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

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Alps

Boulder Lakes Loop (Trinity Alps) – 08/23/2022

By spending the night in Etna, CA we were only 30 to 45 minutes from the trailheads for the four remaining hikes we had planned for the week. As mentioned in the previous post we chose to do East Boulder Lake first due to it being the closest to the recently started Callahan Fire and thus the most likely to be affected if that fire were to escape containment. From Etna we drove south on Highway 3 to Callahan then made our way to the East Boulder Trailhead.
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The road to the trailhead passes through forest burned in the 2021 Haypress Fire but the trailhead and trails for our hike escaped damage.

Sullivan describes three options for his featured hike; a 4 mile out-and-back to East Boulder Lake, a 6.4 mile out-and-back to a pass beyond the lake, and a 9.8 mile lollipop loop past Middle Boulder Lake at the edge of the fire scar which was the option we were planning on. The East Boulder Trail climbed gradually at first through the forest and a couple of small meadows before steepening and climbing past a small waterfall on East Boulder Creek.
IMG_9938Entering the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

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IMG_9957First view of the small waterfall.

IMG_9961Bigelow’s sneezeweed

IMG_9963Marsh grass-of-Parnassus

20220823_074146Not sure what these little guys are.

20220823_074341Checker-mallow

IMG_9972Western snakeroot

IMG_9973Passing the waterfall.

Above the falls the trail leveled out some and made a final short climb to East Boulder Lake, just over 1.8 miles from the trailhead.
IMG_9974Peaks in the Russian Wilderness to the NE.

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IMG_9984Dam near East Boulder Lake.

The trail crosses the dam here but there were better views this time of the morning in the other direction so we detoured to the left admiring the reflections in the lake.

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We took a nice break along the lake shore listening to cow bells coming from the trees on the far shore.
IMG_0007There were cows out there somewhere but we couldn’t see them.

After the break we crossed the dam and continued around the lake.
IMG_0008View from the dam. We had to watch out for frogs here.

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We lost the trail briefly in a meadow on the southern end of the lake but picked it up again after crossing the inlet creek.
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IMG_0019We should have stuck closer to the lake.

IMG_0020Buckwheat

IMG_0021Back on the trail where the cows were just leaving.

The trail then passed two smaller unnamed lakes and Upper Boulder Lake where there were several cows and some ducks.
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We detoured to the right to get a view of Upper Boulder Lake then returned to the trail and began to climb out of the basin to the pass.
IMG_0029Upper Boulder Lake

IMG_0031_stitchUpper Boulder Lake in the background.

IMG_0045One of the cows on the far side of the lake to the left.

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IMG_0048Toothed owl’s clover

IMG_0053Ducks on Upper Boulder Lake.

IMG_0059The climb was fairly steep at times.

IMG_0060_stitchAll four lakes in view.

IMG_0069Almost to the pass.

IMG_0071At the pass.

IMG_0074Looking south further into the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

Beyond the pass the trail descended 150 yards to the Pacific Crest Trail where we turned right.
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We turned right onto that trail following it for 2 miles to another pass. The scenery along this section was great, particularly the colorful rocks.
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20220823_091151Balloon-pod milk vetch

IMG_0090Golden-mantled ground squirrel taking in the views.

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IMG_0098Mt. Shasta over Mt. Eddy through the haze. I believe the lake below to the right is Big Marshy Lake.

IMG_0101Fireweed in the rocks.

IMG_0102Paintbrush

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IMG_0107A bit of water from a spring along the PCT.

IMG_0108The water was coming from somewhere up there.

20220823_093103Looking back along the PCT.

IMG_0117Snack time.

IMG_0121Caesar and Thompson Peak

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IMG_0130This northern flicker looks like its head is on backwards.

IMG_0138A little bit of burned forest near the pass.

IMG_0145More peaks in the heart of the Trinity Alps.

IMG_0146Caribou Mountain (post) on the right with Sawtooth Mountain over its shoulder.

IMG_0151The pass above Middle Boulder Lake.

IMG_0152Middle Boulder Lake is just visible beyond two smaller unnamed lakes.

There was no sign at the pass but a small cairn marked a trail to the right that led down past the lakes.
IMG_0154Middle Boulder Lake Trail at the pass.

IMG_0155The Middle Boulder Lake Trail traversing down the hillside.

IMG_0157A sulphur butterfly.

IMG_0158The trail stayed above the two unnamed lakes.

The trail grew faint as it passed through a series of meadows where little frogs were abundant.
IMG_0163The trees on the far hillside were burned in the 2021 fire.

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Approximately 0.6 miles from the pass we came to a cairn near a downed tree. A trail sign had been attached to the end of the tree marking the Boulder Tie Trail.
IMG_0174The cairn to the right of the downed tree.

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It took us a minute to identify the actual start of this trail which was in a wet meadow. There were a few small cairns that helped guide the way and we soon found ourselves on clear tread again.
20220823_104855This may be Autumn dwarf gentian

IMG_0183One of the more obvious cairns.

IMG_0185Butterfly on a seed head.

IMG_0189The tread getting clearer.

IMG_0190Middle Boulder Lake

IMG_0191Back on good tread.

As we were traversing a sagebrush hillside Heather started repeating something behind me. She was saying “buck” but that isn’t what I heard and thought something bad had happened to her.
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The vegetation was tall enough that he was hard to pick out but when he raised up we got some decent views.
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IMG_0213Orange agoseris

After a mile and a half on this trail we climbed to a saddle overlooking East Boulder Lake.
IMG_0221Passing through a bit of forest before climbing to the saddle.

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From the saddle we spotted a hiker making his way along the lake. He spotted us as we were descending and waited for us to come down. We lost the trail again as we descended and simply hiked cross country through the sagebrush to the East Boulder Trail. The waiting hiker asked us about the loop and how hard it was to follow. He was a local that had been to the lake and the pass above several times but had never attempted the loop. After getting some information from us and taking photos of our paper map he was considering giving the loop a go. We went our separate ways, recrossed the dam, and returned to the trailhead.
IMG_0232Approaching the dam.

IMG_0233Fish in East Boulder Creek.

IMG_0236Descending near the waterfall.

IMG_0239An aster or fleabane.

IMG_0243Butterfly

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IMG_0248Woodpecker

While Sullivan listed the hike as 9.8 miles our GPS only registered 9.6 miles with a total elevation gain just under 2000′.

We returned to Etna, showered, and then headed to Paystreak Brewing for dinner. We turned in fairly early in anticipation of our longest hike of the week the next day when we would be taking the PCT north from Carter Meadows Summit and heading into the Russian Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: East Boulder Lake

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