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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