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 – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Flowers, Ice and So Much More (May 2021)

As the snow recedes in the high country, Snow Plants (Sarcodes sanguinea) welcome spring. When I caught wind they’d arrived, I made it a priority to go see them the next day. These are the most pristine specimens I’ve ever seen.

Snow plant has no chlorophyll; it derives nutrition from fungi underneath the soil, and for this reason the plant is called “mycotrophic”. These fungi are the mycorrhizae (“fungus-roots”) of conifers, an interesting topic by itself. Many conifers (among other plants) require these fungi to live normally. Mycorrhizae are composed of strands of cells (mycelia) that grow about in the soil; these strands are quite numerous and extensive, and the conifer uses them to bring water and minerals to itself. In return, the conifer provides the fungus with some of the products of its photosynthesis. Snow plant takes advantage of this felicitous arrangement by parasitizing the mycorrhizae of the photosynthate provided it by the conifer, which makes sense, given that it is a plant without chlorophyll, and therefore a plant that cannot photosynthesize. In this indirect way, Sarcodes is a parasite of conifers; this is why they are always seen beneath (or very close to) them.

https://www.fs.fed.us/…/plant…/sarcodes_sanguinea.shtml

The snow plant emerges like a bright red nose.

Soon they look like a red pinecone.

As the plants matures, flowers the candle-like leaves open revealing a flower. Eventually fruit will fill the flower. “The fruit is a capsule containing sticky seeds. Once ripened, seed is released through an opening at the base of the style.”

Seeing the aquamarine ice of the melting lakes had been on my must-see list. While the lakes are conveniently located next to the road, winter closure keeps them inaccessible until the road is plowed unless you want to walk or ride about 5 miles from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. This is Helen Lake with Brokeoff Mountain, Mount Diller and Pilot Pinnacle in the background.

What causes the color? I’m guessing it has to do with (1) the minerals in the water and/or (2) glacial silt. There are no longer active glaciers at Lassen but maybe there is enough silt remaining? I wonder how long it’ll take the lakes to melt? This is a closer view from Emerald Lake.

Most trails are still buried under the snow and with limited mobility I was limited to wandering around mostly snow-free lakes although Summit Lake still had a bit more than I should have navigated. This is a view of Lassen Peak from the shores of Summit Lake where there is a one-mile perimeter trail.

One of the views of Lassen Peak from the 2-mile trail around Manzanita Lake.

Reflection Lake offers this reflection of Chaos Crags and Lassen Peak as one wanders the one-mile loop.

This view of Chaos Crags was captured from the road. It was shocking to see it nearly barren of snow in early May. But then again it’s been an extremely low snow year and I read this is the earliest the 30-mile road through the park has opened in 40 years. “The road clearing process in 2019 wasn’t finished until June 22, and it went all they way to July 26th in 2017.”

Lassen Peak should be buried but instead it’s ready to be hiked, and in fact on this day the road opened there were at least a dozen vehicles in the parking lot.

I returned ten days later and found a few more blooms including these Marsh Marigolds.

These were tiny Fawn Lilies.

Not to be outdone in the tiny flower department, these were miniature violets.

There are lots of plants hiding their identification including this one, although a botany friend guessed Pedicularis attollens aka baby elephant heads, another favorite.

Lily pond was filled with yellow buds. I’m looking forward to a colorful mat on my next visit.

I anticipate this meadow showcasing Pilot Pinnacle will be filled with Corn Lilies.

Meanwhile Helen Lake was still in the melting stage.

Another round of snow plants were emerging from their winter nests. My goal is to find mature plants sporting seed-filled fruits in the flower.

Just outside the Park on the southern end is Child’s Meadows and I was hopeful to find mass distribution of camas. It appears I should have stopped during my previous visit.

I never regret stopping to enjoy this view of Brokeoff Mountain from Child’s Meadows.

What will June bring? I plan to return to Lassen regularly to enjoy the transition from spring to summer. It’s a great place to continue to work on my knee rehab as many of the trails are gentle. Until then . . . .

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.