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.
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.
Entering the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
First view of the small waterfall.
Not sure what these little guys are.
Passing 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.
Peaks in the Russian Wilderness to the NE.
Dam 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.
We took a nice break along the lake shore listening to cow bells coming from the trees on the far shore.
There were cows out there somewhere but we couldn’t see them.
After the break we crossed the dam and continued around the lake.
View from the dam. We had to watch out for frogs here.
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.
We should have stuck closer to the lake.
Back 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.
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.
Upper Boulder Lake
Upper Boulder Lake in the background.
One of the cows on the far side of the lake to the left.
Toothed owl’s clover
Ducks on Upper Boulder Lake.
The climb was fairly steep at times.
All four lakes in view.
Almost to the pass.
At the pass.
Looking south further into the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
Beyond the pass the trail descended 150 yards to the Pacific Crest Trail where we turned right.
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.
Balloon-pod milk vetch
Golden-mantled ground squirrel taking in the views.
Mt. Shasta over Mt. Eddy through the haze. I believe the lake below to the right is Big Marshy Lake.
Fireweed in the rocks.
A bit of water from a spring along the PCT.
The water was coming from somewhere up there.
Looking back along the PCT.
Caesar and Thompson Peak
This northern flicker looks like its head is on backwards.
A little bit of burned forest near the pass.
More peaks in the heart of the Trinity Alps.
Caribou Mountain (post) on the right with Sawtooth Mountain over its shoulder.
The pass above Middle Boulder Lake.
Middle 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.
Middle Boulder Lake Trail at the pass.
The Middle Boulder Lake Trail traversing down the hillside.
A sulphur butterfly.
The trail stayed above the two unnamed lakes.
The trail grew faint as it passed through a series of meadows where little frogs were abundant.
The trees on the far hillside were burned in the 2021 fire.
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.
The cairn to the right of the downed tree.
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.
This may be Autumn dwarf gentian
One of the more obvious cairns.
Butterfly on a seed head.
The tread getting clearer.
Middle Boulder Lake
Back 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.
The vegetation was tall enough that he was hard to pick out but when he raised up we got some decent views.
After a mile and a half on this trail we climbed to a saddle overlooking East Boulder Lake.
Passing through a bit of forest before climbing to the saddle.
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.
Approaching the dam.
Fish in East Boulder Creek.
Descending near the waterfall.
An aster or fleabane.
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