CA – Early Spring Jaunting, Far NorCal Style (Feb 2022)

No precipitation since January 5th combined with warmer than normal temperatures has led to spring in February. According to my photo archives blooms are 3-6 weeks early. The good news is it gave me plenty of opportunity to race to find new blooms along a variety of nearby trails.

I continued to see blooms I’d already photographed and shared from my January jaunts, so instead I focused on the new hit parade. First up was Milkmaids. “Cardamine californica, or milkmaids, is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae, native to western North America from Washington to California and Baja California. It is common in a variety of habitats including shady slopes, open woodlands, chaparral and grasslands in the winter and early spring.”

Nature’s color wheel gifted me purples. Top and bottom left is Blue Water Speedwell found in Whiskeytown Lake where water receded during the winter. Top right is a nightshade, middle right is Tolmie’s Pussy Ears or Star Tulip, with lupine in the bottom right.

February 10th brought me my first poppy.

It was easy to appreciate these non-native Cape Marigolds rather than the sad barren burned canyon. I also found a new friend I’m calling Bino (binoculars) Bob. “Dimorphotheca sinuata, the glandular Cape marigold, Namaqualand daisy, or orange Namaqualand daisy; syn. Dimorphotheca aurantiaca hort. is an African species of plants native to southern Africa.”

The early spring parade continued with bush poppy in upper left, which I first found last year at the end of April in peak bloom. This year the plants still look to be in winter hibernation stage but I found a few buds and blooms. It’ll be interesting to see if the bushes come back to life this year. Bottom left is phlox and sage is one the right. The details on the phlox leaves was a wonderful surprise.

One day when I didn’t find any new blooms I found these new leaves. The top row are oak leaves, I’m in love with the one on the left which is black oak. The bottom row is those nasty leaves of three . . . let them be, otherwise known as poison oak.

One day my color wheel was red, with the winner being Scarlet Fritillary.

It took two trips to get these amazing photos of the purple larkspur (Delphinium). February was a breezy month making photography extra challenging like with these red larkspur. It seemed longer than expected to see my first paintbrush.

It’s fun to find surprises like these white Blue Dips and white Hound’s Tongue. The photo in the top right is poison oak flowers, which I had no idea existed until a couple years ago. Bottom right is Hound’s Tongue nutlets (seed pods).

Chasing the blooms kept me mixing up my trails and interested. Top left, Redbud; bottom left, Violet. Top right is Wild Cucumber, followed by Sulfur Pea and Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill.

I was excited to find the small bloom in upper left of below photo, only to be disappointed to learn it wasn’t a native. Oh well, it’s a beauty regardless, Henbit Deadnettle. The blue are Scutellaria tuberosa, Skullcaps, ones I first learned about last spring. You can see size comparison with my new friend Bino Bob who’s about 1.25″ tall.

Finding blooming Fritillaria affinis aka Checker Lily became a game of too late, too early, marginal and finally just right.

I ended my month of wandering the nearby trails with these finds. Top left, Fringe Pods. Top right, Nemophila heterophylla (Small Baby Blue Eyes) and Claytonia parviflora (Miners Lettuce). Bottom left, Mountain Phacelia. Middle, Cream Sacs. Bottom right, Clematis.

I also continued my quest to find unique photographic subjects like this algae.

Acorn woodpecker granary. “With their sharp, powerful beaks, Acorn Woodpeckers excavate custom holes into trees that are the perfect size to hold an unusual food—acorns. Each Acorn Woodpecker group works together to maintain and defend its acorn collection. The same tree, called a “granary”, is reused over generations to store the winter food supply.”

Often it felt more like March with numerous high wind warning days. On those days I had to be a bit more strategic about my choice of trails in order to avoid crashing burned trees. Thankfully I had options. After a few months of closure (due to winter light festival) at the McConnell Gardens, I was off to see the early blooms. As if on cue Summer Snowflakes and Lenten-roses were awaiting my visit.

Neighborhood walks during these wind events had me finding first fiddleneck blooms. I pulled this photo from my archives as they were impossible to photograph on the day of my walk. “Amsinckia is a genus of flowering plants commonly known as fiddlenecks. The common name is derived from the flower stems, bearing many small flowers, which curl over at the top in a manner reminiscent of the head of a fiddle. Fiddlenecks are in the family Boraginaceae, along with borage and forget-me-nots.”

Winter finally returned toward the end of the month, but the lupine didn’t get the message. In my search for interesting things, I found this colorful weed. “A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation; a plant in the wrong place.” Well this one happened to be in the right place. Not only does it add a little beauty along a powerline dirt track, but it also helps stabilize highly eroded post-fire soil.

I found this interesting bud on some neighborhood trees. It looked tropical and out of place. However as the week progressed and I studied further I realized it was developing gumballs and before I knew it out popped some leaves of the Liquid Amber (Sweetgum) tree.

As they say a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case a perfect depiction of our lack of precipitation. Mt Shasta has bare spots in February and Lake Shasta has a very large bathtub ring (140 feet below maximum mid month). My apologies for this crappy quality phone photo.

Although I’d rather be traveling, I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue rebuilding my base conditioning while enjoying a blooming early spring. My body knows I need to keep climbing these hills if I want to enjoy the bigger mountains I plan to hike this summer.

Photos are from hikes and walks in the Redding area including,

  • Clear Creek/Cloverdale Area
  • Keswick/299W Area
  • Mule Mountain Area
  • Sacramento River Trails
  • Swasey Recreation Area
  • Westside Trails
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Yes there’s a lot of ugly in a burn, but views are open and when you look closely you find beauty in nature’s smaller gifts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the frost, comes the dew.

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

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

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

We have a lot of pretty rock in the area.

The nearby creeks make for nice lunchtime lounging.

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

I found a variety of tree lichen or fungus.

And other fungus as well.

This bark caught my eye.

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

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

Glue-Seed, Night Shade, Saxifraga and Redmaids.

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

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

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

Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.

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

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

WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Paradise (July 2021)

After a couple days at Stevens Canyon (link) it was impossible to ignore the pull of the mountain. So on a Sunday, yes a Sunday, during peak summer tourist season, two crowd-adverse gals decided to test the waters. Joan and I left our campsite at 5:30am for optimal crowd-avoidance strategy. It worked! We got our pick of a parking spot in the main area at Paradise.

After a stop at Reflection Lake, we decided “sub alpine” filled with hordes of skeeters was less appealing than hordes of people at alpine. I was reminded of my hike around Mt Rainier on the Wonderland Trail in 2014 (link).

Reflection Lake

Skyline Trail

We couldn’t ignore a calling to the Skyline Trail. With much trepidation about my knee and body performance, we began our hike. The views kept me smiling. It was my kind of WOW per mile. So many views and wildflowers. I felt like I could touch the mountain. How lucky to have beautiful blue skies devoid of smoke and fires. Temperatures were warm but with plenty of water and snow we stayed comfortable. At the end of the day, I was thrilled with my recovery and performance. The long steep downhill tested my body but my hips complained more than my knee so I figured this meant I’d moved on from knee rehab to rebuilding general fitness.

The first section of the Skyline Trail is paved which really helps with dust and erosion given it’s high use. Notice the marmot laying on the big rock in foreground.

The marmots are such portrait hams.

This was a flower power tour.

The lupine smelled strongly of grape jelly.

We had a few snow patches to hike through and were wishing we’d carried our microspikes.

This is the Nisqually Glacier. Notice the waterfall.  There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches, which cover about 35 square miles.

Nothing like Glacier Lilies to accompany the Nisqually Glacier.

Trail reality . . . we definitely weren’t alone. Funny this viewpoint is of the Goat Rock wilderness where Joan had hiked the PCT the previous week (link), and where I’ve hiked two times previously.

I was thrilled to find Sky Pilots (Jacob’s Ladder).

Water water everywhere, fields of green and loads of floral color.

This was my third day in a row to hike. I was beyond excited about my performance and recovery.

DATE(S) HIKED: July 25, 2021

RESOURCES:

Other Jaunts in Washington (link) including the Wonderland Trail (link)

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Paradise Meadows (June 2021)

What happens when you don’t use your resources like maps and books to plan a trip? Well you might end up making it harder than necessary. This wasn’t my first time to visit Paradise Meadows which is connected by two trailheads. The Hat Lake trailhead starts at 6,400′ while the Terrace Lake trailhead starts at 8,000′. Paradise Meadows sits about 7,000′. For me I’d rather hike the uphill on the way than in reverse. So you can guess the “mistake” I made on this day.

If I wasn’t still recovering from knee surgery and feeling tubby and out of shape, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.

According to my guidebook, “Paradise Meadow(s) is one of the supreme wildflower gardens in the park. . . . ablaze with color from a host of wildflowers, which typically reach the height of bloom from late July to early August.” Once again a little advance reading might have been helpful because this is the meadow I found in mid June.

I found a few blooms like these bright paintbrush.

The bees were quite happy.

Bog orchid and paintbrush.

I found purple and white varieties of monk’s hood.

Monkeyflower

I’m going to call this the highlight of my day as I don’t think I’ve seen previously. According to my Seek app, this is California Jacob’s Ladder aka Sky Pilot, Polemonium californicum.

Notice the bee flying away in previous shot.

Look at those details.

Just above Paradise Meadow is this view of Badger Mountain, West Prospect Peak and Prospect Peak.

You also get some different views of Lassen Peak along the upper trail.

Reading Peak is also visible.

Lupine was the predominant bloom along the trail.

I believe this is Cobwebby paintbrush.

I was grateful for these snow patches as I got quite warm ascending those 1,000 feet in less than 2 miles.

A friend shared photos she took on her recent jaunt so I was expecting to find the same. I was a little disappointed in my finds, but looking back at photos I feel more accomplished.

Nevertheless I decided to stop at King’s Creek Picnic area to explore the wet areas near the creek. I was pleased to find a nice collection of fawn lilies, even if they were at end of life.

There were mass displays of mountain heather.

First of the season Lassen Paintbrush, Castilleja lassenensis. This was the only group I saw blooming.

Just remember pick your poison. If you prefer hiking uphill first then use the Hat Lake trailhead; if down first is your preference then start at the Terrace Lake trailhead. The bonus is a stop at the end for a swim in Terrace or Shadow Lakes. As for Hat Lake, it’s just a mirage of days gone by and you’ll be disappointed if you count on that option for an end-of-hike swim. Of course for those a bit more ambitious I recommend starting at the Hat Lake trailhead, visiting Paradise Meadows and then at least Terrace and Shadow Lakes before reversing direction or coordinating with a second vehicle.

Other nearby jaunts:

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Manzanita Creek Trail (June 2021)

We were in the midst of a heat wave. At 5am it was 77 at my house; by the end of the day it would be 110 or more. I opened my weather app to find which nearby areas were at the lowest temperature and North Lassen was the winner at 49F. I’d been wanting to hike the Manzanita Creek Trail so I assumed I’d spend the day frolicking in the creek. It was 56 degrees when I arrived at 8am.

I found myself gradually ascending through a forest. It was quiet except for the birds. The terrain was mostly a forgiving sand that was easy to walk through. I met two backpackers coming in from a night in the park where they said they enjoyed cooler temperatures. I also crossed paths with a runner. Otherwise it was just me and a few blooms like this lupine.

I found one patch of snow. Funny it was on the trail and no where else to be seen except high on the mountain.

The first signs of Manzanita Creek is at about the halfway point. With this culvert bridge you won’t get your feet wet.

From this point on the trail parallels the creek but access is limited except at a couple places and near the terminus of the trail where creeks merge and it becomes marshy. It’s here you’ll find the best blooms like these elephant head orchids and marsh marigolds, both a bit past peak bloom.

Wandering around I found the prize of my trip, Monk’s hood, Aconitum columbianum. I believe the speckles are pollen.

Thankfully there were few bugs as I wandered through the secret gardens. I’m sure this can be a mosquito’s paradise.

I found tiny white violas.

Stickweed, Forget Me Nots.

The shooting stars buds were ready to burst.

Most of the aster were at the pre-bloom stage as well. In another week or two they’ll be peak. The thing I love about asters is they are one of the longest living blooms.

Pussypaws.

Loomis Peak is the only mountain offering clear views. If the meadow wasn’t so boggy I might have wandered further to see if I could get a better look at Crescent Cliff. According to my guidebook, most of the Manzanita Creek Trail use to be a road where travelers could reach a trail/path to summit Lassen Peak from the north rather than the south as it’s currently designed. “In 1925, Benjamin Loomis, an early settler whose photographic record of Lassen Peak’s eruptions is on display at the Loomis Museum, and a crew built a narrow road, which the trail initially follows, to the base of Crescent Cliff. From there, a 2-mile, 3000-foot trail climbed to the summit of Lassen Peak. That trail, which averaged a 30 percent grade and was twice as long as the current Lassen Peak Trail, fell into disuse after the completion of the modern-day route to the top in the 1930’s.” Source: Lassen Volcanic National Park, A Complete Hiker’s Guide.

As the day warmed, I was grateful for the water crossings and really enjoyed seeing all the plant life growing out of old logs and other debris.

I crossed paths with a few others on my return trip. The trailhead is near a very busy campground so I was surprised it had such low use. I guess because it doesn’t offer any WOW factors. No lakes, waterfalls or views. When I returned home and looked at the book it says “few seem to tread this trail up the canyon of Manzanita Creek . . .” Well lucky me, just the way I like it! I was also surprised at how much easier this trail was than my previous jaunt to Mill Creek Falls (link) which was less miles and elevation, but this 7.5 mile 1100′ elevation gain/loss was just right for my current level of knee surgery rehab fitness.

What better reward than a little soak in Manzanita Lake with this grand view of Mt Lassen? Oh and the temperature at my car was 85F at 2:30pm.

Other jaunts at Lassen Volcanic National Park:

CA – Trinity Alps, Stoney Ridge Trailhead (June 2021)

I can’t think of one trail in the Trinity Alps graded easy, so during my knee rehab it’s an area I’ve avoided. In general trails are rocky with plenty of climbing. The rewards are worthwhile but you work for the prize. However my botany friend invited me for a short wander along one of my favorite sections. She knows my limitations and is happy to share a few hours.

The yellow lupine were the stars of the day with an occasional iris to share the limelight.

I discovered the phantom orchids last year, I believe along this very trail, after being introduced to this species by my botany friend.

I was also introduced to the coralroot orchids last year. They were just beginning to bloom on this day.

Another favorite is the California Pitcher Plant aka Cobra Lily.

Rush Lily

Dr Suess-ish sunflower

Blue-eyed grass

Columbine

I love the variegated leaves on the not-yet-blooming Pyrola crypta, Cryptic wintergreen.

These Green-Gentian were just starting to bloom.

This bee was gobbling up the pollen. It was so loaded I don’t think it could have flown off this Pennyroyal. Look at those wings, so much detail. It gave us plenty of time to photograph.

While yellow was the predominate color of the day, we found a few lavender-colored lupine as well.

It was a great day to celebrate yellow! From my journal notes, “A big milestone day as I celebrated my 8-month rehab anniversary. Not only did I take a hike in my beloved Trinity Alps but I also climbed 1,500 feet over 4 miles while enjoying many of my favorite blooms.”

Other jaunts in the area:

CA – April 2021, Wildflowers of Tehama County

Probably the best area to hike and see wildflowers in Tehama County is at the Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area (link).

This area offers amazing wildflowers viewing in the spring. The rolling hills of this oak woodland are carpeted with purple and yellow in all directions. The Hog Lake Plateau and the Yana Trail are great locations to view open expanses of blooming wildflowers.” Source: BLM website

The displays aren’t as splashy as at North Table Mountain Ecological Preserve in Butte County which I shared previously (link), and you might need to share a bit with the cows, but it’s much less busy with several trailheads providing access and varying terrain. The 360-views are phenomenal on clear days where you can see the snowy peaks of Lassen, Shasta, the Trinity Alps and Yolla Bollys.

Another positive is that there are several opportunities to spend time along the Sacramento River, either dipping your toes or viewing the soaring eagles and others who fancy flight.

These photos were taken primarily from my hike starting at the Iron Canyon Trailhead. The Bird’s-eye Gilia tickled my fancy. I couldn’t get enough of these bright cheerful flowers.

This was my introduction to Glue-seed (Blennosperma nanum). There were plentiful as were Popcornflowers.

Possibly my favorite find was Padre’s Shooting Star (Primula clevelandi). This was my first year to notice white shooting stars and I mistakenly thought they were all the same variety but discovered that Henderson’s can also be found in white and various shades of pink.

Johnny-tuck aka Butter and Eggs Triphysaria eriantha plus a bonus Goldfields

Not positive on this one. The Seek app identified as Smallflower Woodland Star (Lithophragma parviflorum).

Isn’t this a great name? Definitely descriptive. Cowbag Clover (Trifolium depauperatum).

White Brodiaea Triteleia hyacinthia

California poppies and Mediterranean Stork’s-bill

Nature’s perfect bouquet.

By mid to late April the wildflowers fade away to be replaced by brown grasses, rattlesnakes, and stickers while the beauties go into hibernation waiting to spring forth the next year.

CA – April 2021, Wildflowers of Butte County

I was introduced to this volcanic area in 2013, before it was popularized, regulated and overrun by the masses. With the exception of last year I’ve been traveling every spring since then and haven’t had the opportunity to return. Last year it was closed due to COVID, this year I was determined to return. It was one of my knee rehab goals. But I have severe crowd anxiety. I’d prefer to skip these opportunities rather than share with the masses. I also have a no regrets policy so I was determined to find a way to enjoy regardless of it’s popularity.

This 2013 photo clearly shows I didn’t know about not crushing the blooms, but then again it taught me to behave like the cows.

I clearly remember visiting the waterfalls, especially making this sketchy descent to explore the cave and cool rocks below one of the waterfalls. I hear a rope now exists to assist with that steep section.

It was worth it, but I can say been there, done that, don’t need to do that again. There are 9 waterfalls that can be viewed during the rainy season on an 11-mile cross-country loop (link). I’ve only been to a few so someday I’ll go back and hike this complete loop.

My goal this trip was much different. My knee was a little extra sensitive so my plan was to take it easy and see what I could see given my limitations. To minimize crowd encounters I arrived on a weekday at 8am and followed the cow paths rather than the waterfall trail. The poppies were still sleeping, so while I waited for their 10am wake-up call, I roamed and found many more photography opportunities.

Kellogg’s Monkeyflower
Seep Monkeyflower
Meadowfoam
Fringe Pods
Prettyface

“Created by ancient lava (basalt) flows, the approximately 3,300 acre North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is an elevated basalt mesa with beautiful vistas of spring wildflowers, waterfalls, lava outcrops, and a rare type of vernal pool, called Northern Basalt Flow Vernal Pools.” Source: North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve webpage

Jan’s perfect bouquet!
Owl’s clover, Bird’s-eye Gilia, Blue Dips/Dicks, Lupine, Poppies, Popcorn flowers and green green green!
Owl’s clover and Bird’s-eye Gilia
Bird’s-eye Gilia and California Poppies
California Poppies, Lupine and Blue Dips

I enjoyed seeing the vast color swatches.

It was a great day to hang out with the cows.

On the other hand far in the distance I could see the waterfall trail conga line.

When I arrived just before 8am there were maybe a dozen cars in the parking area. When I left around noon there were hundreds with hordes of people every which way. My strategy was successful and I didn’t encounter others until the last few minutes of my day. For those wanting to explore the large variety of wildflowers, the season covers several months and includes over a hundred varieties. You can download this botany guide (link). For further information and preparation, be sure to visit the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve website (link) to purchase your day use permit, CDFW Lands Pass (link). If you go please respect private property signs and fences, and carry a litter bag to clean up after those less thoughtful.

Peak wildflower season is short. Usually 2-3 weeks in late March to early April. Once things start drying out, the large stickers pictured below will ruin your shoes and socks, which will keep you to the main trails.

I felt like I was one in a million, the pink among the blue.

It was a no-regrets day. If it wasn’t a 4-hour round trip drive, I’d return more frequently to find individual blooms like the fairy lanterns.

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
― Claude Monet

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.

 

2020 – Blooming April, Spring Doesn’t Care

I recently read a poem about how spring goes on regardless of this pandemic. Since spring brings me joy, I’m choosing to spend as much time seeking out the treats mother nature provides in this all-too-short season.

2020 is proving to be a spring I’d rather forget. I like many others, most likely including yourself, are wishing we could fast forward into summer and be done with Stay Home orders. I’ve learned to let go of things I can’t control and instead focus on those things I can such as my personal happiness. The dark short days of winter can bring on bouts of depression, something I’m more likely to avoid in spring when I happily languish in the warm sunny days. Instead of travel and backpacking, I spent time running, biking and walking primarily from my house. My car didn’t leave my garage for three weeks.

I discovered and fell in love with these rock roses.

Since I’m missing my wilderness wildflowers, I really appreciate neighbors who share their blooms.

The Sacramento River runs through town bordered on both sides by about 20 miles in trails. It’s within walking distance of my house and gives me plentiful green space and a place to breathe.

The trail harbored these colorful jewels.

When I finally decided to drive 10 miles to a dirt trail, I found so much joy.

With flowers lining the trail, I didn’t even mind hiking through lands dominated by fire.

I’d never seen such a mass dispersion of pussy ears (aka Calochortus tolmiei). If this was all I’d seen I would have been happy.

But no, my treasure hunt continued. What a delightful way to spend a few hours.

I stopped at Black Bear Pass where I found this wreath, which I though was a lovely tribute to the aftermath of the 2018 Carr Fire. When I got home and was processing my photos I couldn’t believe what I saw at the base of the stump. It took some work to lighten enough to see the surprise. I still can’t believe I didn’t see it when I was taking the photo. My guess it was hauled up on horses.

I finally decided to drive a bit further for my next hike and was thrilled to find these beauties.


I closed out the month hiking among more of nature’s jewels. I hope you all made the most of this forced pause.

What will May bring? Maybe some waterfalls to go along with more wildflowers? The draft policy for opening my home county indicates a ban on non-essential travel out of the county. Will I continuing being just a tiny bit of a rebel? We topped 90F degrees so that’ll be my motivation if nothing else. Air conditioner vs wilderness?