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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Alps Trip report

Caribou Lakes – Trinity Alps Wilderness

On the fifth day of our vacation the forecast was finally free of the threat of thunderstorms. We’d been saving our visit to the Trinity Alps Wilderness for just such a day since it was the longest drive to a trailhead that we had planned. From Mount Shasta City the quickest drive would have been to take Forest Road 42N17 which we had been on for our hike to Mt. Eddy to Highway 3. After being delayed by an ongoing chip and seal project on the drive home we opted for a slightly longer drive by taking the Gazelle Callahan Road to the highway. We followed Highway 3 south for 23.5 miles to Coffee Creek where we turned right onto Coffee Creek Road which we followed to its end at Big Flat Campground.

We parked at the signed Caribou Lake Trailhead and set off on the trail which quickly entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
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The trail descended for .2 miles to the South Fork Salmon River where we had expected to have to get our feet wet but a downed tree provided a dry crossing.

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On the far side of the river we faced the choice of taking the shorter, steeper Old Trail or the the longer but gentler New Trail. Our planned route was to go up to the lakes on the New Trail and return via the Old Trail which would result in a figure 8 as the trails crossed paths at Caribou Meadows. We wound up not even noticing the Old Trail splitting off to the right as we passed by and were soon climbing along a fairly open hillside.

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The wildlife was out that morning and we spotted several quail and a snake before reentering the trees.

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We then spotted a bear cub about 200 feet off the trail, downhill in the trees. We both stopped and immediately looked uphill to make sure we weren’t between it and mama bear. We weren’t, she popped her head up from behind a bush near where the cub had been (it ran off downhill). Mama looked at us long enough for me to pull out the camera, turn it on, and then press the power button again instead of taking a picture as she followed her cub deeper into the forest.

We continued the gradual climb to Caribou Meadows arriving in just under three miles from the trailhead.

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There was a sign here for the Old Trail as it crossed the New Trail and headed off uphill.

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We stuck to the New Trail as it continued its slow climb winding around hillsides towards the lakes.

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After passing through an area of burnt trees the trail emerged onto a granite hillside. More wildlife and various wildflowers greeted us along this section.

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We passed through another stand of burned trees (where we found a couple of ripe berries) before arriving at Browns Meadow, 1.6 miles beyond Caribou Meadows.

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We took a seat on a rock near the edge of the meadow and just enjoyed the sound of a flowing creek amid the peacefulness of the wilderness. As we started to get up I looked behind us and noticed a doe walking through the meadow. She disappeared behind some vegetation heading in the same direction as the trail. Thinking we might get a chance to see her again we resumed our hike but were quickly distracted by a plethora of butterflies.

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The trail crossed the creek we’d been listening to.

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As we began to climb away from the meadow I looked back and spotted the deer in the meadow after all.

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We passed another small stream giving life to quite a few colorful flowers.

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We got our first good look at Mt. Shasta just before rounding a hillside covered in pink fireweed.

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As we came around the hillside snowy Caesar Peak came into view with the slightly taller Thompson Peak behind.

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We were on a 2 mile stretch of trail between Browns Meadow and another junction with the Old Trail. This section of trail had some spectacular views across the valley where Caribou Creek was roaring down over the granite.

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Eventually Caribou and Lower Caribou Lake could bee seen in the basin below Caribou Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge.

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We arrived at the junction with the Old Trail and took a look up at our return route for later.

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From the junction it was a about a half mile downhill to Snowshoe Lake which was now visible along with the two Caribou Lakes.

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The views from above were simply amazing. We began switchbacking down towards the lakes passing mossy runoff streams and meadows filled with wildflowers.

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We arrived at Snowshoe Lake and found a spot along the shore to soak our feet in the cool water as we listened to the sound of water cascading into and out of the lake.

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IMG_6183Snowshoe Lake’s outlet creek

If Snowshoe Lake had been it the hike would have been well worth the effort but there was more to see so after a thoroughly relaxing break we sallied forth following cairns to a small unnamed lake in a meadow.

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This little lake was fed by creeks flowing from both Snowshoe and Caribou Lake down to Little Caribou Lake. We crossed the creek from Snowshoe Lake on some downed logs and found ourselves on a granite landscape above beautiful Lower Caribou Lake.

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Water from snow melt pools flowed over the white rocks in some places.

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We made our way along the rocks to the inlet creek which proved to be another breathtaking sight.

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We followed the stream up to the small lake in the meadow where we hopped across it.

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We continued to climb up along the creek until Caribou Lake came into view.

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Snowshoe Lake was also visible once again below Caribou Mountain.

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We passed several small pools of water on the way to the large lake.

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Snow heavy enough to keep small trees down still lingered along the shore.

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The scene was too big to fit into a single picture making a panorama necessary to even attempt to capture the grand scale of this place.

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It is possible (and recommended by those in the know) to hike around the left side of the lake and follow a faint path a little over a mile to a viewpoint along Sawtooth Ridge.

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We had contemplated attempting it but that would have made a long day even longer and we still had two more days of hiking ahead of us so we decided to leave that side trip as an excuse to come back to this amazing place someday.

We intended to return to Snowshoe Lake by staying up on the granite above the small lake in the meadow. We started back wandering between even more snow melt pools.

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Along the way a snake caught our attention. It had captured a small frog and was in the process of swallowing it. We felt bad for the frog but it was interesting to see nature at work.

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We did a poor job of sticking to our planned route and found ourselves back down at the small lake after all. We had a little trouble remembering where we had crossed the creek between Snowshoe Lake and this lake but eventually spotted the logs again which jogged our memories. We made it back to Snowshoe Lake and started the warm climb up to the junction with the Old Trail.

Taking the Old Trail would cut approximately 1.2 miles off our return trip but it also gained about 1000′ of elevation in the first .8 miles as it climbed up and over the shoulder of Caribou Mountain. The shorter distance coupled with a different trail and the promised view from the top was too tempting to pass up despite it being rather warm out.

The Old Trail started up through the trees on a mission to seemingly go straight to the top of the ridge as quickly as possible.

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The picture taking ended quickly as I became focused on simply trying to keep moving uphill. Eventually I looked back during a couple of breaks to check our progress and admire the lakes. The extra elevation revealed many more of the peaks of the Trinity Alps.

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By the time we made it to the top of the ridge we were really wondering what kind of maniac devised this trail. The result of it though was an amazing view. Mt. Shasta loomed to the NE.

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Mt. Lassen lay to the SE barely visible through the haze.

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Closer by the ridge ran SE to the summit of Caribou Mountain, a route that will be very tempting when we return with more time someday.

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To the SW was the heart of the Trinity Alps.

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We had been a little concerned with the possibility of encountering snowfields near the top but we did have our MICROspikes handy just in case. As it turned out there was only one small patch of snow left as we started down the other side, and it posed no problem.

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The descent was twice as long as the climb but it was no less steep losing nearly 2000′ in 1.6 miles to Caribou Meadows.

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Along the way we passed a partly obscured view of Little Caribou Lake which lay in its own glacial cirque to the SW of Browns Meadow.

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The trail did level out a bit for a short stretch where we could look back at Caribou Mountain and the forested slope we’d just descended.

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A final drop brought us back to Caribou Meadows.

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We decided to complete the figure 8 and continue following the Old Trail down to its other junction near the river. After passing through the meadow the trail once again dove seemingly straight down along a small stream crossing it twice.

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Beyond the second crossing the trail leveled out traversing along an open, hot, hillside. The GPS track shows that this final 1.5 miles to the junction resulted in a net loss of elevation but it sure felt like we were going uphill a lot.

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We were pretty hot and tired as we trudged along and began getting funny looks from the locals.

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Things cooled off a bit when we finally reached some trees along the river near the junction.

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When we arrived at the junction with the New Trail we wondered how we’d missed the split that morning, we didn’t see any signs but the tread was clear. A good example of how easy it is to miss things even when you think you’re paying attention. We recrossed the river on the log and returned to our car a bit tired, a little sore, and completely satisfied with our first visit to the Trinity Alps. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Caribou Lakes

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Divide Trip report

Castle Crags Wilderness

More potential thunderstorms were forecast for the fourth day of our stay in Mount Shasta City, but then it looked like the threat would be past so we decided to stick close by and spend a day hiking in the Castle Crags Wilderness.

We had three hikes lined up for the wilderness starting with a climb to the base of Castle Dome. For that hike we started at the Vista Point Trailhead in Castle Crags State Park. There was an $8 day use fee for the park which turned into a bit of a fiasco because we only had a twenty, a five, and a one on us and there was no one manning the booth yet to make change. I had hoped that there would be a debit/credit card option but there wasn’t so we had to drive back to Dunsmire to break the twenty.

After obtaining the day use permit we drove the narrow, winding 2.1 mile road to the Vista Point parking area.

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A short walk on the Vista Point Trail brought us to a viewpoint where Mt. Shasta, Gray Rocks, and of course the Castle Crags were visible.

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For the first time during the week Mt. Shasta was sporting a bit of a lenticular cloud.

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After checking out the view from Vista Point we returned to the parking area and crossed the road to a sign for the Crags and Root Creek Trails.

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The trail passed through a forest with a bit of poison oak here and there.

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We stuck to the Crag Trail when the Root Creek Trail split off to the right and crossed the Pacific Crest Trail after .4 miles.

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Another .4 miles brought us to a junction with the Bob’s Hat Trail.

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A mile later we passed the .2 mile side trail to Indian Springs.

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The forest began to thin not long after we’d passed the Indian Springs Trail and we soon entered the Castle Crags Wilderness.

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From there it didn’t take long to reach the base of the granite spires of the Castle Crags and climb up the rock.

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The views really opened towards the end of the official trail. Castle Dome and Mt. Shasta lined up nicely as we passed the base of rounded spire.

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It was possible to continue beyond the end of the trail sign a bit and explore the area a little more. The rock formations were spectacular, it was hard to process everything we were seeing.

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A viewpoint below Castle Dome provided a nice view of Mt. Shasta as well as a look up the granite tower.

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Although it’s possible to climb Castle Dome, knowing our limitations, neither of us had any intention of attempting to do so. After a long rest in the cool breeze that provided some nice relief after what had been a warm climb up we headed back down. On the way down we noticed that the cloud above Mt. Shasta had morphed.

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After a mile we turned toward Indian Springs to check them out.

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There were quite a few mosquitoes near the springs so we didn’t stick around long before heading back and returning to our car.

The trailhead for our second hike was a mere 3 miles from the park entrance so after exiting the park we turned right on Castle Creek Road and pulled into a large parking area on the right. The goal for this hike was Burstarse Falls which we hoped might still have a little water flowing over it. We followed the hike described here on Hike Mount Shasta.

The trail was marked by a metal post with an arrow for the PCT.

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The Dog Trail, so named because dogs are not allowed on the PCT in the Castle Crag State Park so hikers on that trail must go around the park and rejoin the PCT on the other side, climbed for just over a half mile to the PCT.

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We turned left on the PCT and followed it for approximately 1.7 miles to Burstarse Creek where a hungry tree was devouring a sign for the creek.

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There had been some poison oak along the trail so we kept our eyes open as we turned onto the use trail on the south side of the creek. The creek did have some flowing water but it wasn’t much.

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The use trail was easy enough to follow especially in conjunction with the information from Hike Mt. Shasta. We arrived at the lower falls to find just a trickle of water running down it. We knew that coming this late in the summer would probably mean little to no water but as long as we were in the area it was worth checking out.

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Heather remained at the lower falls while I continued on scrambling above the falls on the right then crossing and recrossing the creek bed before arriving at the upper falls.

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The sight of the basalt amphitheater gave me a decent idea of how nice the falls must be when the water is freely flowing. I settled for a small spray of water cascading over the lip of the rocks.

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I headed back down to the lower falls to rejoin Heather.

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We headed back to the car once again and were soon on our way to the third and final hike of the day.

For our last hike we returned to I-5 and drove north back almost to Mount Shasta City before turning west and heading for Castle Lake.

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It was an unusually late time for us to start a hike (1:30pm) and it was a hot day. When we arrived at Castle Lake at the end of paved Castle Lake Road we found a whole lot of cars. We parked in the first spot we saw and walked past the mass of cars to the trail.

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We bypassed Castle Lake settling for views along the trail which we were following to Heart Lake.

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After a .7 mile climb we found ourselves at a pass above Castle Lake. A confusion of trails appeared to head in every direction.

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Heart Lake lay to our right so we just picked a path and headed in that direction.

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Mt. Shasta emerged from behind a peak to the east over our shoulders as we made our way to Heart Lake.

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After cresting the lip of a glacially carved cirque we spied the lake.

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There is a spectacular view of Mt. Shasta beyond Heart Lake which can be seen here. We did not get this iconic image due to a group of young bikini clad girls taking turns posing for Instagram photos at the edge of the lake in the gap where Mt. Shasta was visible. They were oblivious to everyone else hoping to get an unobstructed picture of the scene.

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We continued on past Heart Lake (and the Instagrammers) planning on following another route recommended by Bubba Suess at Hike Mt. Shasta. His recommendation was to continue west from the lake and follow a ridge up and around to Castle Peak then return down the far side to complete a small loop with some big views. We continued west past a small tarn then headed up hill on a faint but visible use trail.

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An initial steep climb brought us to the top of the ridge where we were rewarded with a great view.

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We still had a ways to go to reach Castle Peak though.

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The route was pretty brushy and at times we weren’t sure if we were following the correct path, but we kept making our way up the ridge.

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When we arrived at the summit of Castle Peak we found one other gentleman who had seen us coming up behind him. The 360 degree view was impressive with the Castle Crags jutting up to the south.

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Further away through the haze we had our best view of the trip of Mt. Lassen.

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To the north the size disparity between Black Butte and Mt. Shasta was striking.

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When it was time to continue on we headed east down the the other side of Castle Peak. Again the brush made it difficult to tell what was in fact supposed to be the trail and we found ourselves just lumbering through whatever route looked easiest.

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I had been attempting to match our GPS track to the one shown on Hike Mt. Shasta but we wound up turning downhill earlier than we should have which caused us to have an unnecessarily steep descent back to the trail to Heart Lake. Once we were back on that trail we turned right and kept right making our way to the trail down to Little Castle Lake.

This trail dropped down from the pass to a meadow with quite a few wildflowers.

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A short distance from the far end of the meadow was Little Castle Lake.

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After visiting this final lake we headed back down to Castle Lake. On the way we passed a group of naked hikers which was not something we had expected to see. They were a friendly group that was on their way up to Heart Lake. It made for an unexpected end to an interesting day in the Castle Crags Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Castle Crags Wilderness

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Divide Trip report

Mount Eddy and the Deadfall Lakes

The chance of thunderstorms didn’t seem to be going away anytime soon so we decided to take a chance on our third day of vacation and try Mount Eddy, the highest point in the Klamath Mountains.  We set off early in the morning and drove to the Parks Creek Trailhead located at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing of Forest Road 42N17.

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We headed south on the PCT toward the Deadfall Lakes.

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We could see our goal as we hiked the PCT.

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Further to the south were the snowy Trinity Alps.

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Below were meadows surrounding Deadfall Creek.

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As we neared the Deadfall Lakes Basin we began passing some good wildflower displays.

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A little under 3 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Deadfall Lakes Trail.

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We turned left heading for Mount Eddy. The weather was looking good and we wanted to get up to the summit before any thunderstorms might develop. As we passed by we made a brief stop at Middle Deadfall Lake before continuing on.

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The trail climbed gradually past a series of meadows where we spotted some California pitcher plants.

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The trail steepened as it climbed toward Upper Deadfall Lake.

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As we crested the rim of this upper portion of the basin we arrived at a small lake with a big view of Mount Eddy.

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Due to the time the sun wasn’t in the best position to appreciate the view but as we passed by the lake it had a nice reflection.

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Just a little further along the trail (and a mile from the junction) we came to Upper Deadfall Lake.

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The trail then climbed .4 miles to a pass where the Mount Eddy Summit Trail forked to the left from the Siskiyou-Callahan Trail.

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A quick glance at the map showed us that we had about a mile and a half left to the 9025′ summit and another 1000′ to climb. Up we went.

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As we climbed the views of the Deadfall Lakes gradually improved.

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The views and the presence of a number of wildflowers helped keep our minds off the climb. So did the numerous golden-mantled ground squirrels scurrying about.

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Rockfringe willowherb

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Mt. Shasta greeted us as we crested the summit of Mount Eddy.

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Looking north we could see that there was definitely some active weather happening but the sky was cloudless above us.

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We explored the broad summit and took a seat overlooking the Deadfall Lakes where we enjoyed a much needed break.

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We eventually pulled ourselves away and headed back down toward the lakes.

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By the time we made it back down to the small lake a few clouds had moved in overhead.

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We stopped at Middle Deadfall Lake and walked along its shore toward Lower Deadfall Lake.

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We followed the outlet creek down to the lower lake.

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The lower lake was lovely so we took another break here. As we ate another snack, Heather spotted a doe grazing along the shore.

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She took a seat under a tree and we wondered how many times we’ve missed deer or other animals, if we hadn’t been watching her we probably would have never seen her sitting there.

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We left the lake and returned to the junction with the PCT and followed it back to our car. Our GPS showed an 11.9 mile trip in all with a little over 2000′ of elevation gain. It had been another exceptional hike in the Klamath Mountains. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Eddy

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Salmon Mountains Trip report

Paynes Lake – Russian Wilderness

We were watching the weather closely during our stay in Mount Shasta City. Scattered thunderstorms were being forecasted for the first half of the week and we didn’t want to be up on some peak during a lightning storm. We’d also added an extra day at the last minute in hopes that the Everitt Memorial Highway would be opened by the end of our stay so we could make it to Panther Meadows on Mt. Shasta. To fill the extra day we chose the hike to Paynes Lake in the Russian Wilderness based in part on a recent trip report posted on vanmarmot.org. While his hike didn’t take him to Paynes Lake it was in the same area and provided some good information on a side trip we could take from the Pacific Crest Trail down to Taylor Lake.

We started our hike at the Etna Summit Trailhead by taking the Pacific Crest Trail south.

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The PCT passed through a couple of nice meadows with wildflowers and great views in the first 1.7 miles.

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At the 1.7 mile mark we arrived at a 4-way junction where the PCT crossed a on old roadbed now acting as a trail to Ruffey Lake.

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Beyond the junction the trail traversed a sagebrush covered hillside with a good view of the peaks rising from the Russian Wilderness.

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Behind us the Marble Mountains were visible despite a couple of wildfires burning in that wilderness.

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The trail followed a ridge toward a peak where we could see a large snow drift that we appeared to be heading straight for.

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We spotted a group of hikers just finishing their crossing of the snow so we waited for them to finish taking the opportunity to admire Mt. Shasta looming to the east.

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From below the snow we couldn’t tell just how far we were going to travel on it so we decided to use it as an excuse to finally try out our Kahtoola MICROspikes. After putting them on we stepped out on the snow and fell in love. Unfortunately (or not) our need for them was short lived. After just a few steps up we discovered a clear path in the snow covered with debris to assist with traction.

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Off came the spikes and onward we went. The PCT traversed a hillside above Smith Lake passing through a section of granite rocks.

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A total of 3.5 miles from the trailhead we passed Smith Lake and began a fairly substantial descent to a saddle above Taylor Lake. The open rocky hillside was sporting a good variety of blooming flowers.

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We arrived at the saddle .3 miles after passing Smith Lake where we took note of the user path from Vanmarmot’s trip report.

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Our plan was to take the path down to Taylor Lake on our way back using the old roadbed to Ruffey Lake to return to the PCT. For the time being though Paynes Lake was our goal so we continued on the PCT which continued to traverse the hillside below some impressive rock formations.

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We made a 90 degree turn around a ridge end and reentered the trees.

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Shortly after making the turn we entered the Russian Wilderness. One of the things that I try and do is get pictures of wilderness signs from the the wilderness areas we visit. We hadn’t noticed a sign by the time we reached an unnamed creak that we knew to be well within the wilderness boundary.

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We’d keep a watch for a sign on the way back and would also be crossing the wilderness boundary near Taylor Lake giving us another possible location for a sign.

Beyond the creek the PCT rounded another ridge end bringing into view the granite peak above Paynes Lake.

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A total of 2.2 miles from the pass above Taylor Lake we arrived at a signed junction with the Paynes Lake Trail.

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We turned right here and arrived at the lake after a hundred feet.

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After admiring the lake for a few minutes we continued on a path along the north side of the lake. We were hoping to follow this path up to the Albert Lakes. We followed the trail to a meadow where we turned uphill a little too soon.

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We were following what at times looked like a possible trail or several game trails through a boggy, brushy meadow.

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After several consultations with the GPS we managed to find the actual faint trail which was actually on the other side of the meadow. It climbed steeply uphill for about half a mile to a basin above Paynes Lake.

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An amazing display of tiger lilies greeted us to the basin.

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The visible trail ended at Lower Albert Lake.

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In looking at the surrounding terrain the best route to Upper Albert Lake would likely be around the south side of the lower lake but the water level was high enough that crossing the outlet creek didn’t look particularly appealing nor did the climb up to the other lake. If we had been set on completing a loop to Taylor Lake via Big Blue and Hogan Lakes that would have been the way to go, but that was more than we were willing to take on so we returned to Paynes Lake and headed back along the PCT.

When we arrived back at the saddle above Taylor Lake we had a better view of Mt. Shasta than we’d had that morning.

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We headed downhill on the steep user trail which switchbacked past some nice wildflowers.

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We arrived at Taylor Lake without incident and took another short snack break along the shore before hiking to the right around the lake to the Taylor Lake Trailhead.

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My hopes for a Russian Wilderness sign ended when just before we arrived at the Taylor Lake Trailhead we finally spotted a small generic metal sign marking the wilderness boundary.

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From the trailhead parking area we followed a paved road uphill to the right which quickly turned to dirt.

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The road was still open up to a green metal gate where it deteriorated to a wide trail.

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There were a few views and some wildflowers along the 1.2 miles from Taylor Lake to the PCT.

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From there it was just 1.7 miles back to the Etna Summit Trailhead where one of the thru-hikers we’d passed on the trail was in need of a ride into Etna, a hiker friendly town along Highway 3. We offered him a ride and had a nice talk during the 10.2 mile drive to town. He introduced himself as Octane from Oakland, CA. He, like many of the thru-hikers this year, had skipped the Sierras due to snow and was having to do sections out of order.

We dropped Octane off in Etna and returned to Mount Shasta City to check the weather forecast to see where we’d be going next. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Paynes Lake

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Scott Mountains Trip report

Kangaroo Lake

We recently spent a week in Mount Shasta City to do some day hiking in Northern California. We drove down on 7/23/17 and on the way stopped at Kangaroo Lake.

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We walked down to the picnic area to eat lunch and look at the lake before walking a short distance back up the entrance road to pick up the Fen Trail.

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The Fen Trail climbed a hillside along a fen which was home to many wildflowers including Darlingtonia California, California pitcher plants.

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In a half mile the trail came to a viewpoint overlooking Kangaroo Lake.

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The trail continued for another .9 miles passing more wildflowers before ending at the Pacific Crest Trail.

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We turned left (south) on the PCT and headed for Bull Lake. The trail here passed through ponderosa pines with wide open views.

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The ground along this stretch was covered with balloon pods.

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We passed several thru-hikers including a couple resting at a damp hillside which housed more pitcher plants.

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Beyond the pitcher plants the trail entered a drier meadow where we noticed a collapsed structure amid the wildflowers.

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As we passed through this area I spotted the final few inches of a rattlesnake slowly leaving the trail and disappearing into a manzanita bush. It was the first we’d seen while hiking and just from the small portion we saw it was a lot bigger than the garter snakes and rubber boas we usually see. We made a wide arc around the bush and continued on, now on high alert.

Just under a mile after turning onto the PCT we stayed left at a fork in the trail which would have taken us down to Robbers Meadow. We did the same in another 1.7 miles when that trail returned to the PCT at a four-way junction at a pass.

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From the pass we could see Bull Lake below and Mt. Shasta on the horizon.

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We stayed on the PCT until we had nearly passed Bull Lake where we struck off downhill on a faint user trail to the lake shore.

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After a relaxing break at the lake it was time to head back. For our return trip we chose to follow a route suggested by Bubba Suess from Hike Mt. Shasta. Our plan was to follow his directions from Bull Lake up and over Cory Peak and back down to the PCT. We returned to the PCT from the lake and when we spotted what appeared to be a fairly open route so we left the PCT and headed uphill.

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The brush soon gave way to a rocky slope which made the cross country route fairly easy, just a bit steep.

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Using the track provided on the website we were able to compare our route shown on our GPS to make sure we were staying on the right track. It’s always interesting to see what is hiding back off the trails. We came to a small green bowl were a doe was grazing.

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She headed uphill on nearly the same route we were on so we saw here a couple more times before our route veered to the right at a saddle to climb up an even higher ridge.

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We arrived at the ridge top just to the SE of a snow melt lake below Cory Peak.

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To the SW the snowy Trinity Alps lined the horizon.

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Mt. Shasta and Mt. Eddy rose to the east.

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They were all locations we had plans to visit during the week. After catching our breath we followed the ridge along the lake and scrambled up to the top of some rocks which looked from the lake like the summit of Cory Peak. Once on top we could see that the summit of Cory Peak was actually further along a broad ridge.

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We made our way along the ridge to another set of rocks with an old sign protruding from the top.

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Here we found a geologic survey marker and a summit register.

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After another short break we continued west dropping down to a saddle along the ridge where we had a nice view of Rock Fence Lake below to the north.

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We followed the ridge down picking up a mylar balloon along the way. Our route passed a nice bunch of wildflowers and below some melting snow before we bailed off the ridge and hooked back up with the PCT about a quarter mile from the junction with the Fen Trail.

IMG_5044Looking back up at Cory Peak.

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IMG_5054Looking back along the ridge to Cory Peak.

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IMG_5075More of the ridge we descended.

IMG_5081Final stretch down to the PCT.

Once we were back on the PCT we returned to Kangaroo Lake on the Fen Trail and headed for Mount Shasta City. It had been a good start to the vacation and getting to see many of the areas we were going to be visiting was a great motivator. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Kangaroo Lake

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 5 – Frying Pan Lake to Shackleford Trailhead

The final day of our Marble Mountain trip began with us packing up camp shortly after 5am followed by some coffee and granola for breakfast. We began hiking just after six climbing back up to the Pacific Crest Trail and saying goodbye to the Sky High Lakes.
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We followed the PCT back to the trail to Summit Lake and followed that trail down to the lake. Most of the blowdown was still over the trail, but the trees that we had been forced to go around at the beginning of this .7mi section of trail had been cleared. The trail crews had been busy and we’d see more evidence of recent maintenance all the way back to the trailhead.

We stayed on the Shackelford Trail at Summit Lake. This was a section of trail we had not hiked on the first day so the scenery was new. We descended 1.6 miles to a junction with the Campbell Lake Loop Trail.
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The next 1.2 mile section of trail passed through a meadow with a lily pad pond.
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We then entered a forested section of the trail before reaching Log Lake where we found some nice bigelow sneezweed in bloom.
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While we were resting at Log Lake a black tailed buck walked by on the trail. It appeared to be favoring it’s right rear leg.
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At the end of the 1.2 mile section we were back on familiar trail again just 2.8 miles from the Shackleford Trailhead. The butterflies were again plentiful in the meadows along this section, including around one particular muddy patch of trail.
Five swallowtails
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Various butterflies on the Shackleford Trail
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Not far from the trailhead we met a Wilderness Ranger and another Forest Service employee heading into the wilderness. They asked about our trip and seemed as surprised as we were that we had not seen any bears during the five days. We logged a total of 64 miles during our trip and saw plenty of other wildlife. In addition there were plenty of wildflowers and all around amazing scenery. The Marble Mountains had not disappointed. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157669884816212

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 4 – Red Rock Valley & Marble Rim

We woke to nature’s alarm clock on Thursday. Birdsong was coming from a vast variety of birds. A soft morning light was falling in the valley and we watched as the bright sunshine made its way down the mountain sides.
It was going to be another warm day and we were happy to be free of our large packs for a day.
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After breakfast we threw on our day packs and hiked around the far side of Frying Pan Lake and headed back out of the valley eventually picking up the trail we’d come in on the previous day.
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We came to a junction where the right hand fork led back up to the Marble Valley Shelter.
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From that point we had another 3.3 miles to go to reach the Red Rock Valley Trail. We soon crossed a branch of Canyon Creek below a small cascade and above a nice little waterfall that was difficult to get a good view of.
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This portion of the Canyon Creek Trail crossed a couple of other side streams as it gradually descended through the forest towards the Lovers Camp Trailhead.
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When we reached the Red Rock Valley Trail junction we turned right and quickly found ourselves at a bridge-less crossing of Canyon Creek.
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We didn’t feel like fording the creek and soaking our shoes this early in our hike so we found a way across on some rocks and debris. The trail then began to climb up and around a ridge end.
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When we finally came around the ridge we were suddenly in a different forest. Ponderosa pine trees replaced the Douglas firs along Canyon Creek.
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On the way down the Canyon Creek Trail we’d been discussing the fact that we hadn’t seen any large wildlife other than the lone doe near Paradise Lake on the second morning of our trip. We’d seen signs of deer and bear all over the place so we were surprised at the lack of sightings. Coming up the Red Rock Valley Trail that started to change when a doe and her fawns ran up the trail in front of us.
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We took a break to let them put some distance between us, then continued on. The trail soon left the drier forest and entered a series of meadows.
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The meadows didn’t have quite as many flowers as those along the Shackleford Trail, but there were some and with the open views we could see the red peridotite bedrock that gave the valley its name.
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Checkmallows
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Lupine
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Checkerbloom
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Cascade calicoflower
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Tiger lilies
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The trail continued to climb up through the open meadows as the day grew warmer. The further up the valley we went the steeper the trail became as well. As we trudged up the valley we began to think that doing the loop in the opposite direction might have been a better idea since the climb would have been along the forested Canyon Creek Trail providing some protection from the Sun. With our minds elsewhere we were startled by a grouse hen and her chicks noisily taking flight. They disappeared quickly and left us startled on the trail.

Nearly 4 miles along the Red Rock Valley Trail we reached the small unnamed lake at the head of Red Rock Creek. There were more tents here than we’d seen in the Sky High Valley which we found a bit perplexing.
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As we were passing by the lake Heather spotted a strange looking large insect which turned out to be a wood wasp.
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From the lake the trail really launched uphill for the final climb up to the PCT.
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A distant Mt. McLoughlin came into view on the way up.
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Once we were back on the PCT we were on familiar trail having hiked this section on the way to Paradise Lake two days earlier. The flowers were still wonderful and a new addition this time was another grouse hen and her chicks.
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After 2.2 miles on the PCT we arrived at the 3-way junction with the Big Elk Lake and Marble Rim Trails. This time we headed straight on the Marble Rim Trail climbing a wildflower lined ridge.
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As we climbed a doe darted across the trail ahead of us and vanished over the ridge.
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The trail passed through a couple of small stands of trees but for the most part remained in open meadows gaining views of the Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps.
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Wildflowers were everywhere in the meadows.
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Our goal was a marble cliff that we’d seen from the PCT which offered a dramatic view of the Marble Mountains.
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We also had a nice view of the south side of Kings Castle which we’d climbed up two days earlier and of Preston Peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness.
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On the way back down to the PCT we were seeing lizards scurrying everywhere, but the only pictures I was able to get was of one hiding behind some grass and another with the camera on some weird effects setting.
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Once we were back on the PCT we had to backtrack a half mile to the Sky High Lakes Trail. This trail went up and over the ridge then dropped down to the Sky High Lakes. We’d been looking forward to taking this trail to find out the route that it took. We had not been able to tell from the lakes exactly where the trail was located even though we knew the general area.
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After returning to camp we grabbed our chairs and headed back down to Frying Pan Lake. Heather was sitting on a rock letting her feet soak when I looked over and noticed something in the water. At first I though it was either a newt or tadpole coming up for air, or some dragon flies that had landed on the water. Then I noticed a long tongue sticking out and realized it was a garter snake swimming around.
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Heather decided that was enough of being in the water and surrendered her rock to a chipmunk.
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We went to sleep that night knowing we’d be hiking out the next day. It was a bittersweet feeling knowing our trip was almost over but also feeling a little excited to eat some cheap fast food, take a shower, and see our cats. Before we could do any of that we needed to fall asleep though and to do that we needed the little bee that had seemingly become obsessed with Heather to stop buzzing outside our tent. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157669916059431

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountains Wilderness Day 3 – Paradise Lake to Sky High Lakes

After being serenaded all night by the frogs around Paradise Lake we woke to the sounds of happy birds singing at the morning’s first light. I got out the tent and wandered around for a bit spotting a doe near the meadow full of shooting star flowers. It was still too dark to get a picture so I just watched her nibble at the plants as she walked north along the PCT.

As the sun light began to reach Kings Castle we heard a loud bird calling from behind our campsite. It turned out to be a mountain quail, a bird I had only seen in pictures. It was still too dark to get a clear picture of him.
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We had originally planned on continuing north along the PCT then going down to either Bear or Tuck Lake but after hiking over 15 miles on the previous day and being pretty wiped out by the heat and cumulative elevation gain we decided we were going to see enough lakes during our trip. After breakfast we packed up and headed south on the PCT retracing our steps back to the Marble Valley Shelter. It was shaping up to be a hot day and we were already feeling the effects of the heat when we reached Box Rock Camp. We took a break there before continuing. At the shelter we took yet another break then set off on the Canyon Creek Trail before following a pointer for the Sky High Lakes.
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We continued toward the Sky High Lakes for almost 2 miles passing small Gate Lake and entering the meadows of Sky High Valley.
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We spotted the Sky High Shelter along the way which we would visit later after finding a camp site.
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It was humid in the meadows which added to the heat from being exposed to the Sun and we were anxious to get our packs off. The first lake we arrived at was Lower Sky High Lake.
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We followed the trail along the lake passing one possible camp site and another that was occupied.
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Next up was Upper Sky High Lake. There weren’t any sites along this lake but there were some nice trout, some newts, and a duck in the lake.
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The final lake in the valley was Frying Pan Lake (named after its shape).
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The smallest of the lakes this one was swarming with dragon flies.
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We found a spot for our tent on a small hill east of the lake.
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We had camp set up before 11:30am and spent the rest of the day relaxing and exploring the area around the lakes. There weren’t many mosquitoes to speak of except for in the thicker stands of trees so we were able to really enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
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Yellow-rumped warbler
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Grand collomia
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Mariposa lilies
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Western tanager
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Sky High Shelter
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Black Marble Mountain from the Sky High Shelter
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Fish in the outlet creek of Lower Sky High Lake
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Newts in the outlet creek
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Bog orchids
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Dragon flies near Frying Pan Lake
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Junco
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Shooting stars along Frying Pan Lake
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The afternoon turned out to be the cloudiest it would be during our whole trip.
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We turned in that night well rested and looking forward to a day of hiking without our full packs on Thursday. It was quiet that night and we were awoken by the sound of something running nearby our campsite and a little later I heard something splash into Frying Pan Lake and move around in the water for a bit. Finally a frog began to croak and a few others joined in helping me fall back asleep. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157670427784056

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 2 -Summit Lake to Paradise Lake

We began our second day in the Marble Mountain Wilderness by waking up early and watching the morning sunlight hit the cliffs above Summit Lake.
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We had originally planned on eating breakfast on the rocks at the north end of the lake, but more hikers had arrived the night before and someone had set up camp there. The mosquitoes were out and Heather had quite a few bites already so after packing up camp, setting out just after 6am, we decided to have breakfast somewhere on the trail.

We were headed for the Pacific Crest Trail, a .7 mile climb from the lake. The trail began on the west side of the outlet creek and was obscured by some blowdown. There was a fair amount of it along this section of trail but nothing that was too difficult to get around. The scenery along the trail was beautiful alternating between forest and meadows.
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Near the top of a series of switchbacks we stopped to cook breakfast on a large rock outcropping next to a meadow that could have passed for a lawn.
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The rocks offered views and wildflowers as well as some protection from mosquitoes.
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Sierran woodbeauty
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Lewis flax
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We climbed through another damp meadow with shooting star, marsh marigolds and western pasque flowers before reaching the junction with the PCT.
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We reached the PCT junction just in time to meet a thru-hiker on his way to Canada. We couldn’t help but be a little envious as he sped off with his lighter pack. We knew he lacked some of the luxuries we were carrying, but his seemingly effortless walk was a stark contrast to the labored climb we’d just made.

We were glad to be on the PCT and after a short break we started north toward Paradise Lake which was 10.3 miles away. The 3.5 mile section from where we had started to the junction with the trail to the Sky High Lakes was wonderful. Because the PCT sticks to ridgelines whenever possible it provides some good views and minimizes elevation changes. There were some areas where the trees had burned but there were lots of wildflowers along the way and other areas where the trees were not burnt.
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Torrey’s blue-eyed mary and Jepson’s monkeflower
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Monument plant
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Catchfly
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Ballhead sandwort
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Penstemon
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Oregon Sunshine
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Trinity Alps in the distance.
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Scarlet gilia
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We had been considering staying at Shadow Lake on the 3rd and 4th nights of our trip so when we reached the signed trail for it, we decided to detour down to the lake to check it out.
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There had been a fire in the area at some point in the last few years and the trail was further north than our map or GPS showed it. We had already passed another spot where a second trail was shown on our maps without seeing any sign of it. This trail started out climbing up a ridge before beginning to descend down to Shadow Lake’s basin.
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From the ridge we could see Frying Pan and Lower Sky High Lakes in the Sky High Lakes Valley which was below the basin that held Shadow Lake.
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We wound up turning back when we encountered a decently sized snow drift over the trail.
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We could see a little bit of the lake from there and just didn’t feel like it was worth it to attempt to navigate the snow given the steepness of the trail and having our full packs on.
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We would run into another couple the next day who did make it down and camp at the lake. They had found a way around the snow with the help of another gentleman but said that it was pretty “sketchy” so we were glad we had chosen not to continue.

Back on the PCT the flower show was only getting better as we approached the Sky High Lakes junction.
Buckwheat
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Blue Gilia
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Paintbrush
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Aster
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Nettle-leaf Giant-hyssop
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From the Sky High Lakes junction the PCT remained on the ridge for another .5 wildflower filled miles to a three way trail junction.
Orange agoseris
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Mountain coyote mint
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Grand collomia
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Penstemon lined trail
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Marble & Black Marble Mountains
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Washington lily
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Toothed owl’s clover
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At the junction the PCT headed downhill to the right toward Marble Valley. The trail to the left headed to Big Elk Lake while the Marble Rim Trail continued straight ahead. We were tentatively planning on hiking on the Marble Rim on Thursday but for now we stuck to the PCT.
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The PCT descended beneath the marble of Marble Mountain for 1.1 miles to the locked Marble Valley Shelter.
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We took a break near the shelter before beginning the climb out of Marble Valley. The trail was fairly level as we passed the Marble Gap Trail on our left and crossed Canyon Creek. Then we began to regain the elevation we’d lost coming down into the valley. We began encountering patches of snow and glacier lilies below Black Marble Mountain.
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Marble and meadows dominated the scenery as we continued north of Black Marble Mountain toward Box Rock Camp.
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From Box Rock Camp the trail climbed through more meadows to a junction with the Box Camp Trail at a saddle known as “Jumpoff”.
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Views to the south included the snowy peaks of the Trinity Alps.
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Views to north opened up here and we spotted the familiar Kangaroo Mountain and Red Buttes.
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The PCT switchbacked down a couple of times before leveling out again. Patches of snow lingered on the trail in spots. Most were easily crossed or bypassed with one exception. One large, sloped drift extended quite a way downhill into the trees and required some careful maneuvering. Beyond that patch there was one other large snowfield over a creek but it was much more level and other hikers and created a nice track to follow across.
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Not long after that snowy creek crossing Kings Castle came into view.
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Our destination, Paradise Lake, lay below that peak and we were anxious to get there. It had been a beautiful day, but it was warm and we were pretty drained when we passed the Paradise Lake Trail coming up from the right.
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Our first impression of Paradise Lake was to wonder how it got it’s name. The setting was pretty impressive, but the lake itself was fairly shallow, a little muddy, and had some vegetation on the surface.
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Despite the lake not being spectacular the area had some other nice features including a small waterfall cascading into the lake and a meadow full of shooting star.
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A nearby osprey indicated that there were fish in the lake.
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We picked out a camp site, pulled out our Alite Mayfly chairs and plopped down for a rest.
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We had originally planned on taking a climbers trail up to the summit of Kings Castle in the afternoon/evening, but we were having second thoughts after the long hot day of hiking. The longer we sat and looked at Kings Castle the higher it seemed to get.

We had passed the hikers who had made the tracks in the snowfield and they arrived and set up camp on the other end of the lake after we had settled in. Several thru hikers also passed by including one gentleman from France who stopped to take a picture of our campsite. He was attempting to document all the possible camp sites along the PCT. His impression of the lake was the same as ours, with a name like Paradise Lake he was expecting a lake with clear blue water.

We had almost talked ourselves out of attempting the climb up Kings Castle and were now thinking of trying it in the morning before we broke camp. We had not been able to definitively make out any trail heading up from the lake but after having dinner we decided to at least see if we could locate the climbers trail to see if it was even worth trying in the morning. We put our day packs on just in case and set off on a trail we’d seen across from the inlet creek at the south end of the lake. The trail led up a small hill then turned into a small stream. The other hikers had gone this way to the small waterfall where they had taken a swim earlier so we knew we could go further. We veered off the trail onto a rock shelf above the lake to bypass the flooded trail. Just before the stream that fed the waterfall we cut back through the brush to pick up the climbers trail.
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The climbers trail was faint but there were a few small cairns to help in locating it. Being just after 6pm, we knew we had enough light if we wanted to try and make the summit, so we sallied forth.
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We had to pass through a cloud of small bugs before starting the steep ascent to the ridge along the south side of Kings Castle.
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We lost and picked up the trail a couple of times until we hit a meadow on the steep slope below the ridge. Here the trail became clearer as it switchbacked up to a saddle.
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The trail became even fainter as we continued toward Kings Castle. The hillside was covered with wildflowers and we did our best to avoid stepping on them as we made our way up.
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Split-hair Indian paintbrush
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We also had to watch out for the local residents.
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To reach the summit we had to swing out and around the rocky south eastern face of Kings Castle to reach the summit where someone had fashioned a rock bench.
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The 360 degree view included Mt. Shasta to the NW. This would be the only time the 14,180′ mountain would be visible to us during the trip.
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Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps
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Red Buttes
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As we sat atop Kings Castle we were glad we’d wound up making the climb after all. We eventually climbed down and returned to our tent to turn in for the night. As we were falling asleep a chorus of frogs began croaking. It was a sound we hear all the time in TV shows and movies but in reality most nights in the tent are nearly silent except for the sounds of wind or running water. Maybe the lake was named correctly after all. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667735301193

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Marble Mountains Trip report

Marble Mountain Wilderness Day 1 – Shackelford Trailhead to Summit Lake

We spent our second week of vacation this year doing our first 5 day backpacking trip. It was also our first visit to California’s Marble Mountain Wilderness located SW of Yreka. We chose the Shackleford Trailhead as our starting point leaving home early Monday morning to make the nearly five and a half hour drive.
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We arrived shortly after 10am and set off just after 10:15 on what promised to be a beautiful blue-bird day. The trail passed through a fence on an old road bed before passing the largest wilderness sign we’d ever seen.
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The trail followed Shackleford Creek and passed through a series of meadows where we saw various wildflowers and more butterflies than we could believe.
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Tiger lilies
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Tortoiseshell butterfly
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Mourning cloak butterfly
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Checkermallow
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Checkerbloom
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Swallowtails on columbine
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Bog orchid
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Aster
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Pretty face
Pretty Face

Lupine
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At the 2.8 mile mark we headed left on the Campbell Lake Loop.
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This trail climbed for 1.3 miles to Campbell Lake.
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We took a break at the lake then continued a half mile to a trail junction at the west end of the lake. The right fork was the continuation of the Campbell Lake loop back to the Shackleford Trailhead.
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We headed left and in another .2 miles reached another junction. Here we followed a pointer for Cliff Lake after exploring some glacial worn rocks along the west end of Campbell Lake.
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The rocks hosted a number of wildflowers.
Buckwheat
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Ballhead Sandwort
ballhead sandwort

Penstemon
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Paintbrush
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Wallflower
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Here we also saw the first of many Siskiyou Lewisia, a new flower to us.
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Between the lakes we passed a lily pad pond.
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After .6 miles we arrived at Cliff Lake. The lake was set beneath snow covered hillsides.
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A trail crew on horseback passed by as we were exploring the lake. We would see them again on our hike out on Friday. We followed them back to the junction where they headed toward Campbell Lake while we turned left toward Summit Lake. On the way up we passed a pair of ladies sawing through a downed tree. This 1.7 mile section of trail passed through a nice meadow before climbing steeply over a saddle then back down to Summit Meadow Lake before arriving at the larger Summit Lake.
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Summit Meadow Lake
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Summit Lake
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We set up camp then set about exploring the lake for the rest of the evening.
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At the north end of the lake was its outlet creek as well as another glacier scoured rock outcropping. Wildflowers and a series of ponds dotted the rocky area.
Small falls on the outlet creek.
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Bear scat near one of the ponds.
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Rough-skinned newts in a pond.
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Chipmunk in a huckleberry bush.
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We had noticed a few mosquitoes but they didn’t seem too bad. They did manage to get quite a bit of blood from us though. (especially Heather)
All in all it was a great start to the trip and we went to bed eagerly anticipating what the next day would bring. Happy trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667720128644