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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Alps Trip report

Hidden and South Fork Lakes – 08/26/2022

For the last hike of our week in Etna, CA we had chosen Hidden and South Fork Lakes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. (Featured hike #91 in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” 4th edition.) This was both the shortest hike and drive of the week which would allow us to get home as early as possible. We began the hike at the Carter Meadows Summit Trailhead which is right next to a helipad. This area was hit pretty hard by the 2021 Haypress Fire.
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From the small parking area a trail descends 50′ to a junction which was left unsigned by the fire. Here the to the left was the Pacific Crest Trail coming up from the south and heading uphill to the north on the far right. A second trail to the right led downhill to the Carter Meadows Campground and finally the Hidden Lake Trail went straight ahead on along a ridge.
IMG_0831The PCT running left to right with the Hidden Lake Trail extending straight ahead.

IMG_0832Remnants of a trail sign. The sticks across the Hidden Lake Trail are to let PCT hikers know that is not their trail.

We followed the Hidden Lake Trail just under a mile to Hidden Lake. (Sullivan showed a distance of 1.2 miles but our GPS put it at 0.9 each way.) The trail followed a ridge and gained a little over 500′ of elevation which doesn’t sound like a lot but it felt quite a bit harder than we’d expected. Perhaps it was the fact that it was the final day of our trip and we were just worn out, but we were glad that we hadn’t tried to do this portion of the hike the day before after our Gulch Lake Loop (post).
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IMG_0835A layer of smoke over the valley on the horizon.

IMG_0836A fleabane, possibly California rayless fleabane.

IMG_0856Hidden Lake Trail following the ridge.

IMG_0853Dwarf purple monkeyflower

IMG_0868Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_0871Approaching Hidden Lake.

We arrived at Hidden Lake right around 7am, early enough that the Sun hadn’t had time to rise high enough to hit the lake.
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The lighting conditions were not ideal for photos but it was nice to sit in the shade by the lake after the climb up.
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After a short break we headed back along the ridge to the PCT.
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IMG_0895Golden-mantle watching us from atop the ridge.

IMG_0900Looking back now that there was a little more sunlight.

We turned right onto the PCT and began a 0.9 mile descent to a crossing of the South Fork Scott River.
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IMG_0903Diamond clarkia

IMG_0905A small raptor watching from a snag.

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IMG_0910Wildflowers in the burn scar.

IMG_0912Spreading dogbane

IMG_0913A small stream/spring providing some green.

IMG_0916Bleeding heart, fireweed, monkeyflower, and hedge nettle along the stream.

IMG_0923Yarrow and Oregon sunshine.

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IMG_0931California harebells

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IMG_0936A lot more green vegetation near the river crossing.

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IMG_0948South Fork Scott River

20220826_080306Mountain coyote mint

20220826_080407Mountain larkspur

20220826_080417Mountain larkspur

IMG_0953Snacks

IMG_0952Campsites along the PCT near the river crossing.

Two tenths of a mile beyond the river crossing we came to an unsigned junction with the South Fork Lakes Trail.
IMG_0954You can just make out the trail ahead heading uphill to the right.

We turned onto this trail and climbed a quarter of a mile to a meadow where the tread became faint.
IMG_0959This trail was the most overgrown/least maintained of all the trails we’d been on this trip.

IMG_0960Nearing the meadow.

IMG_0961Entering the meadow and losing the trail.

IMG_0964As of yet unidentified flower in the meadow.

We were behind a pair of bow hunters who were just exiting the meadow at the other end so we were able to follow their path through the tall grass. Beyond the meadow the trail began a steep rocky half mile climb before leveling out in a basin near Lower South Fork Lake.
IMG_0966There was a brief pause in the climb while the trail passed a series of springs.

IMG_0968Vegetation along the trail at the springs.

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IMG_0974Back to climbing.

IMG_0975The final spring that we passed was coming out of this hollowed trunk.

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IMG_0982There were several places where it looked like the trail was going to finally crest but when you got there you just found more uphill.

IMG_0985Finally the trail is leveling out.

It had just been a mile between the PCT junction and the lower lake but it had been the hardest mile of our trip. A well deserved break was taken at the lake.
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After the break we followed the trail around the west side of the lake and then bushwhacked two tenths of a mile to Upper South Fork Lake.
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IMG_1002Looking back over the lower lake.

IMG_1003Heading off-trail for the upper lake.

We took another break at the upper lake watching dragon flies zoom up and down the shore.
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The bow hunters arrived as we were starting to head back. It had been years since they’d visited the lake and were glad to see that at least most of the trees, including those around the campsite had survived the fire. We headed back down to the PCT and then hiked back up to the trailhead passing another group of backpackers heading for the lakes along the way.
IMG_1028Back to the lower lake.

IMG_1030A penstemon

IMG_1035Another look at the cool spring.

20220826_100459Monkeyflowers along the springs.

IMG_1043Butterfly on western snakeroot

IMG_1045Back through the meadow.

IMG_1050Thistle

20220826_103807Close up of a California harebell.

IMG_1063I can see a car at the trailhead.

IMG_1064The helipad at the trailhead.

IMG_1065The helipad at the trailhead.

Sullivan has these hikes listed as 2.4 miles out-and-back to Hidden Lake and 6 miles out-and-back to Upper South Fork Lake. Our GPS put the distances as 1.8 and 5 respectively giving us a 6.8 mile total for the day. The cumulative elevation gain was 1770′.

The lower mileage allowed us to get an earlier start on our drive home than expected which was nice. We were back home in Salem a little after 4:30pm giving us plenty of time to unpack and relax for a bit. Despite the flat tire on Wednesday it had been both a successful and enjoyable trip. It also marked our completion of all of Sullivan’s featured hikes in California. That doesn’t mean we are done hiking in that State but it does mean we are that much closer to completing our goal of hiking all the featured hikes in Sullivan’s Southern Oregon & Northern California guidebook (post). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hidden and South Fork Lakes

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trip report

Russian Lake – 08/24/2022

Our third day in Northern California was set to be our longest. Our goal was Russian Lake which is Sullivan’s featured hike #90 in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” (edition 4.2) guidebook. Sullivan’s described hike is only 8.6 miles with 1300′ of elevation gain starting from the Deacon Lee Trailhead. Normally that is where we would have started our hike but his description of the drive to that trailhead is less than encouraging. He says “This narrow road is no place for drivers with a fear of heights. And because of sharp rocks, you must drive slowly to avoid blowouts.” Given our trouble earlier this year with low tire pressure (post) we were reluctant to attempt the drive. Another option was provided by Boots on the Trail using the PCT (post).

This approach only required 0.6 miles of driving on gravel roads as we parked at the second switchback of Forest Road 39N48 within sight of the Pacific Crest Trail.
IMG_0249PCT below FR 39N48.

We walked downhill to the PCT and turned right following it along the hillside.
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IMG_0257Tail and Long Gulches in the Trinity Alps Wilderness (our next hike).

IMG_0266Lots of buckwheat along the ridge.

At the 0.7 mile mark we crossed an old roadbed.
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For the next 3.8 miles the PCT alternated between forest and open hillside in a series of ups and downs before arriving at a junction with the Deacon Lee Trail.
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IMG_0269Buckwheat

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IMG_0289Trinity Alps Wilderness

IMG_0290Caesar and Thompson Peak

IMG_0291We would be passing below the peak in the distance later.

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IMG_0300Small buck on the hillside above the PCT.

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IMG_0296The Deacon Lee Trail was visible crossing the opening on the far hillside.

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IMG_0308Checker-mallow

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IMG_0311Crescent butterfly

IMG_0318Small spring along the PCT.

IMG_0321The junction with the Deacon Lee Trail.

We turned onto the Deacon Lee Trail following pointers for Syphon (Siphon on maps) and Waterdog Lakes.
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The Deacon Lee Trail follows an old roadbed through a forest and across an open hillside that was full of buckwheats.
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IMG_0334Dwarf lupine

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IMG_0341Fritillary butterfly on spreading dogbane.

IMG_0343Nearing Siphon Lake.

20220824_093949Siphon Lake was just under a mile from the PCT.

We took a break at Siphon Lake to enjoy the scenery before continuing along the old roadbed.
IMG_0356Old pipe that used to bring water down to mines lower on the hillside.

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A third of a mile from Siphon Lake the trail veered right leaving the old roadbed and becoming single track.
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We were now heading NW and descending slightly.
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We spotted a doe in the trail ahead stopped in its tracks staring at us.
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She had a pair of fawns with her which we didn’t spot until they headed back down the trail. She stayed put though and as we slowly made our way downhill we were wondering if whether or not she was going to follow them. Soon one of the fawns reappeared and we all stood staring at one another for a few minutes before they finally retreated.
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IMG_0384Zoomed in on the pair.

IMG_0383The curious fawn.

After the deer had moved on we continued downhill to a point where the ridge on our right came down near the trail. Here we spotted a cairn and what appeared to be a use trail that we hoped would lead down to Russian Lake.
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We could have continued downhill on the Deacon Lee Trail another 0.3 miles to a junction where a right turn would have led us past Waterdog Lake to Russian Lake in half a mile but cutting over the ridge would save us around three quarters of a mile. We pretty easily found the use trail leading steeply downhill.
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When we neared Russian Lake we went to the right to visit a small pond in the rocks above the lake.
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IMG_0394The pond was full of tadpoles.

After taking a break overlooking the lake we made our way around its NW side and crossed the dry outlet creek.
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Hooded ladies tressesHooded ladies tresses

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IMG_0462View from the outlet creek.

We explored the rocks on the NE side of the lake with views of Russian Peak and some other interesting rock formations.
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IMG_0454Russian Peak

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We both fell in love with this lake and wished we were staying there for a couple of days just to explore the area more but alas we weren’t so after a nice break we recrossed the outlet creek and picked up a trail heading toward Waterdog Lake.
IMG_0458Fireweed near the outlet.

20220824_111610Large boykinia

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20220824_112125Saxifrage seed head

IMG_0469It was a pretty good drop down to Waterdog Lake.

IMG_0473Waterdog Lake.

Waterdog Lake was a nice lake but not nearly as dramatic as Russian Lake had been. As we made our way around the lake we spotted a large frog and several deer, one of which couldn’t stop sneezing.
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IMG_0488The deer were across the lake in those trees.

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IMG_0504Looking back along the lake.

The trail climbed away from the lake offering a brief glimpse of Lower Russian Lake.
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After cresting a saddle the trail dropped to a junction with the Deacon Lee Trail near the boundary of the Russian Wilderness.
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We turned left following pointers for the PCT and Siphon Lake.
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It was a pretty steady 0.3 mile climb back to where we had left the trail earlier and then another good climb back up to the old roadbed.
IMG_0519Paintbrush

IMG_0526There were dozens of lizards scurrying across the trails all day but not many stopped long enough for photos.

IMG_0528Haven’t been able to identify this one yet.

We paused again briefly at Siphon Lake before continuing on and then retraced our steps to the car. The only other person we saw all day was a lone bow hunter.
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IMG_0538Butterfly on mountain coyote mint

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20220824_134541Another butterfly on mountain coyote mint.

IMG_0569Grasshopper that became obsessed with Heather’s glove.

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20220824_144345Cricket

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Our hike came in at 14.8 miles with approximately 2900′ cumulative elevation gain.

Our adventure for the day was only beginning though. Ironically shortly after passing Carter Meadows Summit our “low tire pressure” light once again came on. We made it back down to Callahan but less than a mile later I could feel the car begin to pull right so we pulled off Highway 3 into some gravel. The front passenger side tire was flat. I got the jack and spare tire out but was struggling to get the tire off due to the lug nuts being quite tight. Heather was on the phone trying to secure roadside service but the call center on the other end couldn’t even figure out where we were. (Seriously it was a State Highway a mile outside of a town shown on every map but I digress.) I finally managed to get the flat off but hadn’t raised the car quite far enough to get the spare on and of course as I tried to lift the car a bit more it rolled forward off the jack. I managed to get the jack back under and the car up a bit when a pair of ladies in a Forest Service Truck turned around to check on us. We cannot thank Megan and Malia enough, they were able to get their jack under the car to shore it up and used a shovel to create a little more room under the car in order for us to get it high enough to get the spare on. It was over 90 degrees and nearing 5pm and who knows how long we’d have been out there because Heather was still trying to get the road side assistance to understand where we were (she even gave GPS coordinates).

By the time we got back to Etna it was too late to find a tire place so we returned to our motel and put a plan together for the following day. We would get up and drive to Valley Tire & Tackle in Fort Jones when they opened at 8am in hopes that they could either repair the tire or had a set of replacements (we’d already had both driver side tires patched up this year) and then depending on how long that took we would either hike later in the day or extend our stay in order to get all our planned hikes in. After all we didn’t want to leave one featured hike undone that far from home. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Russian Lake