

Many of the lakes are more inviting to folks who fish rather than swim or prefer lakes surrounded by granite amphitheaters.

This area has a lot of private in-holdings on federal land. You can see all the cabins surrounding one of the lakes I hiked around.

I hiked from Ward Lake to Eggleston Lake on the trail and returned via the road making it a little less than 4-mile 200′ elevation gain/loss loop hike.

Scales Lakes Loop Trail

This is a winter trail system that didn’t show up on my Gaia or National Geographic Trails Maps. The Visitor Center handed me a map detailing trails from the County Line Trailhead, which is across the road from the Mesa Top Trailhead. I hiked clockwise starting with Dog Loop.

This part of the trail is well signed and is mostly on double track marked with either blue poles or blue diamonds.

I loved this single track section.

The lakes weren’t anything special but I bet you’d find lots of wildlife hanging around at dusk and dawn.

In fact I found quite a variety of scat but didn’t seen signs of moose, which I expected.

I wished the map provided by the Visitor Center included trail names. The transition from Traverse to Tower wasn’t very intuitive.

The view from the overlook was indeed WOW!

I especially liked seeing the Crag Crest.

You can see a bit of the aspen color starting to brighten the sides of the crest.

At least this reassurance sign was present as I neared the end.

Weeds or blooms without color?

The trails were lined with red foliage.

This was a 6.5 mile 200′ elevation gain/loss loop hike.

Fall Foliage


There were a few gentian hanging on.


  • The Ranger Station Visitor Center is only open seasonally, usually opening Memorial Day weekend and closing late September. However they had WiFi available outside the building and open heated restrooms with a potable water refill station.
  • Dispersed camping is fairly liberal with only a few exceptions.
  • There are a couple of areas such as Island Lake and Mesa Lakes which are managed by concessionaires. I learned they don’t accept the federal passes in day use or campgrounds. I’ve taken it for granted that the US Fee and Recreation Use Pass requirement on federal land are covered by the interagency federal passes.
  • Cows oh cows, there is open grazing. They visited me in the parking lots, at my dispersed campsites and on the roads and trails.


CA – Autumn Jaunting, Shasta/Trinity County Style (Oct-Dec 2021)

After spending a month in Washington followed by a couple of weeks in Oregon, including an epic conclusion in snow at Crater Lake (post link), I returned home to summer temperatures. There was only one thing to do, grab the paddleboard and head for Whiskeytown Lake.

Although we received record rain fall over about a month (14″) the leaves stuck around providing weeks of entertainment.

The dogwoods were showing off their pastel colors along the PCT in Castle Crags State Park.

I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon’. “That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf.

Thich Nhat Hanh

I found new growth in an area burned by the 2018 Carr Fire.

This is my favorite Madrone tree in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, she’s a buxom beauty.

After all the rain, I couldn’t resist visiting Crystal Creek Falls at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.

Whiskeytown Falls

Fungi seemed to be happy with all the rain.

Earth stars, a type of fungi. I thought it was the bottom of a pinecone.

When you look closely you might even find a stowaway.

This is a story of good, evil and humanity. The 2018 Carr fire burned this tree. I visited in spring 2020 when I took a photo of this wreath on the remains. When I processed the photo I found a surprise inside. This heavy chainsaw carved bear was a welcome gift representing hope at appropriately named Black Bear Pass. Sadly it was kidnapped in winter 2020. When I returned this fall I was thrilled to find a new bear hiding in the stump. Yes there is goodness in this world!

Lichen and moss seemed to enjoy the extra moisture as well.

And what would a jaunt be without a few blooms?

Although many were ready to spread their seeds.

Soon enough it’ll be time to welcome back the orchid blooms.

But until then I’ll welcome winter. The time for renewal.

I love being able to see Mt Shasta, from 100 miles distant.

One thing nice about having a home base at low elevation (500′) is nearby winter hiking options.

Nature offers up a holiday bouquet.

I wish my friends and followers a wonderful 2022, at least one filled with more peace, unity, kindness, caring, forgiveness, collaboration and love.

Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.

Shasta County:

  • Castle Crags State Park
    • PCT/Crags Trail
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
    • Davis Gulch Trail
    • Whiskeytown Falls Trail
    • Crystal Creek Falls Trail
  • Redding area trails
    • Blue Gravel Trail
    • Cloverdale/Piety Hill Trails
    • FB Trail
    • Flanagan/Chamise/Upper Ditch Trails
    • French Fry Trail
    • Hornbeck/Lower Ditch Trails
    • Princess Ditch Trail
    • Mary Lake Trail
    • McConnell Ranch Trails
    • Mule Mountain Trail
    • Sacramento River Trails
    • Salt Creek Trails
    • Trail 58
    • Westside Trails

Trinity County:

  • Trinity Alps Wilderness
    • Stuart Fork Trail
    • Canyon Creek Trail

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



WA – North Cascades, Maple Pass Trail (Sept 2021)

I’d always wanted to see the tapestry of autumn colors found in the Northern Cascades.

I was a little early for the larch show but the overcast skies made the other colors pop. That’s Lake Ann hiding below the still green larch trees. “Larch is any of the coniferous trees belonging to the genus Larix categorized under the family Pinaceae. Although these are classified as conifers, larches turn yellow and lose their needles in the autumn or fall just like deciduous trees. These are medium-sized trees with the typical pyramidal canopy of conifers. They are found in places with cold climates and plenty of moisture.” Source: Coniferous Forest

As I gained elevation I found a few larch showing off their golden hue.

I hiked the trail counterclockwise, stopping at Lake Ann first, then taking a break at Heather Pass before climbing up to the first Maple Pass then traversing the ridge to reach the second Maple Pass. This little tarn and snowfield were visible when I began my descent. Rainy Lake is further down the drainage.

THIS is the tapestry I came to see.

I shared the trail with a grouse family.

I loved this hike so much I couldn’t resist returning a week later. As much as I hoped for brilliant blue skies showcasing the golden larch, Mother Nature had other plans. It was a damp brisk 33F when I started my hike around 8am. There was fresh snow on the nearby peaks.

As I gained elevation I found snow level. The tapestry of color was dulled by a thin veil of white.

I believe this is Wing Lake (or Lewis Lake) which I’d planned to visit after reaching my highpoint turnaround. On this date I didn’t plan to hike the loop, instead just going to Maple Pass before returning to Heather Pass where could spend a few hours exploring this side trail and these lakes.

Another bucket list item was seeing larch IN the snow, maybe not while it was snowing.

The cloud ceiling dropped and not long after I reached the first Maple Pass, I found myself in a whiteout.

To say I was giddy is an understatement. So much WOW in that little storm. It completely changed the landscape providing lots of photographic opportunities, although I was wishing for my winter gloves.

I was still a bit early for peak larch season but I was beyond thrilled with this experience. I’m guessing once the slope above Lake Ann is covered in yellow larch, the reds and oranges of the other foliage will be gone thus making my timing spot on.

I think this pika was smiling at me.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to nature’s quilt.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 22 and 29, 2021


  • This can be a super busy trail. There is room for about 50 cars in the main parking area and signs indicating overflow parking on the highway. When I arrived in the late afternoon the day before my first hike there were at least 100 cars on the highway. It was on a heavy overcast day. I started early and only saw about a dozen people. There wasn’t anyone in overflow when I finished my hike. On my return trip, it was damp, cold and mostly overcast again. It was a much busier day even though both trips were on Wednesdays under cloudy skies and had early starts. When I finished on that second day, there was a mile or two of cars parked along the highway.
  • This hike is outside North Cascades National Park, but just on the boundary.
  • The Heather Pass/Maple Pass trail is a loop and can be hiked in either direction. After reading reviews I decided on counter clockwise. The benefit is a more gradual climb and more controlled descent. If you go clockwise, you’ll face a steeper ascent and a less controlled descent on the sections between the first and second Maple Passes. If you don’t want to deal with the steep sections, I highly recommend going counterclockwise to the first Maple Pass and then turning around. You can see the differences on this profile pictured below.



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



WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Rachel Lake (Sept 2021)

A friend recently shared photos of her hike on this trail so I added it to my list as I headed north in my ongoing attempt to escape wildfire. By the time I arrived smoke had shifted so I continued north and spent a couple weeks in the Leavenworth/Lake Wenatchee area (blog link). Soon enough the winds shifted again and it was time to head south where AQI was looking much better. I first spent some time at Cle Elum Lake where I walked from the waterline to the mapped shoreline, an amazing 2.5 miles.

I enjoyed following the river channel while being entertained by the clouds. The shoreline mountains were colorful and had me looking at my maps to discover more nearby trails.

As I reached the far end of the lake’s boundary I wondered how long ago it was last full. The nearby campground would provide a convenient opportunity to watch wildlife at dawn and dusk.

The green line represents the 2.5 miles I walked on what was once the lake.

It was a brisk 34F when I arrived at the trailhead to begin my hike to Rachel Lake. It’s a 4-mile hike to the lake. On the ridge is Rampart Lakes which was my intended destination or beyond to Lila Lake.

I was a little early for best fall colors but there were teases like here on the shoulders of Hibox Mountain.

And some nice color along the trail with views into the canyon and I believe Box Ridge in the distance.

As much as I was motivated to get to the Rampart Lakes and beyond, this trail zapped my joy. The first 3 miles were nicely graded but the last mile to Rachel Lake was steep roots and rocks with hardly any dirt or flat areas in between. This section needs to be rebuilt as this is a very high use trail. If they are going to keep the same path it needs steps or stairs but it seems much better to build on a contour with switchbacks. I should have turned around when I reached this hell because it wasn’t even close to being knee rehab friendly.

Good thing there were a few water features for distractions.

I even found some late season penstemon.

The profile gives you can idea of the steep rooty rocky section. This was well outside my league and turned my smile upside down. I should have done my own research instead of just being giddy from my friend’s photos. There are a couple of other entry trails that might provide better options to access the higher trails.

Back at Cle Elum Lake I found more fall colors to help me return to my happy spot.

After that very challenging day at Rachel Lake I needed a recovery option and found this rail trail to be perfect.

It seems rainy season caught up with me. No complaints since we need rain to clean the air and drown the wildfires. I waited out this storm at a dispersed campsite near Cle Elum Lake.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 14-18, 2021