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

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

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

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

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

Thich Nhat Hanh

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

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

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

Whiskeytown Falls

Fungi seemed to be happy with all the rain.

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

When you look closely you might even find a stowaway.

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

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

And what would a jaunt be without a few blooms?

Although many were ready to spread their seeds.

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

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

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

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

Nature offers up a holiday bouquet.

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

Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.

Shasta County:

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

Trinity County:

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

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 – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Bear Lakes Trailhead

My goal was to find Wee Bear and Little Bear Lakes on this my third trip on the Bear Creek Trail. These are both off-trail lakes requiring navigation and bouldering skills.

With nearby wildfires, smoke had been problematic. I’d saved a few shorter distance trails for times when I could exit quickly if conditions changed. After a week of horrific air quality, we had a couple days with improvement and indications wind would be in my favor. Checking Purple Air and Air Now sites have become a morning routine during fire season.

Big Bear Lake

In this summer of 2020, the Trinity Alps saw unprecedented visitation levels. I was concerned and had several alternative plans if I found a full trailhead. Thankfully on this day, luck was on my side. No cars and I only met two day hikers on my first day of this three day trip.

This has become my summer of swimming. I had plenty of time to indulge after this 4.5 mile 2,800′ elevation gain hike especially since I had the lake to myself for the afternoon and evening. Lucky me! Little Bear Lake can be accessed via the gap shown in the below photo, but it’s not the recommended way. I wandered part way around the lake and quickly found myself blocked by brush that I wasn’t willing to fight my way through.

There are plenty of places to wander around and above the lake. In fact the granite benches host the majority of campsites, including views of Mt Shasta and Mt Eddy. It was a great place to watch sunset and sunrise. Catching alpenglow is one of my favorite reasons to camp.

Mt Shasta and Mt Eddy visible from the benches above Big Bear Lake. The granite mountain to the right is the scramble to Wee and Little Bear Lakes.

Wee and Little Bear Lakes

The trail shown in the below photo is from Big Bear Lake and provides one starting point to the off-trail lakes. There is also a cairn on the main trail below Big Bear Lake. Basically you want to angle your way up this rock face. You’ll find cairns marking a variety of routes. There is no right way, as I say, “pick your poison.” One of my resource guidebooks says “the goal is to bisect the top of the ridge at approximately the midpoint near some dead trees.”

There are a few campsites near the junction with water available from the Big Bear Lake outflow creek. The books indicate this is an EASY scramble. For some it might be, I found it fairly challenging.

This is the mountain you’re traversing. I’ll take granite boulders and slabs over scree any day. While you’ll find cairns dropping you down lower you want to avoid the brush. I stayed high on my way to the lakes and a little lower on my exit. I found the high route much more forgiving as the lower you go the steeper the slabs.

This photo shows the notch you want to reach and why you want to find the mid sweet point so you don’t waste energy going too high or too low.

This is an example of the steep slabs best to avoid, which can be easily done if you stay higher.

On the way back I followed cairns which dropped me lower. I found myself working a lot harder on this mid route.

Wee Bear Lake is more a pond than a lake but it’s very photogenic.

Little Bear Lake is a much superior swimming lake to Big Bear with slabs for diving platforms and debris free exit.

It took me about an hour to reach Little Bear Lake from Big Bear. After a few hours of swimming and relaxing I was inspired to see if I could ascend the ridge separating the lakes.

Although there is a trail traversing the lake, once again I quickly got stopped by thick brush so I backtracked and found another way which included this view of Wee Bear Lake, Mt Shasta and Mt Eddy.

These ramps made for a gentle ascent.

Success! There’s 28-acre Big Bear Lake, depth 73 feet.

Looking down at Little Bear Lake.

The lower ridge in this photo is the unnamed peak you traverse around between Big and Little Bear Lakes.

First kiss of sun on the peaks surrounding Little Bear Lake.

Morning reflections on Little Bear Lake.

The jagged spires surrounding the Bear Lakes are a recognizable sight in much of the Trinity Alps and Castle Crags Wilderness areas. It was so nice to see blue sky after a couple weeks of smoky skies.

Bear Creek signals the return to the main hiking trail.

I enjoyed a few late blooms along the trail like this fire weed.

Possibly Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris).

Red Columbine

There was indication summer was ending and soon fall would take center stage.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 31 – September 2, 2020

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • This can be a busy trail. If the trailhead is full you might want to consider other options especially if you want to camp.
  • In late August, nights were pretty warm. I was glad I’d brought my new summer quilt (link).
  • Always pack first-aid supplies. This was a bleeder. It wasn’t very deep but it bled for 3-4 days.
  • Do your part and pack out what others may have left behind. I walked past this hat several times before I noticed it. I also carried out a bag of used toilet paper, two fishing rod tips, a GSI cooking pot lid, and one sandal plus some micro trash. It’s the right thing to do!
  • I was glad to have my headnet as there were face flies at lower elevation. I met some hikers on their way in as I was exiting and they were very jealous.

Resources:

Links:

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

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

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

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

Bleeding Heart

Western Prince’s Pine

Leopard Lily

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landers Lake

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

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

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

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

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

At 8 miles I reached the junction to Landers Lake.

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

Looking back from where I’d come.

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

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

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

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

Historical Mining Trail Loop

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

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

Bog Orchid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This pond just below Dorleska will forever hold negative memories.

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

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

Foster, Lion, Conway and Big Boulder Lakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I loved this stretch showcasing nature’s gardening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Followed by a well deserved meal.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 28 – July 2, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

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

CA – Shasta-Trinity and Lassen National Forests . . . falling into winter

Not only did I spend time this fall in Lassen Volcanic National Park (link), but I also found a few other favorite places in far Northern California to jaunt. 

Hike #1 – Castle Lake Trailhead

Castle Lake 

Little Castle Lake 

Mt Shasta Views 

Castle Crags and Lassen Views (on a smoky day) 

Hiking Date: October 21, 2018

 

 

 

 

Hike #2 – Trinity Alps, Stuart Fork Trailhead 

Hiking Date: October 28, 2018

 

Hike #3 – Lassen, Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center 

Ridge Lakes 

Date Hiked: November 30, 2018

Hike #4 – Mt Shasta, Bunny Flat Trailhead 

Black Butte 

Date Hiked: December 2, 2018

Hike #5 – Castle Lake Trailhead 

Date Hiked: December 6, 2018 (no stats on this date)

Hike #6 – Mt Shasta, Bunny Flat Trailhead 

Sierra Club Horse Camp Cabin 

Date Hiked: December 10, 2018

 

 

Hike #7 – PCT, Dog Trailhead 

Date Hiked: December 13, 2018

Hike #8 – PCT, Twin Bridges Trailhead 

Date Hiked: December 19, 2018

 

Hike #9 – Mt Shasta, Southeast Wanderings 

The bears were still wandering around. 

Date Hiked: December 22, 2018

Hike #10 – PCT, Cache 22 Trailhead

Final sunset of 2018

Date Hiked: December 31, 2018 (no stats)

Instead here’s my cheer to you for a fantastic 2019 filled with adventure, good health and plenty of smiles.

And that my friends is a wrap for 2018. Below is my year in review video.

Links:

CA – Bear Lakes Trail, Trinity Alps Wilderness

With more fair weather in the forecast, I wanted more time in the Trinity Alps. After my less-than-perfect weather outing on the Canyon Creek Trail, where I was turned around by the creek, I decided to look for day hike options. After collecting a list of seasonal road closures from the Weaverville Ranger Station, I set out to hike to Stoddard Lake, only to find the road closed. So much for advanced prep. Oh well, there are a couple other nearby trailheads. As I traveled north I stopped to check on the supposedly closed road to Bear Lakes. I guess the ranger got things mixed up. No closure! This was a trail I’d never visited but which had always been on my list. Score!

Before you reach this sign, you’ll most likely get your feet wet crossing this creek where the road abruptly stops.

It’s quite a steep drop off and nearly impossible to drop down the embankment thus the trail has been rerouted downstream a bit making for a much more hiker friendly crossing.

Further upstream, the civilized way to cross creeks. I love bridges! Not to get political, but our trails and trailhead access roads are showing extreme neglect from years of underfunding. The Trinity Alps Wilderness trail conditions report was eliminated in 2017. At this point I think it’s going to take volunteers to adopt and maintain trails.

Recent rains and snowmelt from warmer temperatures made for lively waterfalls.

I quickly found this to be a good workout trail. There was plentiful huffin’ n puffin’ as I climbed and climbed and climbed, stopping frequently to release the extra weight from my poles. 

Although great to be able to hike at elevation in late November, the lack of snow is concerning. 

The Bear Lakes basin is comprised of Big Bear, Litter Bear and Wee Bear Lakes. The smooth granite had me wishing for a warm summer day and plenty of time to climb to the ridge. 

Much of the granite was covered in ice, making for very treacherous hiking. In some places like in this photo, water was still running under the ice. I tried to capture a video but in the process dropped my phone on that icy cold granite, face first knocking it unconscious. 

Hoarfrost was also evident. 

Check out the icy pathways. It would have been a good idea to carry microspikes.

There was even ice forming in the trees. 

At 2pm I reached this creek crossing. With dark arriving just before 5pm, the right choice was to wait to see the lakes until I can spend multiple days in the basin. 

I spent a little time enjoying the views. 

My favorite image. Reminds me of Castle Crags. 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: November 30, 2017
  • Mileage (per ViewRanger): ? Phone DOA
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): ? Phone DOA (a good steep climb)
  • Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): ? Phone DOA
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: adequate
    • Terrain: mostly well graded
  • Navigation Skills: minimal to moderate to Big Bear Lake
  • Water availability: moderate
  • Camping availability: moderate
  • Solitude: I was only one on trail in late November; don’t expect the same during prime hiking season
  • Bugs: None
  • Wildlife: Pretty Quiet
  • Precip: None on this date
  • Temp: I believe it was in high 20’s at the trailhead
  • LNT: No problems
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Prepare for wet feet crossings
  • In early winter consider carrying microspikes for the icy conditions

Links:

Resources:

CA – Canyon Creek Trail, Trinity Alps Wilderness

I’ve probably spent more time hiking and backpacking in the Trinity Alps than anywhere else. When I returned home in October, I was craving a visit. Sadly I learned most of the trailheads were closed due to nearby summer fires. I kissed time in this wilderness goodbye for 2017. However, after a series of rain storms the forest service rescinded the closure order. The forecast said it’s gonna be a week of clear skies. As an opportunist, I said YES, it’s go time! 

As I drove west toward the trailhead, I soon found myself engulfed in fog, which transitioned to low clouds. I figured worse case if the weather turns sour I’ll make it a day hike. To reach my intended destination I’d need to overnight on the trail. I was prepared either way. Mostly I was just happy to be back on trail in my beloved Trinity Alps. I was welcomed back with treats from recent rains. 

With the calendar about ready to flip to December, it was easy to see autumn falling into winter. 

Snow melt and recent rains led to active waterfalls, steams and creeks. 

For some reason I was propelled forward, even with deteriorating conditions. My heart said, but the forecast said . . . I was certain the clouds would part, the sun would shine and all would be good. 

At 3:45, I came to the Canyon Creek crossing. I was already damp and chilly from the light and intermittent snow, sleet and rain showers throughout the day (love my hiking umbrella). I looked up and down the creek for dry crossings. These logs were an option but they were wet and slippery and required jungle gym antics I wasn’t up for attempting. 

I was confident I’d be wet up to knee or higher. I wasn’t carrying water shoes and I’ve learned my lesson about barefoot travel (just say NO!). Fires aren’t permitted at this elevation or higher at the lakes so I’d have no way to warm up or dry out. With a disappointed face, I made the decision to turn around. My primary reason for going to the lakes was to enjoy the sunset and sunrise views. With the overcast skies that wasn’t going to happen. I’d been before, I’d go again . . . for now it was time to turn around. 

Of course shortly after I turned around, the sky started giving me glimpses of blue. 

The trail has been rerouted to nearer the creek where more waterfalls can be easily accessed. 

I got to see a tiny bit of color as I quickly hiked toward a campsite.

I had second thoughts about my decision to turnaround, or at least considered camping above treeline.

With conditions uncertain, I continued my descent until I found this nice little home for the night. I’d marked several potential sites on my tracking app but as dark was nipping at my heels I grabbed the first flat protected option. This photo is from the next morning as I was packing up. I’m still pretty excited that I’ve been able to sneak in late November backpacking trips the past three years.

My original plan was to hike to Canyon Creek Lakes for my first night followed by a trip to Boulder Lakes. Since I’d elected to skip Canyon Creek Lakes due to the creek crossing, I knew I wasn’t going to want to attempt the more significant crossing required to get to Boulder Creek Lakes. So instead I enjoyed a leisurely hike back to the trailhead. 

As I was putting together this post, I realized that I’ve neglected to include on my blog many of my trips into the Trinity Alps. Someday, I’ll need to rectify that . . . someday . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: November 28-29, 2017
  • Mileage (per ViewRanger): about 14 round trip
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): 2,750/2,2750
  • Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): ? phone died before it could be synced
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: very few if any
    • Overgrowth: very little
    • Signage: adequate
    • Terrain: well graded trail with a mix of forest and granite
  • Navigation Skills: One section took me a while to figure out even with my tracking app. The trail has been rerouted but the section begins in an area prone to flooding. This area needs some serious trail work.
  • Water availability: Plentiful
  • Camping availability: Plentiful
  • Solitude: In late November plentiful, but it’s a very popular trail during prime season
  • Bugs: None around this time of year
  • Wildlife: It was pretty quiet
  • Precip: On this date I had rain, sleet, and snow (LOVE my hiking umbrella!)
  • Temp: 32 overnight
  • LNT: no problems
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Prepare for wet feet crossings
  • In early winter consider carrying microspikes for the icy conditions

Links:

Resources:

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Alpine, Smith and Morris Lakes (07/15)

This sign along the Stuart Fork Trail has taunted me for several years.

The scramble trail shown on the map reminded me I’d prefer a partner and needed to be in great shape. After all the ascending and descending I’d done in the Sierra recently, I was as ready as I’d ever be to tackle this beast.

One of the latter sections of trail climbs 2,500′ in 2.5 miles. It took us nearly 4 hours to hike the last 3.8 miles, the same as one author mentioned in his book. Obviously more fit and agile hikers could cover this terrain in less time, likewise others may need more time. 

One author describes the trail as brutally hot through manzanita and ceanothus on rocky, brush covered tread.  I agree!

Another calls it an arduous hike with steep and rocky pitches. Again, I agree!

En route you will be distracted by views of Red Mountain and trees such as this nearly perfect conifer specimen (Brewer Spruce).

It’s exciting to finally see the canyon hiding Alpine Lake. Just around the corner, right?

Each switchback adds a decibel or two of waterfall music. In normal snow years, this waterfall would be raging.

As the trail plateaus below the lake, the meadow invites different thoughts.

The first glimpse of the lake elicits an automatic swim response, not that my brain hadn’t already been dreaming of washing away the sweat and grime of overgrown vegetation from my weary limbs.

Evening had me mesmerized by the spires surrounding Alpine Lake.

Morning light is my favorite. Alpenglow at Alpine Lake.

5:45am reflections at Alpine Lake

7am reflections at Alpine Lake

With Smith Lake only a mere 2+ miles from Alpine Lake, it’s pretty hard to ignore the pull, especially with descriptions such as “the lake and its awesome cirque have natural wonders like a queen has jewels.” The temptation however is tempered with warnings such as “strenuous route” through “dense demonic brush” using the “least offensive route . . . you should come out somewhat unscathed . . . bring plenty of bandaids” while allowing “at least a half day for the 2-mile off-trail climb.”

Yep, that’s the “demonic patch of brush” harboring the “least offensive route.”

Once through the manzanita, the way was open to views and climbing up steep granite slabs and over less desirable boulder fields.

Moving slowly and resting often gave us plenty of time to appreciate the surrounding beauty.

Being able to identify the ridges, canyons and peaks from previous trips made our slow progress more enjoyable.

Are we there yet? Nope, but that peak represents one side of the notch we’ll be passing through.

Woot Woot, we found the notch! Navigation success! However, we’re not there yet and we’ve been hiking over 3 hours at this point.

Happily it only took us about 15 more minutes to make it over those boulders and around the corner. We’re even happier to see an easy chute.

The view from the top of the notch looking back in the direction we’d ascended.

Look who’s joined the party, Mt Shasta!

On the other side, surprise! More granite slabs and boulders before we can reach that peak in the distance which holds the lakes. I feel the clock ticking . . . we were day hiking . . . we still had another mile to reach Smith Lake.

Another Oh Shit moment!

And there she is, the beautiful glacial cirque with Smith Lake most obvious and above it on a shelf to the left Morris Lake.

A grand view of the entire cirque.

The drainage to the right is an optional route ending at Morris Meadows. From our angle it looked more inviting than our route, but resources say it’s much less friendly.

I can’t reiterate enough how time-consuming and challenging it is to hike across these debris fields.

The glacial sculpting of the area was art. The lines, shapes, colors blew me away.

Sadly, with our time short, we had to make the tough call to turn around at our view point. This is coming back up to the notch from the Morris/Smith Lakes side. It took us about 3 hours to descend what had taken us 5 hours to ascend. Both ways were steep and tough on the legs. We wished we’d started earlier as it was extremely difficult to turn around so near the lakes and miss out on a swim and seeing the lakes from shoreline. We also found a better cairn course to follow on the way down which would have saved us time on the way up.

Jan’s Tips:

  • I neglected to take any photos of the Stuart Fork Trinity River crossing. The river status will determine whether you want to proceed as you need to ford the river to access the continuation of the trail to Alpine Lake.
  • Many sources will indicate there is water available about .75 mile from the river crossing. It’s a steep descent to the water and in my opinion not worth the effort. Take sufficient for the 4-mile climb (possibly over 4 hours).
  • The Stuart Fork route from Oak Flat is the most recommended route to Alpine Lake, with the other option being from Canyon Creek up the Bear Creek Trail. There is also an option to Smith & Morris from Morris Meadows along the Stuart Fork or further up Canyon Creek.
  • Having a GPS track will help immensely with (1) figuring out where to cross Stuart Fork Trinity River and reconnect with the trail on the western shore, (2) following the trail across the Alpine Lake outlet, (3) finding the trail in the meadow as it meanders across a creek, and (4) selecting the most efficient route to Smith & Morris Lakes.
  • Unless you are a glutton for punishment, or there has been increased traffic, I don’t recommend following the rumor of a premiere campsite at the inlet end of Alpine Lake. There is a faint trail that appears and disappears, but we spent more time climbing through bushes and over granite boulders than following a friendly trail. We finally gave up after about 30 minutes.
  • It was a tough call deciding whether to day hike or backpack up to Smith and Morris Lakes. Getting through the overgrown shrub path would have been more challenging with a pack. Carrying the extra weight up and down the steep slopes would have strained my already tired thighs.
  • Reference my Trinity Alps Trails Link Page for maps, books, online resources, etc.
  • For travel in the Trinity Alps, I highly recommend having a GPS device. Except for the very popular, over-used trails, most other trails listed on the maps and in guidebooks are overgrown, filled with deadfall or scree, or are nearly non-existent. Some trails have been rerouted, with no updated reference on GPS.
  • Additional blog postings about related hikes I’ve taken can be found in my Hikes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness category.

PCT – CA Section P . . . as in Persistently Practicing Patience (Part 3)

Dates Hiked: May 26-29, 2015 (Part 3: Miles 1537.19-1597.2)
Direction: Northbound
Section P: Castella to Etna
-Miles: 98.5 (Halfmile 1498.7-1597.2)
-Elevation: Low Point 2,157′, High Point 7,769′, Gain 17,594′, Loss 13,770′The storms are over and I’m antsy to return to the trail. It’s time to complete Section P, PERSISTENCE will pay off!

Thanks to my friend Rebecca I’m back at the Parks Creek Road trailhead heading north once again, first to Cement Bluff (see 5/13/15 post), then onward towards Highway 3, Sawyers Bar Road and finally Etna to resupply.

Bull Lake with Mount Eddy in the background

I love these miles of long fairly level traverses (see the trail in the distance?)

Hard to complain about colorful sunsets

and colorful sunrises

I’m always curious how trails are made through rock fields such as these.

Why yes, it’s a black BLACK bear. In Section O I saw a cinnamon-colored BLACK bear and later in Section P I saw a light brown or possibly blond colored BLACK bear. Lucky me!

It was great to have the opportunity to meet and personally thank a Backcountry Horsemen crew out clearing trees. They are one of the unsung heroes! If you see them, take a moment to say thank you.

There was about a 5-mile section that was a huge mess of down trees and accompanying debris (mile 1571-1574).

As per usual, tree jungle gym goes hand-in-hand with early season travel.

I’ve backpacked more miles in the Trinity Alps than anywhere else, thus it holds a special place in my heart and in my memories.

The Tangle Blue and Marshy Lakes basin.

Still some lingering snow

Looks like someone was busy with a bit of splash painting, but alas thank you mother nature for providing us such color and texture.

East Boulder Lakes

I’d guess this is a hunter’s camp. In the meadow below was a bear roaming around.

Not a great photo, but you get the idea. I believe it was a blond black bear, or at least very light brown. Very unusual.

My heart hurt as I witnessed the devastation of the 2014 wildfires.

I have many fond memories of backpacking trips in the Russian Wilderness. The wildfires were especially bad through this area, how bad?

Impressive trail building

Reminiscent of Castle Crags type granite

Seeing burned areas in the distance is one thing, walking through it is quite another story.

 

Trail was in decent shape, all trees were removed through the burn area and only a few areas will need serious tread work.

Manzanita and poison oak are the first to come back.

As I exited the burn area, I was treated to a view of Mt Shasta and ? Lakes (can someone help me out)

First views looking down into Scott Valley (which includes Etna).

I was surprised by the amount of climbing approaching Sawyers Bar Road

Smith Lake, Scott Valley and Mount Shasta

Snow was hiding on these north-facing protected slopes.

I saw several of these frogs and found them challenging to photograph. Was pretty happy to catch this one in motion.

There were lots of butterflies, and caterpillars of course.

Bear Grass

Thankfully there were plenty of colorful wildflowers to offset the stark charcoal areas.

These were magenta colored to the naked eye. They are tiny growing on a 1-2″ stem and are a wild onion.

This is a Pitcher Plant bloom. Hard to find at this stage.

First time I’ve seen a wilderness morning glory.

Pine Cone Flower

I’m curious to know more about these shoots. Anyone know anything?

I love the shape and texture of the leaves of corn lilies.

Who walks there? Who rides there?

Mud, snow, sand all provide evidence of shared trail users.

I wondered about the many holes along the trail . . . watch out for those ants!

Poison oak became more abundant around water sources starting around mile 1573 (near Section Line Lake)

Meeting other hikers on the trail is always a highlight of my day. Hiking off-season makes this a rare treat, and what a coincidence when I found a gal sporting the exact same pattern on her Dirty Girl Gaiters! By the way, these do such a terrific job keeping crud out of your shoes. I’ve been wearing them for about 5 years now and as they say I never leave home without them.

As a hiker, my feet have been growing. Sure hope they never get this big! I think Bigfoot set these prints across Highway 3.

Seasonal creeks were plentiful and always a nice place to do a little laundry (tip: diaper pins work better than safety pins, and hang socks by toes so they are more apt to be dry). In this photo, you can see my solar panel charging my external battery, my umbrella ready for the sun or precip, my Sawyer Squeeze being used inline, and my Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack. I’ll be providing a gear list in another post.

This was not the best campsite selection for a possible stormy night, but sometimes you have to take what’s available when it’s time to stop for the day. Instead of a storm, I had a perfect viewing platform for a great sunset and sunrise.

Another “room with a view” night.

This was to be my first hitching experience, needless to say I was extremely nervous. Instead I met a guy as he merged onto the PCT from a side trail about a mile before Sawyers Bar Road. He was headed to Etna and I was able to secure a ride. From there I was swept away by my new friend Catherine for a night of yummy food, chores and great conversation. Thank you Catherine and Bruce for being such great trail angels and hosts!

Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Permits are not required to backpack within Section P (exceptions: Castle Crags State Park, Castle Crags Wilderness, Trinity Alps Wilderness, Russian Wilderness).
  • Bear canisters are not required. It is recommended that you hang your food. I use an Ursack and Opsak.
  • Cell signal and internet service are limited.
  • Spring trips mean unreliable weather forecasts and unpredictable weather.
  • PCT resources
  • Sections of Section P (reference Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail by George & Patricia Semb)
    • I5/Soda Springs to Dog Trail (7.9 miles)
    • Dog Trail to Gumboot Trailhead (18.2 miles)
    • Gumboot Trailhead to Parks Creek Road Trailhead (14.3 miles)
    • Parks Creek Road Trailhead to Fen Trailhead (12 miles)
    • Fen Trailhead to Highway 3 (10.9 miles)
    • Highway 3 to Carter Summit Trailhead (19.9 miles)
    • Carter Summit Trailhead to Etna Summit (20.2 miles)