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.
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.
We came to a junction where the right hand fork led back up to the Marble Valley Shelter.
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.
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.
When we reached the Red Rock Valley Trail junction we turned right and quickly found ourselves at a bridge-less crossing of Canyon Creek.
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.
When we finally came around the ridge we were suddenly in a different forest. Ponderosa pine trees replaced the Douglas firs along Canyon Creek.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As we were passing by the lake Heather spotted a strange looking large insect which turned out to be a wood wasp.
From the lake the trail really launched uphill for the final climb up to the PCT.
A distant Mt. McLoughlin came into view on the way up.
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.
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.
As we climbed a doe darted across the trail ahead of us and vanished over the ridge.
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.
Wildflowers were everywhere in the meadows.
Our goal was a marble cliff that we’d seen from the PCT which offered a dramatic view of the Marble Mountains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Heather decided that was enough of being in the water and surrendered her rock to a chipmunk.
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!