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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 Trinity Alps Trip report

Trail Gulch and Long Gulch Lakes Loop – 08/25/2022

After our adventure with the flat tire Wednesday (post) we slept in a little since Valley Tire didn’t open until 8am. Not heading out first thing for a hike did give us a chance to walk from the motel to Grain Street Bakery where we had some delicious scones and half a breakfast sandwich (the other half wound up being Friday’s breakfast). After breakfast we drove into Fort Jones where Valley Tire got us in right away and pulled a small rock out of the tire which had blistered in several places meaning it needed to be replaced. They had a set on hand so we had them replace all four tires and were on our way by 8:45am. It was plenty early for us to still get our planned hike in so we stopped by our room, changed, and grabbed our packs before heading back up to Carter Meadows Summit. From the summit we continued driving downhill another 0.7 miles and turned left onto Carter Meadows Road (FR 39N08) at a sign for Carter Meadows Trailheads. We followed Carter Meadows Road for 1.8 miles to the Trail Gulch Trailhead.
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Before getting into the hike please note that many maps have Trail Gulch Lake and Long Gulch Lake reversed including the map embedded on the Forest Service page linked above. Our GPS as well as the PCT paper map that we were carrying also showed the lakes reversed but the signage along the trails here are correct. This loop is also almost entirely within the fire scar of the 2021 Haypress Fire although portions of the forest did not burn too intensely.

From the trailhead the trail climbs steadily but not too steeply along a creek. It soon enters the Trinity Alps Wilderness and at the 0.9 mile mark crosses the creek.
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IMG_0612An aster (or a fleabane, it’s so hard to tell).

IMG_0613Musk monkeyflower

IMG_0618Tiny green frog.

IMG_0619It was easy to spot where the creek was based on the green.

IMG_0621The wilderness boundary.

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IMG_0628The creek crossing.

IMG_0629Paintbrush

IMG_0631A checker-mallow near the creek.

Shortly after crossing the creek the trail veered away from it and began a steeper climb to a junction with a 0.3 mile trail to Trail Gulch Lake.
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IMG_0641A junco. We saw a large number of small birds flying around during our trip, mostly junco’s and chickadees but they rarely ever sat still where we could see them.

IMG_0649Pointer for Trail Gulch Lake 0.8 miles from the Creek Crossing.

We turned right on the 0.3 mile trail which climbed to Trail Gulch Lake.
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The lake was very scenic but the combination of the position of the Sun and a hint of smoke in the sky made capturing it with the cameras difficult.
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After a short break we returned to the Trail Gulch Trail and continued further up the gulch. The trail gained 700′ over the next mile to reach a pass above Trail Gulch Lake.
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IMG_0672One of several deer seen running uphill as we made our way up the trail.

IMG_0675View back down Trail Gulch.

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IMG_0684Paintbrush

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IMG_0689Peaks in the Russian Wilderness.

IMG_0691Arriving at the pass.

IMG_0693Trail Gulch Lake from the pass.

IMG_0694Clark’s nutcracker

Just over the pass was a trail junction with a mix of signed and unsigned trails. We took a hard right on the unsigned Trail Gulch Tie Trail which was just slightly above a trail with sign pointing to Steveale Meadows.
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IMG_0700The sign for Steveale Meadows where we went uphill on the trail to the right.

The tie trail gained 400′ as it traversed a severely burnt hillside before arriving at a pass above Long Gulch Lake 1.1 miles from the junction.
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IMG_0709View south from the tie trail.

IMG_0711Approaching the pass.

IMG_0712Sullivan mentions that it is possible to scramble 0.2 miles to the right along this ridge to get a view of Mt. Shasta and the heart of the Trinity Alps but with the smoke on the horizon we didn’t feel it was worth the effort and skipped that option.

IMG_0713Looking down into Long Gulch from the pass.

After pausing at the pass we started downhill and began getting occasional views of Long Gulch Lake.
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IMG_0724To the north we could see much of the route we’d taken the day before on the way to Siphon and Russian Lakes.

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IMG_0726Chipmunk with a snack.

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A slightly frustrating feature of the trail down was a long switchback along a ridge which led past and away from the lake before turning back toward it. That big swing made the 1.4 miles down to the lake seem to take forever.
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IMG_0738The outlet creek.

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IMG_0750Long Gulch Trail passed to the north of Long Gulch Lake for a quarter mile.

IMG_0752The pass that the trail came down is along the ridge to the left here.

The trail continued west beyond the lake another third of a mile before arriving at a junction.
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IMG_0759Parnassian on mountain coyote mint.

IMG_0760Skipper on mountain coyote mint.

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At the junction we turned right beginning a 2.7 mile gradual descent to the Long Gulch Trailhead.

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IMG_0772Meadow with a number of big trees that survived the fire.

IMG_0778Common buckeye

IMG_0779A copper or blue

IMG_0790Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_0798Leaving the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

IMG_0803The trail briefly followed the Long Gulch Creek.

IMG_0808Checker-mallow

IMG_0809The trail crossed the creek just under 2 miles from the junction.

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IMG_0818Arriving at the Long Gulch Trailhead.

The only other person we saw all day was a backpacker who had just hiked out of Long Gulch Lake and was packing up his truck at the trailhead. He offered us a lift to our car but we wanted to finish hiking Sullivan’s loop so we declined. Sullivan described following horse trails for 0.9 miles back to the Trail Gulch Trailhead rather than following the road for 0.8 miles.

We crossed the road at a post and began to follow the horse trail.
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Sullivan showed a junction after 0.3 miles just before arriving at a creek. As we neared the creek our GPS showed us having gone the 0.3 miles so we were looking for a trail to our right. We spotted what looked like it might be a trail complete with some flagging so we turned up hill following it.
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Long story short we’d turned too early and wound up just below the road at a horseshoe turn. At that point it was easier to bushwack up to the road and follow it back to the trailhead instead of searching for the horse trail so we finished the loop on the road.
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IMG_0827We did pass a sign for the horse trail along the road.

As I neared the trailhead a large bird flew into a nearby tree. I took a couple of pictures and it appears that it may have been an owl.
IMG_0829To the far right of the photo in between the green and orange branches is where it landed.

This was a 10.2 mile loop with 2280′ of elevation gain.

Our drive back to Etna was delightfully uneventful and after cleaning up we headed to Etna Brewing for a great meal and some beer. Despite the tire fiasco we were still on track to finish all five featured hikes before heading back to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gulch Lakes Loop

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
Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Alps Trip report

Caribou Lakes – Trinity Alps Wilderness

On the fifth day of our vacation the forecast was finally free of the threat of thunderstorms. We’d been saving our visit to the Trinity Alps Wilderness for just such a day since it was the longest drive to a trailhead that we had planned. From Mount Shasta City the quickest drive would have been to take Forest Road 42N17 which we had been on for our hike to Mt. Eddy to Highway 3. After being delayed by an ongoing chip and seal project on the drive home we opted for a slightly longer drive by taking the Gazelle Callahan Road to the highway. We followed Highway 3 south for 23.5 miles to Coffee Creek where we turned right onto Coffee Creek Road which we followed to its end at Big Flat Campground.

We parked at the signed Caribou Lake Trailhead and set off on the trail which quickly entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
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The trail descended for .2 miles to the South Fork Salmon River where we had expected to have to get our feet wet but a downed tree provided a dry crossing.

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On the far side of the river we faced the choice of taking the shorter, steeper Old Trail or the the longer but gentler New Trail. Our planned route was to go up to the lakes on the New Trail and return via the Old Trail which would result in a figure 8 as the trails crossed paths at Caribou Meadows. We wound up not even noticing the Old Trail splitting off to the right as we passed by and were soon climbing along a fairly open hillside.

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The wildlife was out that morning and we spotted several quail and a snake before reentering the trees.

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We then spotted a bear cub about 200 feet off the trail, downhill in the trees. We both stopped and immediately looked uphill to make sure we weren’t between it and mama bear. We weren’t, she popped her head up from behind a bush near where the cub had been (it ran off downhill). Mama looked at us long enough for me to pull out the camera, turn it on, and then press the power button again instead of taking a picture as she followed her cub deeper into the forest.

We continued the gradual climb to Caribou Meadows arriving in just under three miles from the trailhead.

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There was a sign here for the Old Trail as it crossed the New Trail and headed off uphill.

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We stuck to the New Trail as it continued its slow climb winding around hillsides towards the lakes.

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After passing through an area of burnt trees the trail emerged onto a granite hillside. More wildlife and various wildflowers greeted us along this section.

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We passed through another stand of burned trees (where we found a couple of ripe berries) before arriving at Browns Meadow, 1.6 miles beyond Caribou Meadows.

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We took a seat on a rock near the edge of the meadow and just enjoyed the sound of a flowing creek amid the peacefulness of the wilderness. As we started to get up I looked behind us and noticed a doe walking through the meadow. She disappeared behind some vegetation heading in the same direction as the trail. Thinking we might get a chance to see her again we resumed our hike but were quickly distracted by a plethora of butterflies.

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The trail crossed the creek we’d been listening to.

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As we began to climb away from the meadow I looked back and spotted the deer in the meadow after all.

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We passed another small stream giving life to quite a few colorful flowers.

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2017-07-27 10.29.58Featherbells

2017-07-27 10.31.06Orange agoseris

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We got our first good look at Mt. Shasta just before rounding a hillside covered in pink fireweed.

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As we came around the hillside snowy Caesar Peak came into view with the slightly taller Thompson Peak behind.

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We were on a 2 mile stretch of trail between Browns Meadow and another junction with the Old Trail. This section of trail had some spectacular views across the valley where Caribou Creek was roaring down over the granite.

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Eventually Caribou and Lower Caribou Lake could bee seen in the basin below Caribou Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge.

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We arrived at the junction with the Old Trail and took a look up at our return route for later.

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From the junction it was a about a half mile downhill to Snowshoe Lake which was now visible along with the two Caribou Lakes.

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The views from above were simply amazing. We began switchbacking down towards the lakes passing mossy runoff streams and meadows filled with wildflowers.

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We arrived at Snowshoe Lake and found a spot along the shore to soak our feet in the cool water as we listened to the sound of water cascading into and out of the lake.

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IMG_6183Snowshoe Lake’s outlet creek

If Snowshoe Lake had been it the hike would have been well worth the effort but there was more to see so after a thoroughly relaxing break we sallied forth following cairns to a small unnamed lake in a meadow.

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This little lake was fed by creeks flowing from both Snowshoe and Caribou Lake down to Little Caribou Lake. We crossed the creek from Snowshoe Lake on some downed logs and found ourselves on a granite landscape above beautiful Lower Caribou Lake.

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Water from snow melt pools flowed over the white rocks in some places.

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We made our way along the rocks to the inlet creek which proved to be another breathtaking sight.

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We followed the stream up to the small lake in the meadow where we hopped across it.

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We continued to climb up along the creek until Caribou Lake came into view.

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Snowshoe Lake was also visible once again below Caribou Mountain.

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We passed several small pools of water on the way to the large lake.

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Snow heavy enough to keep small trees down still lingered along the shore.

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The scene was too big to fit into a single picture making a panorama necessary to even attempt to capture the grand scale of this place.

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It is possible (and recommended by those in the know) to hike around the left side of the lake and follow a faint path a little over a mile to a viewpoint along Sawtooth Ridge.

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We had contemplated attempting it but that would have made a long day even longer and we still had two more days of hiking ahead of us so we decided to leave that side trip as an excuse to come back to this amazing place someday.

We intended to return to Snowshoe Lake by staying up on the granite above the small lake in the meadow. We started back wandering between even more snow melt pools.

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Along the way a snake caught our attention. It had captured a small frog and was in the process of swallowing it. We felt bad for the frog but it was interesting to see nature at work.

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We did a poor job of sticking to our planned route and found ourselves back down at the small lake after all. We had a little trouble remembering where we had crossed the creek between Snowshoe Lake and this lake but eventually spotted the logs again which jogged our memories. We made it back to Snowshoe Lake and started the warm climb up to the junction with the Old Trail.

Taking the Old Trail would cut approximately 1.2 miles off our return trip but it also gained about 1000′ of elevation in the first .8 miles as it climbed up and over the shoulder of Caribou Mountain. The shorter distance coupled with a different trail and the promised view from the top was too tempting to pass up despite it being rather warm out.

The Old Trail started up through the trees on a mission to seemingly go straight to the top of the ridge as quickly as possible.

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The picture taking ended quickly as I became focused on simply trying to keep moving uphill. Eventually I looked back during a couple of breaks to check our progress and admire the lakes. The extra elevation revealed many more of the peaks of the Trinity Alps.

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By the time we made it to the top of the ridge we were really wondering what kind of maniac devised this trail. The result of it though was an amazing view. Mt. Shasta loomed to the NE.

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Mt. Lassen lay to the SE barely visible through the haze.

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Closer by the ridge ran SE to the summit of Caribou Mountain, a route that will be very tempting when we return with more time someday.

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To the SW was the heart of the Trinity Alps.

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We had been a little concerned with the possibility of encountering snowfields near the top but we did have our MICROspikes handy just in case. As it turned out there was only one small patch of snow left as we started down the other side, and it posed no problem.

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The descent was twice as long as the climb but it was no less steep losing nearly 2000′ in 1.6 miles to Caribou Meadows.

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Along the way we passed a partly obscured view of Little Caribou Lake which lay in its own glacial cirque to the SW of Browns Meadow.

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The trail did level out a bit for a short stretch where we could look back at Caribou Mountain and the forested slope we’d just descended.

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A final drop brought us back to Caribou Meadows.

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We decided to complete the figure 8 and continue following the Old Trail down to its other junction near the river. After passing through the meadow the trail once again dove seemingly straight down along a small stream crossing it twice.

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Beyond the second crossing the trail leveled out traversing along an open, hot, hillside. The GPS track shows that this final 1.5 miles to the junction resulted in a net loss of elevation but it sure felt like we were going uphill a lot.

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We were pretty hot and tired as we trudged along and began getting funny looks from the locals.

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Things cooled off a bit when we finally reached some trees along the river near the junction.

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When we arrived at the junction with the New Trail we wondered how we’d missed the split that morning, we didn’t see any signs but the tread was clear. A good example of how easy it is to miss things even when you think you’re paying attention. We recrossed the river on the log and returned to our car a bit tired, a little sore, and completely satisfied with our first visit to the Trinity Alps. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Caribou Lakes