CO – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (05/22)

I was ready to take a break from National Forests where hiking trails seem to rate much lower than other forms of recreation. With National Park in close proximity, I was drawn that direction. In the fall of 2017 I was running from wildfire smoke but sadly found more of the same (blog link). I hadn’t been to the South Rim so of course that’s where I started.

There aren’t any dispersed camping options near the south entrance so my first order of business was trying to secure a first come spot in the campground. Finding success, I drove the South Rim Road stopping at all the viewpoints. The position of the sun makes a huge difference is rock color and texture. In fact it took me until the end of my last day to finally capture best light on Painted Wall, the highest cliff in Colorado. It’s 2,250 feet from river to rim.

Each pullover provides opportunities to learn about the geology, as well short walks to stretch those legs and get some exercise. I walked every maintained trail on both sides of the canyon this trip.

It’s a long ways down to the Gunnison River. In fact, the greatest depth from rim to river is 2,722 feet.

If this tree could talk . . .

Bunnies and birds were plentiful.

This bighorn sheep had enough of portrait sessions and decided it was time for a nap.

A benefit of staying at the South Rim Campground was hiking the nearby trails bright and early for best light, wildlife and bird chatter.

It’s not all about the canyon. The vegetation was varied and I was delighted to find myself in an aspen forest.

If you want to touch the river, or camp near it, or backpack along it without a steep off-trail scramble, it’s worth the drive down to the East Portal.

This is the Gunnison Diversion Dam. What’s cool is that later I hiked the Deadhorse Trail where I could look down from the rim and see this spot.

Play the game

Hiking Trails

There are four maintained trails along the South Rim ranging from 1.5 to 2 miles, and three on the North Rim with the longest 7 miles. There are also several inner canyon routes which require permits to enter the wilderness. More information can be obtained at the ranger station visitor centers. I thought I was interested until I attended the ranger talk and learned more details and decided it was well above my fitness level. The routes on the South Rim require a ranger interview in order to obtain a permit; on the North Rim permits are self issued.

Deadhorse Trail

This is one of the longer trails, and probably one of the least visited.

I thought the trail would take me up this peak, but I was wrong and happily so on this warm day. Although not apparent at a glance, there were quite a few wildflowers and butterflies.

You have to look hard to find the river, way way down around 2,000 feet. If you look carefully you can also see the road leading down to East Portal. I watched a few cars going down down down. Be sure your brakes have been recently serviced before attempting this drive. There aren’t many places to escape or turn around.

This is the view looking down at the Gunnison Diversion Dam which I’d seen earlier when I drove down to East Portal.

I believe if you follow the fence line, you could reach the ridge to summit that peak.

North Vista/Green Mountain Trail

This was my last hike and it was by far my favorite. Here’s a view of Green Mountain from the South Rim.

What a welcome!

This is the only trail where you can hike in the wilderness without a permit.

The first destination and for most hikers the turnaround point.

WOW, she exclaimed!!!!

More my kind of EXPLANATION POINT!!!

Wildflowers

YES it was spring and I found flowers on nearly every trail.

Claret Cup
Geum triflorum, prairie smoke, three-flowered avens, or old man’s whiskers
Lupine
Scarlet Gilia
Viola
Evening Primrose

I couldn’t resist visiting Sunset View on evening.

Tips:

  • Loop C is the First Come First Serve Non Reservation option for the South Rim Campground. There may be openings in the others loops but try this one first.
  • Water rationing!
  • Restroom etiquette LOL
  • There are some great dispersed camping options on the North Rim side. I enjoyed views of the West Elk Mountains.
  • Crawford is a great town to spend some time and regroup between visiting the North and South Rims. I was waiting out storms and found nearby dispersed camping. There are laundry and shower facilities and WiFi outside the library as well as public restrooms and a water refill station.
Fresh snow on the West Elk Mountains
I couldn’t resist a visit to Needle Rock after the storm.
I look forward to a future visit to explore the West Elk Mountains

Resources:

CO – Grand Mesa National Forest, Early Spring Jaunting (05/22)

Known as the world’s largest flat-top mountain, it exceeded my expectations when I found real forests, lots of lakes and hiking trails, and nothing resembling flat. Altitude was around 10,000 feet, giving my lungs reason to complain.

It was a great escape from the heat but not so good for hiking. I wasn’t surprised, after all it was mid May and still early spring at 10,000 feet.

Some plants are early spring bloomers. You won’t hear me complaining!

I found plenty of lakes in early thaw status.

The Crag Crest Trail was calling my name. If only I could get through the parking lot without postholing to my knees. But with infrequent overnight freezing, that wasn’t going to happen.

From this vantage point, I found marmots, a pika and some fat robins singing the sounds of spring. They were camera shy and didn’t want their portraits. During this trip I saw five marmots, a pika and a weasel, several elk and lots of deer.

I also enjoyed some colorful sunsets and sunrise views.

It was fun to witness the “here today, gone tomorrow” when the ice suddenly disappears.

The Scotland Trail is possibly at the lowest elevation. I met some rangers who recommended giving it a try. Well I did and found snow within 1/4 mile and soon it was 75% snow with deep postholing. I have up after a mile and took a short-cut back down to the road.

Road walking proved more enjoyable.

Even then I found sections of snow to wade or waddle through.

I wonder who you will be?

I enjoyed finding surprises.

From the mesa you could see many of the big mountain ranges.

With the recent snow melt, I found these buggers. I was thankful for my mesh window coverings on my car. I hear this area is known as mosquito hell in the early season.

Tips:

  • The Ranger Station Visitor Center is only open seasonally, usually opening Memorial Day weekend. However they had WiFi available outside the building and open heated restrooms with a potable water refill station.
  • There were a few large snow parking areas which I’m guessing offer dispersed camping in the summer.
  • Based on the infrastructure at Grand Mesa Village, a private holding within the forest, my guess is this is a busy place in the summer.

Resources:

CA – Lava Beds National Monument (05/22)

Regrets . . . Since retirement I’ve been living the no regrets policy but this park never made it to the top of my list. There’s no excuse as it’s less than 4 hours from my home base.

Well now 97% of park is burned from wildfires in 2020 and 2021.

There’s something for everybody at this park. Geology, history, flora and fauna. With hundreds of caves it’s a spledunkers heaven. So many birds and a wide variety of plants given both the volcanic soil and high desert environment. Plenty of trails of various lengths to hike and explore, although some may be closed due to fire damage.

Rock Art

Pictographs at Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave. Petroglyphs at appropriately named Petroglyph Point (tip the best ones are the furthest from the restroom).

Views

The Schonchin Butte fire lookout was built by the CCC. It’s a nice 500′ elevation gain hike in less than a mile to reach this 360-degree viewpoint where you can see Mt Shasta plus much more.

Geology

I hiked to Heppe Cave, Big Nasty and Mammoth Crater and Fleener Chimneys, the latter being my favorite. For cavers there are many options, both semi developed and off the beaten track.

History

I hiked the trails to Thomas-Wright Battlefield, Gillems Camp and Captain Jacks Stronghold. I wished for more interpretative signage on the first, loved the interpretative booklet for the second, and was sad they were out for the third, although it was my favorite hike. I found you can get them on line at NPSHistory.com.

Wildflowers

This high desert, lava landscape is home to many types of flora. I hiked the Three Sisters Trail, which has many species and also offers solitude. Included are blooms I found all over the park during my 3-day visit.

The Three Sisters
Sand Lily
Viola with 1.25″ Bino Bob
Monkeyflower
Rockcress
Buckwheat
Threadleaf Phacelia
Poppies were a bit of a surprise

Tips

For convenience I stayed at the Park campground. There’s one GREAT site, the rest are potentially problematic. At least I enjoyed the local sunsets.

For hiking, ask for the list at the Visitor Center. Don’t discount the short hikes. They are worth your time and can be combined with other hikes.

Be aware and prepared for snakes and heat.

Dispersed camping is available outside the park. I enjoyed a few rainbows on my departure date.

Rain is such a rare event, I was thrilled to put on my raincoat.

My spring jaunt has officially begun! It began with a north heading. What’s next? Who knows!

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 – 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 – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Swift Creek Trailhead . . . early spring jaunting


COVID-19 message from Shasta-Trinity National Forest. “We ask the public to please recreate responsibly. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing, etc., or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. Please read our frequently asked questions on the U.S. Forest Service Coronavirus (Covid-19) webpage http://www.fs.usda.gov/about-agency/covid19-updates”


With the trailhead at 4,000 feet, it’s a gamble to find out how far you can get before finding high water creek crossings or snow fields requiring a bit more effort than reward. The majority of hikers, especially those out for a day jaunt, target Granite Lake or Foster’s Cabin.

License plates serve as snow survey trail markers. It’s hard to imagine the snow being that deep.

Spring snow melt makes the cascading waterfalls exciting and noisy.

If you choose to follow the trail to Foster’s Cabin, the first obstacle is Parker Creek. The bridge was washed away years ago and early spring means you’ll either need to ford the creek or find logs up or down stream.

I like that this trail provides access to many other trails which can be used to create loops or longer out and back hikes. With federal budget cuts, trail condition and recent maintenance reports are not easy to access. Some trails are considered “maintained” while others have been left to volunteers or to return to nature. I’d like to volunteer with the forest service to make this information more available.

Sometimes the cabin is locked, other times not.

Continuing west past the cabin means a wet feet treacherous crossing of Swift Creek.

If you’re lucky these logs upstream might still be in place making for a nice dry feet crossing of Swift Creek.

Landers Creek Trail

Getting to Landers Lake early season might prove to be a bit of a challenge. First, this sign is to the east of Landers Creek whereas maps show the trail starts to the west. Second with blow down and snow it’s nearly impossible to find clues as to where the trail might be.

The trail veers far to the east as shown by the blue line on the right. You can see the black dotted line showing possibly the original trail. The blue line on the left was me attempting to find the trail. This is the digital map on Gaia. I tried several layers and none showed the location of the current trail. My paper USFS map matches this view.

I located the trail just before this wet feet crossing of Landers Creek.

Once located, I found the trail to be well maintained and in excellent shape.

Snowmelt continued to provide delightful waterfalls.

Soon it became apparent Landers Lake would not be reached on this day. Staying on the main trail to gain additional heights and these views was a better option.

Looking down at this unnamed lake, my viewpoint into the Union Lake drainage and turnaround was at about 7,100 feet. Those ridges to the west looked worthy of some future exploration.

A little extra off-trail navigation might be necessary to avoid meadows that have become ponds.

Finding dry places to camp can be a bit of a challenge.

Parkers Creek Trail

It’s easy to miss the sign that signals this junction off the Swift Creek Trail. Fair warning: this is a steep rocky trail with some erosion issues but otherwise easy to navigate.

Wet snowy trail is a given.

This is where the trail crosses Parker Creek. With a steep slippery snow slope, it marked my turnaround.

Upstream options didn’t look any better.

Finding this tarn was a fun reward.

Deer Flat Trail

Along Parker Creek is a junction for the Deer Flat Trail.

The first obstacle is getting across Parkers Creek. This giant log upstream made for a dry feet crossing.

This is definitely an unmaintained and wild trail. Yogi likes these conditions.

This was a fun blowdown to work around. The tree was huge!

Cairns mark the route in many open meadow areas. I’m guessing Deer Flat is accessed more frequently from the Poison Canyon Trail.

Knowing weather was changing, I took advantage of this view of the 7-Up Peak ridge to find a home for the night.

There were also view of Lassen as well as Trinity Lake.

It turned out to be a good location to watch sunset.

First light invited another day of exploration.

The forecast said otherwise.

Overnight temperatures reminded me it was still more winter than summer.

I love seeing the blue ridges.

Early blooms will keep you entertained.

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.

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?