CA – Marching through March, Far NorCal Style (March 2022)

Drought brought a very early spring and no mass displays like I enjoyed last year.

One day I got super excited to take a walk in the rain. I used my windshield wipers for a few minutes to get to my walking trail. But the joke was on me as that was all we got, just a big tease.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies provided plenty of reasons to smile along the local trails.

Last year I learned about the pipevine plant and blooms, so when I stumbled upon a pop-up interpretative display I knew it must be time to see what I could find.

Sure enough I found vines, blooms, old seed pods, and coolest of all eggs! I learned they have a 3-5 day incubation period which means soon I should find lots of caterpillars.

With our county finally reaching low risk COVID status, the local Native Plant Society resumed their field trip hikes. It was great fun socializing again. Besides the usual spring suspects, we also found Yellow Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) and Cardinal Catchfly (Silene laciniata).

It was impossible not to smile with trails like this threading through green grasses and oak tree forests.

This wouldn’t be a year of the super bloom, although I don’t think the Warrior’s Plume got the message. “This plant likes to form a symbiotic relationship with moderate to high acid plants, shrubs and trees. It forms this relationship by searching for the root ball or root mass, then it entwines itself roots to roots, feeding off the roots to supply the plants needs.

It seemed I was always able to find something new and different to photograph. Since I can’t control weather and conditions, I decided to embrace it. Cheers to celebrating spring blooms! Speaking of symbiotic relationships, Broomrape is another. When I found the first of season Death Camas and was reminded of foraging, I was happy to offset with the Red Maids which indeed are edible.

With an acceptable weather window, I decided to test my fitness and gear on a small section of the PCT. There was a little snow on the ground, plentiful water, and I stayed entertained watching the moon, sunrises, sunsets and beautiful clouds. Yes it was chilly and I was reminded of how condensation can accumulate on your bag/quilt. My body rebelled at too many miles with pack weight and I admitted I needed to work on realistic expectations of my still rehabbing body.

This was the most beautiful snowmelt stream. The water was the best of the trip!

This seasonal pond not only provided reflections but also one night it gifted me a frog orchestra.

With the early spring I was able to visit Trinity Alps where I found a few blooms including Warrior’s Plume, Toothwort, Viola and Shooting Stars. It was so nice being back in the forest.

I continued to be delighted by local blooms. There are several types of Euphorbia at our local arboretum. I was thrilled to find a new seedpod of the pipevine plant. I wasn’t able to identify the two flowers, most likely non natives. The pink dogwoods were a welcome sight along the river trail. Bonuses included first ladybug sighting and busy bees on the lavender.

March has been the month to observe the lifecycle of pipevine plants and butterflies. On the last day of the month I finally found caterpillars, albeit babies, who will soon litter the trails but for now they are safely munching on the pipevine leaves. Blooming iris were a signal the calendar was about to turn to April.

When phlox is more than phlox. This particular species is the Yreka Phlox, near my hometown. It was fun to go in search of this beauty. Bonus was views of Mt Shasta. “The Yreka phlox (phlox hirsuta) dots the landscape of Yreka’s hillsides and valley from March to June. The Yreka phlox is both a pride of Yreka and conservation concern. The recorded history of the Yreka phlox dates back to 1876 when Edward L. Greene described and collected specimens of the phlox hirsuta from the local area. However, the flower has since been placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State endangered species list. Efforts to conserve the Yreka phlox originally began in 1975 when, in a report to Congress, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution included it on a list of endangered plants. In 1984, The Nature Conservancy dictated that China Hill and Soap Creek Ridge warranted protection as part of their Element Preservation Plan. The City then became involved alongside The Nature Conservancy in 1986. In 2000, phlox hirsuta was placed on the Federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and an official Recovery Plan for Yreka phlox was released by the agency in 2006. Multiple organizations have come together to support recovery efforts, but the flower’s biggest conservation proponent was the late city attorney Larry G. Bacon, who died in 2004.”

While the bright pink Yreka Phlox stole the show, other finds included Popcorn flowers, Astragalus and Allium.

As the temperatures increased my computer screen was on refresh to watch snowline. Where oh where can I go without slogging through snow? GAIA maps have been a great resource. The darker the blue and pink the deeper the snow. We are officially in extreme drought. I’m fearful of the fire season.

I also spent time studying the 2021 fire boundaries to avoid early season trail problems. The darker and brighter the red, the more recent the fire. Sadly about 70% of the trails in the Trinity Alps have been affected, as well similar in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and a large swatch of the PCT.

Photos are from hikes and walks in Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity and Tehama Counties including,

  • Sacramento Bend Area Trails
  • Sacramento River Trails
  • Swasey and Muletown Recreation Areas
  • Trinity Alps Wilderness
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

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.

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 – March 2021 (Part 2) Wildflowers of Shasta County

WordPress has decided it’s time for change. Can my old brain adapt? Well, this is the message I receive repeatedly, “Updating failed. Sorry, you are not allowed to edit this post.” Fun, right? Please let me know if there are any problems with content.


I spent the month of March on the trails around Redding delighted when I found new blooms. The elevation was 500-1000 feet. I’ll repeat a few from my previous posts so you can enjoy the progression of blooms through the month.

The below photos were taken on the following trails:

This is the best resource for current status of Redding area trails (link).

Blue Dicks photobombed by my friend’s dog. They’ve recently been renamed Dipterostemon capitatus and slowly will be referenced as Blue Dips.
California Buttercup Ranunculus californicus seem to be the first show of color in this area.
Another sign of spring are prolific spreads of Indian Warrior or Warrior’s Plume.
Pacific Hound’s Tongue Adelinia grande
Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii
The first white I’d seen of Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii
Pussy Ears aka Tolmie’s Star Tulip Calochortus tolmiei
Pussy Ears aka Tolmie’s Star Tulip Calochortus tolmiei

I was introduced to these lilies last year and have been obsessed since, always on the alert for these hard-to-miss gems. They appear as dead or dying plants but when you look inside or catch the light they are A+ beauties.

Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii and Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Red Maids Calandrinia menziesii
California Dutchmans Pipe Aristolochia californica (not a wildflower but cool and my first sighting)
Popcorn Flower Plagiobothrys tenellus 
Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii and Saxifrage
Stork’s Bill Erodium cicutarium
Baby Blue Eyes Nemophila menziesii
California Poppy
California poppy and a Blue Dick
Nightshade

I was pretty excited to find this one. I don’t believe I’ve seen it previously. No evidence in previous March photos. I haven’t checked my April files yet, so maybe . . . .

Fivespot Nemophila maculata
Redbud
Fiddleneck
Wild Cucumber
Fringe Pods and ? maybe non-native radish
Purple Sanicle

I spent days in search of these. Friends kept spotting them but my timing was wrong and finally it was my day. Of course it was a breezy day so I got lots of blurry photos but in the end I was happy to have a few blog worthy!

Scarlet Fritillary Fritillaria recurva
Viola
Phlox

I took some friends to see the Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespots. They were way more plentiful than when I’d been there a week earlier and we also found this surprise. Upon investigation we found this to be a Desert Bluebell, not something native to this area. A little more detective work and we discovered mixed wildflower seeds were given out after the 2018 Carr Fire and included was this beauty.

Desert Bluebells Phacelia campanularia

The wildflower seed packets also explains why the Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespots were found growing in proximity. We had our own theories until we found this much more likely answer.

Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespots

This baby fivespot was too cute not to include.

Fivespot

With the help of my friends I was introduced the Skullcaps.

Scutellaria is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. They are known commonly as skullcaps.
Tomcat Clover Trifolium

Spring would not be spring in California without poppies.

California Poppy

This is the first year in many I’ve been “home” to enjoy the local spring blooms. My knee rehab is continuing to progress and being able to spend time on easy trails adorned with flowers has made the time pass quickly. I’m looking forward to expanding my geographic region in April in my quest to find more spring blooms. For those of you in cooler climates I hope these photos bring you smiles.

Knee rehab bragging rights:

  • Longest walk – 8 miles
  • Most elevation gain – 600 feet over 6.5 miles
  • Max pace – 2.8mph (on flattish pavement)
  • Flexion – 130+ degrees (equal to other side)
  • Squat – Full heels on the floor backcountry potty position!

I’m currently working on speed and agility training. I feel like I’m getting ready for soccer or football. My gait still needs work but I’ve seen huge improvements over the past few weeks.

CA – February 2021 Jaunts . . . starring Shasta and Tehama Counties

February was a month of newfound freedoms. This long rehab (link) has given me an appreciation of things normally taken for granted.

I began the month by walking crutch-free on nearby trails like those at Lema Ranch made available to the public by McConnell Foundation.

The Sacramento River Trail in Redding provided opportunities to dream about the snow I’d be missing this year.

I found the confidence to try the sandy paths at Turtle Bay Arboretum Gardens.

With time I moved from the wide paths to expand my exploration.

With warm spring days the turtles decided to make an appearance.

Slow steps gave me time to watch early spring brighten the gardens.

The Lenten roses in their various hues captured my attention.

The summer snowflake seemed to be an appropriate name as we transition from winter to spring.

Euphorbias are a favorite.

I had time to study all the mosaic art details.

I found more early blooms on my neighborhood walks.

The paved trail surrounding nearby Mary Lake was another place where I could practice walking while enjoying nature.

By mid month I was feeling the need to escape. I hadn’t been more than 30 minutes from town since before my surgery. So I took a drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park where I could at least feel the tease of snow.

As I continued my loop drive I just HAD to stop by and visit an old friend.

I couldn’t resist the urge to test my footing on this beautiful path, after all I just happened to have my hiking poles in the car.

To say I was elated was an understatement. YES I walked 2.5 miles on the PCT!

At the end of January, with crutch assistance, I was able to walk 4 miles; but, in early February, without the crutch, I was maxing out at 2.5-3 miles per session. I came up with the brilliant win/win solution of carrying my UL chair and lunch so I could turn my outing into two sessions. SUCCESS! I made it 6.5 miles with a few sit down breaks while out on the Sacramento River Rail Trail, and by carrying the pack I was getting ready for a future backpack trip.

As my gait improved, I was motivated to find easy terrain like nicely switchbacked Princess Ditch Trail, part of the Muletown Recreation Area.

I was rewarded with a few blooms including these shooting stars.

Hound’s Tongue

Manzanita

My next walk was on the Cloverdale Loop Trail in the Clear Creek Greenway Recreation Area.

I found one patch of Indian Warriors.

One of the most challenging to photograph, Buttercup.

My final walk of February was on the Yana Trail at the Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area, where the Sacramento River and Lassen Peak are showcased.

This area should be full of color in another few weeks. On this visit the Blue Dicks were just starting to open.

After the past few weeks, I’m feeling much more optimistic about my potential to hike and backpack this summer. The surgeon said I most likely would be ready to begin hiking in April, thus the reason I’m calling these dirt trail excursions, walks. At my last physical therapy appointment I completed a survey about my recovery. One question was whether I could walk stairs. I answered NO. The therapist challenged me and said you can’t or haven’t tried. I said I don’t have stairs. He took me to the hall where there was a 12-step staircase. Ok YES I can!!! So now I’ve been incorporating nearby stairs into my walks. I’d already been using an aerobic step at home and had worked my way up to 15″.

February was a great rehab month! It was a huge improvement over the proceeding months. March is going to be even better. Every day of walking is getting me one step closer to hiking and backpacking. I’m grateful for public lands with varied trails. Summer is coming and I’m going to be ready! But first, I’ll enjoy a spring filled with butterflies and wildflowers.

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.

 

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Stuart Fork Trailhead . . . early spring jaunting

I like the mystery of early season hiking. Going somewhere knowing you’ll most likely be turned back by unsafe creek crossings or snowfields that are hard and icy, soft and wet, or filled with post-holing Type II fun. It must be the curious adventurer in me that doesn’t care about miles covered instead just wanting to see what I can see, go where I can go, while being completely fine turning back when things show me that’s best for this day.

Spring has it’s own schedule. How much snow did winter bring? With the trailhead at 2,800 feet, it’s one of the lower elevation options and a good place to test conditions. Most often you can’t get far until late May or early June. These mountain should still be draped in heavy white coats.

In a few weeks most of the white will be gone. This is Bear Gulch, one of the less popular ways to reach Morris and Smith Lakes.

Morris Meadow will soon be filled with lush green grasses and cheery wildflowers.

With few hikers and campers, the bears roam free.

Signs of spring are everywhere.

Snowmelt means raging waterfalls.

Mother Nature reminds you to pay attention to the weather forecast and to be prepared for springs storms.

While Emerald Lake shares a little reflection, Sapphire and Mirror Lakes remain masked beyond the fog.

These prayer flags added a punch of color to this well-used campsite on this dreary day, but they don’t belong in the wilderness. I gained a few LNT credits by taking them with me.

I go prepared for wet feet on these spring jaunts. Between water crossings, wet meadows, creek-like trails and snowy traverses, it’s just a fact of life.

On trips like these I’m happy to have my phone loaded with e-books for those times I might need to spend time in my tent waiting out a storm. It doesn’t hurt to find a great view campsite where you can be entertained by the storm.

The aftermath of rain, is magic.

The warm sun might encourage a few breaks to recover from the rain showers.

Wandering off the beaten path might lead you to find cool geologic features.

And you might just find a perfect campsite.

You can find early spring blooms to observe and photograph.

I’m happy to find trails free of litter but I always seem to find lost items that need to be hauled out.

Adventure Dates:

  • April-June, any year, depending on winter snow levels

Resources:

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?

MT – Glacier NP – Going to the Sun Road . . . where 2 are better than 4

Experiencing Glacier National Park has been tops on my list for the past few years. While I wasn’t planning an April visit, it seemed destined. When it became apparent Utah’s tourism season had arrived, I escaped to the north spending time in Wyoming visiting Flaming Gorge NRA, Wind River RangeGrand Tetons NP, and Yellowstone NP before continuing onward to Montana and eventually to Glacier NP. First stop was Lake McDonald.

Crews were working hard to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but with it still closed I had limited options for early season camping and hiking. Apgar is only open to tent camping and since I planned to sleep in my car, Saint Mary was my best option. It took me a couple hours to reach the northeast side of the park.

You won’t hear any complaints from me when you have near solitude and this great “dinner with a view” lakeside seat. 

This was a pretty great campsite. How about going to sleep and waking up to this scene?

While wondering around I came across this lily. According to my research, this lily is not native to Glacier and may have been planted as a joke. I took this photo with my phone and I believe it was a solo plant. Is this really a Fawn Lily aka White Beauty (Erythronium californicum)?

The next morning I hiked the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It was mostly clear of snow and obstacles. I was a little jealous of the cyclists cruising the pavement but in other ways it was nice to take my time and enjoy views along the shores of Saint Mary Lake. 

The flat light and gray skies may have reduced the drama of these spectacular mountains, but they didn’t dampen my spirits. I know I’ll be back to capture these images with a pack on my back and feet on real trail.

The 2003 Roberts Fire may have left a 135,000 acre scar; however, it opened up views once hidden by vegetation.

Are you St Mary or Virginia Falls?

Are you Gunsight Pass? Are you Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers?

With all the snowmelt, water was plentiful. Who needs recorded music when you have nature’s soundtrack?

As much as I wanted to make it to Logan Pass, I decided it best to turn around after 7.5 miles at the Jackson Glacier Overlook. My decision was reaffirmed when I met a guy on his bike who said he was blocked by snow at Siyeh Bend, not far from my turnaround point.

The burned trees were a sad distraction.

I’m looking forward to returning another day when I can experience the beautiful colors of these mountains. 

Making my way back to the Saint Mary Lake campground. 

When I wasn’t tripping over my feet staring in awe at the big mountains, I found a few wildflowers, including Eastern Pasqueflower (Anemone patens) and Yellow Avalanche or Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum).

I just loved the pasqueflower. I’ve seen them frequently in the post-bloom stage when they look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book, but never in this soft pastel lavender fuzzy stage. 

Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) and Spring Beauty (Claytonia lanceolata)

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Darkwoods Violet (Viola orbiculata)

? Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

Rocky Mountain Clematis (Clematis occidentalis).

A good reminder to carry bear spray and be bear aware. ‘Tis NOT the season to surprise a hungry bear, especially a mom with cubs. 

Date(s) Hiked: April 22, 2016

Road Trip Day(s) #64 out of 88

Tips:

  • The hike from Mary Lake Campground to Jackson Glacier Viewpoint is about 15 miles round trip with 2,000+ feet elevation gain/loss.
  • The only campgrounds in the park open during the winter/early spring season are Apgar and St Mary
  • Come prepared with grizzly bear spray or buy at Visitor’s Center upon arrival
  • Microspikes or YakTrax are a good option for early season travel.

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