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Trinity Alps

Page history last edited by lmckeega@... 10 years, 11 months ago

Trinity Alps
Sunday, August 20 through Sunday, August 27th
written by Deborah Raushi

I'm sure that all eight of us returned from our week in the Trinity Alps talking mostly about the day that turned our 7 day hike into an 8 day one;
the day we got lost;
the day we bushwhacked through manzanita that grabbed at us and gouged our legs full of scratches;
the day we slid down hills, grasping at any plant branch within reach;
the day we followed bear paths crisscrossing through the forest;
the day we took readings on whatever sight we could see, lined up our maps, and discussed which stream we¹d come to over and over again;
the marathon day we hiked from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm;
the day we camped after dark, deciding tomorrow was another day to look again at the maps and find our way to our cars.  

But let us not forget the beautiful days prior to this one; the days of flowing streams, lunch breaks, quiet lakes, wildflowers, switchbacks and more switchbacks, deer, ground squirrels, heart-thumping climbs over Deer Lake Pass and Stonewall Pass, rock-rolling, fishing, hair washing, meadows, swimming, conversation, meals, and the views...
The characters in this play:

Lupe Perez (00) - Endless energy, first one on with her pack, plant identifier
Jeff Pike (99) - Fish-catcher, constant bear-bagger, driver of the talkers
Debra Dempsey (99) - "I may be pregnant."
Diane Krautner (99) - Plant identifier, part of the bear-bagging threesome
Jenine Wilson (97) - Owns bear bagging stick, Gary and kid stories
Deborah Raushi (96) - Planner and leader of the trip, last one up in the mornings
Randy Mack (94) - Fish-catcher and cooker (mmmm), driver of the quieter ones
Conci Mack (93) - Leader of the Manzanita trek, plant and bird identifier

Sunday, Day 1: Day of Friendship
Some of us are awake at 4:00 am (after staying up to midnight finishing our packing!) to get to Santa Rosa by 6:00 am. Diane and I (Deb R.) meet at Randy and Conci's and fill up their SUV. The four of us head to Yardbirds where Jenine, Deb (the other one), and Lupe are fitting their packs into Jeff's SUV. We hit the road around 6:30 and head up toward Redding, noting the haze in the air from the Plumas fire and guessing at the vegetables that are growing in the fields next to the road. Oh! That's rice! We stop in Weaverville for lunch of salads and pastas at around 11:30, then head to the Ranger Station (which is closed) to see if there are any important notifications of which we should be aware. Hey, I recognize those people! Susan and Michael Guerrero! Parents of one of my students! They've just come out of Lassen, picked up a new stove in Redding, and are looking for a one-nighter in the Trinity Alps. No maps due to the closed ranger station, we invite them along with us.

After some map folding (argh), we head to the Stuart Fork Trailhead, dump our packs, and Michael, Randy, and Jeff take the cars to our endpoint (Stonewall Trailhead - which isn't marked as such, but is the trailhead to Granite Peak). Yea! No car shuttle when we're done, thanks to Michael and Susan!

Finally we are on the trail. Our first mile is on a dirt road to "Cherry Flat" where a passerby takes our group photo by the Trinity Alps Wilderness sign. The trail and surrounding area is steep. Two horses pass us on a trail no wider than 18 inches. Where are we? The topo map doesn't show all the twists of the trail that we're experiencing, nor all the creeks and dry creekbeds coming down! Where is Fire Creek Camp at 2.4 miles? Where is anything flat to camp on?

Ahhh... finally we come down to a large, wide, flat area among the trees next to the rushing Stuart Fork creek. Beautiful! Later we determine we are located just a little ways before Little Deep Creek. We all spread out, set up camp, and go down to the stream to wash the dust and sweat off and cool ourselves (it must be in the high 80's). A pleasant dinner (what's the heaviest thing I have to eat?), some bear bagging, and a discussion of the start of bow hunting season (deer) that tarted two days ago and Sasquatch (yes, Big Foot - last sighted in southern Oregon). To sleep, marvelous sleep...

Monday, Day 2: Day of Haze and the Best Lunch Spot
We are up around 7, have breakfast, pack, and say goodbye to Michael and Susan. Hitting the trail around 9:15 we soon past Little Deep Creek (where we see another possible camp spot on the other side - not as nice and right next to the trail, but a beautiful creek), then we cross Deep Creek Footbridge - a sizable, sturdy bridge. We sight various peaks on the other side of Stuart Fork, and stop to take some readings: Little Granite Peak, Peak #2202 and 2504. (We are using metric now, so there are frequent conversion discussions as well.) We come to an old sign reading "Oak Flat" and I am grateful we didn't plan to camp here, as whatever may be flat is covered with trees and bushes; not open at all. Also, where are the Oaks? We cross Salt Creek and then the footbridge to Deer Creek. Our leader (Debra?) sights naked swimmers below. Do we intrude? There really is no other option of a lunch spot, so we eventually head down to the pool and waterfall of Deer Creek.

What an awesome lunch spot. We take our time eating poundages of food, cooling our feet, taking pictures of the whoosh of water as it twists and turns through the now smoothed rock chutes. Diane and I notice the increased haze in the air and the smell of smoke. Being down in a gully, I begin to get nervous, not sure where the fire is. Could it be from the Plumas fire? Or is it right over that next ridge?! After a long rest break, we head up and out. The views tell us the fire isn't too nearby, but the haze lingers in the air.

In the heat we do our last segment to Morris Meadows - large green meadows surrounded be beautiful mountain scenery. We find various campsites clustered in the trees to our left, and pass a boy-scout group to find our home for the night beside a low, wide, cold creek. Everyone gets wet, rinses clothes, cools down, sets up camp, relaxes. The usual.

Tuesday, Day 3: Day of Switchbacks and Deer
We're on the trail by 8:30 and after a short flat section we begin our first major ascent of the trip up 9 switchbacks. Luckily they get shorter as we get higher and we count them off. Counting down the following stream crossings is a bit more difficult, but soon we find ourselves at our lunch spot, after having climbed 1000 feet, just past where Willow Creek crosses Deer Creek at a campsite (not the most pleasant one).

We head off again at 11:35 am and reach Deer Creek Camp at 12:40. The deer begin to investigate our site and seem to follow us. We are camped by a bend in the creek next to a large meadow with an incredible view of Siligo Peak, Deer Lake Peak and our route for tomorrow. With binoculars we can even locate the trail we will cut across on that red peak (2457) near Deer Creek Pass. Is that really it? Or is it further up across those rocky crags?
As night approaches, we do some bear-bagging. Diane, Debra, and Lupe hike across the meadow to find their tree, and Jeff, Randy, Conci, and I discover that attempting two ropes over one branch is not as easy as it may seem. Jeff and Randy spend some time unwinding two twisted lines, but eventually all is well.

We do our last "nature visit" before curling up in our sleeping bags and are a bit shocked to find the deer rush to where we've just peed! It's quite an unsettling experience!

Then, Conci and Randy are enjoying a short dusk walk when they are charged by a deer! Yes, it rushes at them making the most peculiar noise, which we come to hear numerous times throughout our trip. Perhaps the humans had gotten between mother and daughter? Soon thereafter, as andy and Conci are settling into their tent, they (or their tent) are rushed again! What's up with those deer??

Wednesday, Day 4: Day of Climbing
And we are off again...slowly climbing from Deer Creek. A dog startles us with his barking as we pass by two campers and head to the first junction with Luella Lake. The views are growing with each step, and sights of other trails (like the one heading over to Seven Up Peak and Granite Lake).
After about 1300 feet of climbing we come to Deer Lake and rest in the only available shade on the northeastern side of the lake under a few trees. There are a few camp sites in this area, and one man is camped under a rock slide on the southern side of the lake below the trail we will soon be on. We spot some hikers coming down from where we are headed, just small moving specks, 500 feet above us. Then it's "throw the packs back on and let's go", and I manage to step on my water bottle which cracks the bottom. Jeff notices water trickling out. Yikes! Luckily I have a second, smaller bottle, and later I patch it with duct tape which at least makes it a useful storage container if I store it upside down. This is our second water bottle problem, with more to come. Apparently on the first day, Jeff's fell out of the car and broke.

So, on we go, up to where the Deer Creek Pass joins our trail, then around to the right we hike across the rock rubble slope and switchback up to the ridge between Deer Lake and Summit Lake. Summit Lake is surrounded by dry red slopes, with a good expanse of trees on the near side, which we soon descend through and find a variety of camp spots. Although it is very windy and dusty and dirty, the wind dies down later in the afternoon and the rest of our stay here is very peaceful.

We wash, explore, nap, fish, have lunch, do laundry, have dinner. Diane, Debra, and Lupe provide the nightly bear-bagging entertainment for us. Another night of imagining hearing critters. The flapping of tents can sound quite like ground squirrels scurrying around.

Thursday, Day 5: Layover Day, Fish Day
I'm up at 6 am and hear Jeff get up, have breakfast, and head out to find some fish. Asleep again, I awake at 8 and am surprised so many others are sleeping in. But that's what layover days are for! Randy and Conci entertain us all with their pancake making. Around 11 am the dayhikers leave Debra behind and set out toward Diamond Lake. Gazillions of switchbacks through gazillions of wildflowers take us 550 feet down to beautiful Diamond Lake where we stop for lunch and leave Randy and Jeff to find their only fish of the trip. Two hikers and a dog are camped under the only tree around the lake, and we pass by them and head on to Luella Lake, through wet marsh and over rocky trail. Views abound and we arrive at the top of another gazillion switchbacks down to Luella Lake, which Diane and Conci are willing to descend. 500+ feet down they head to discover that the lake is not as shallow as it appears from above. Maybe it's 6 feet deep instead. As Jenine and I rest and air our feet, Lupe bags a nearby peak. Up the ridge of 2397-T (that's meters) she climbs. She has earned that view of Shasta from the top! Unfortunately she pays a bigger price on the way down when a rock jumps out and bashes her leg into a lovely bruise and scrape! Soon we are headed back to Diamond Lake where Jeff and Randy have caught 4 trout. Debra, meanwhile, has swum, relaxed, dayhiked to the top above Diamond Lake, and experienced a giant bolder rolling down the far side of Summit Lake splashing into the water. Back at camp we begin dinner, counting bagels and beginning to ration what we have left. Randy cooks up the fish like an expert chef and we all are treated to the most luscious fish appetizers I have ever tasted!

And Lupe's lime just puts it over the top! Thank you so much!

Friday, Day 6: Day of Rock Rolling
We awake after a very quiet, windless night. We are soon packing up and heading back to the Summit Lake trail junction. But what's keeping Conci? Our third water bottle problem: her's has leaked from a lid not screwed on tightly enough and has dampened various articles (including clothing) throughout her pack.

That fixed, we head on... up to the ridge and then along the side above Deer Lake. With no one camped below now, the rocky sides of the bowl that Deer Lake sits in just calls to us, and soon we all are trying our hand at rolling the rocks down as far as we can get them to go. One reaches nearly to the water.

Then it's up and over Deer Creek Pass (7546') and down to Siligo Meadows (7087') and up and over Little Stonewall Pass (7415'), passed Billy-Be-Damn lake (which we can't see beyond the little lake we do see, Billy's brother?) and Echo lake (can't see it either) and passed Van Matre Meadows where we stop just below Stonewall Pass for lunch and water pumping. As we head up to Stonewall Pass (7400')we get incredible views of the entire valley and mountain s we've just climbed over. And of course Jeff and Randy can't resist more rock rolling, or rather boulder rolling!

At this point we have our fourth water bottle problem; and a most mysterious one at that! At lunch Debra filled her platypus as Lupe watched. Well, now as we head up up up, Debra finds she has no water. None at all! And nowhere had it leaked. It just disappeared. The water ghost is haunting us! So we dole out bits of our water to her and we are on our way once again. At the top of Stonewall Pass (and yes, there is a small stone wall built there) we are greeted with an incredible view! We can see Clair Engle Lake in the distance. Oooo. Ahhhh. Wow. After a number of photos, we head on down the switchbacks, ending up in Red Mountain Meadows. There we find flat spots and gather under a beautiful old tree.

We search out water, which is meager in the meadow, a cupfull at a time. Randy, Jeff, Conci, and I scout out further down on the trail and come across a small pool area of the stream where we fill our water buckets and poor water over our heads. Then Jeff and Randy head up on the far side to scope out the trail we'll need to find tomorrow, and Conci and I carry the filled water bucket on a stick back to camp.

We have seen no one all day today, and it has been wonderful. I find a quiet spot with clear views of Clair Engle Lake and sit, meditating and reading. How wonderful a spot. What a wonderful trip we have had. The hiking and climbing has been moderate (steep but short, usually). The weather has been beautiful (a little on the warm side, but not too bad). We've all had fun and gotten along. We've seen lots of deer and chipmunks - nope, make that ground squirrels. We've had great camp spots, cool creeks and streams, lakes, meadows, views. What a successful trip. And tomorrow we will get to hike up Granite Peak and leave some of this red rock stuff behind. WhatÕs that noise? An animal crashing through branches? Ah ha! It's a little ground squirrel climbing from branch to branch and chewing off pine cones which then go crashing down to the ground. What noise from such a little animal. Dinner conversation revolves around insects and dead animals for a bit. Ah, what dinner conversations we've had this past week... We list the helpful hints to dealing with sap.

1. don't sit in it.
2. put dirt on it.
3. pull it off.
4. use hand sanitizer!

Debra and I have decided to sleep out sans tent. Jenine is up above with the grasshoppers and on top of critter holes. Lupe is across the little valley sleeping solo.

Saturday, Day 7: Day of No Trail
We are on the trail by 8:30. It is a less used trail than we've been on the whole trip, but that makes sense, as most people probably come up or down over Stoney Ridge. Well, once we get to Granite Peak, I'm sure the trail on the other side will be very defined and well used, as it's ideal for day-hikers. We climb and climb. This time without the switchbacks. The dirt and rocks are no longer red, but brown and grey. A nice change of pace.

Ahh, here we are. Near the top of Granite Peak. The trail is harder to see but ducks (cairns) help us find our way. We pause a bit while we try to locate the trail junction. Then we take a pack break as some of us scout around for the trail junction. I explore ahead, trying to get around a grouping of rocks. Conci, and Jeff explore above, finding a campsite and a rockslide, but no trail. Randy explores above and then back along the trail, finding no trail but a fairly open area among the trees that would be quick to slide down. I explore down from where we're resting, seeing semi-trails that go into bushes, then more semi-trails. Are those people's footprints or animals? We are taking readings and looking at our maps, but we aren't being all that accurate to pinpoint exactly where we are. We make various guesses and decide not to waste any more time searching for a trail that may not be there (?). LetÕs just bushwhack straight down and then head left. We'll definitely run into the trail that way.

Yeah. Right.

(*Note: this is where I believe our first (maybe only) big mistake was. Bushwhacking always takes much longer than one would expect. One should never bushwhack without knowing exactly where they are starting from and have taken readings on somewhere they are going. What were we thinking??)

Down we go, Randy's way, as it seems much easier than bushwhacking. However, after about ten minutes we do find ourselves in bushes. Ugh. Which way to go? Toward the treeline. No, left around this rock outcropping. Whatever is easiest through the manzanita. Soon Conci, brave woman, is leading us through manzanita. And when I say through, I mean through. Not around or by, but through. We seem to be following bear paths. Sometimes there are tunnels that the bottom half of our bodies are going through. Easy for a bear. Not so easy for humans. Our legs are scratched. Sometimes we get trapped in the bushes. They grab our feet, arms, legs, and won't let go. Sometimes we cling to their branches to keep from falling down the steep slope, or in a mysterious hole below. Here's a small clearing. Let's stop for a food break.

We sit in a small flattish area that bears probably sleep on. As we munch on our dwindling bit of food, we discuss who we'd eat first. Who are we voting off this island, the mountain? I'm too skinny, I say, and offer up my last bit of chocolate bar to everyone. We decide Jeff would have the most meat on him, and it would be the tenderest, as he's the youngest. He says we'd have to catch him first. Hmmm. At least everyone is in good spirits and full of humor. What else are we to do?  


On down we go, and finally we emerge from seemingly endless manzanita onto forest floor covered with dry, dead wood. It sounds like potato chips. We think we are between Stoney Creek and Mule Creek, which is where we need to be, but no trail yet. We come to a stream that's flowing quite well, and have some views of Clair Engle Lake. We stop to pump water and figure out which stream this is. (Why don't they have their names on the banks???) We decide it's probably Mule Creek and we shouldn't cross it. (However, it probably was Stoney Creek and we were on the wrong side all along!) Down we go. Steep slopes. Eventually we're alongside another stream in a deep gully. We think this is an intermittent one and the trail is just on the other side. So we follow it d own hoping it gets flatter and easier to cross. It doesn't. So we decide to cross it. Sliding down the slope into the gully. Across and down. Grabbing branches. Bracing ourselves. We reach the stream, easily cross, and then make our way up an equally steep slope. Conci stops and pumps some water for us. I relay the bottles up. Once up, we expect to run across the trail on the next ridge. But, no, the ridge leads to another gully and then another one. These are not on the map. It is beginning to get darker. We will need to find a place to camp, but there is nothing flat anywhere. Let's go down this ridge and see where it leads.

Ah ha! A dirt road! A logging road! If it's this one on the map, then we must go right. And so we do. But someone else isn't certain of that. We cross another stream. Then we come to a flat space next to the road. Let's camp. We have water. We have flat area. It's getting dark. We're not sure we're on the right track. We don't know where we are or how much further to our cars. It could be right around the corner. Or it could be hours more of walking. We need to rest and replenish our energy. Best decision of the day. Many people are out of food. We decide to save our food for the morning, and share whatever we all have left then. So we have some tea and bear bag in the dark. Tents are set up clustered together. I lay out my groundcloth in the middle of them and sleep out. It's been a long day.

Sunday again, Day 8: Day of Relief
We wake and pool our food, making breakfast and dinner for breakfast. Then Randy, Jeff and I head further "right" on the road until it dead ends. We see just a glimpse of the lake, but not enough to know which part of the lake we are looking at. I take a reading on it anyway. Heading back the other way, Granite Peak is sighted and a clear reading is taken on that. Jeff draws the line on my map. We've got to be on this line. No longer are we looking at the s-curves in the roads on the map. This old logging road is not on the map. Hundreds of logging roads out here, seeminly good landmarks, but none on the map. OK. New plan. Look for what the creeks are doing.

Next Randy and Conci head left down the road. It's gotta lead somewhere. And hopefully they can make it up to the ridge we see to get a second bearing on the lake. They leave at 8:00, planning to be back at 9:00. They aren't back. We wait some more. Jenine and Lupe hike down the road a bit following their footprints. It's hard to sit and wait. We imagine we hear a car. Maybe they've found the cars and are driving down the road for us. Randy must have taken his keys. 9:40 we hear a "BRUCE!" and "bruce" them back. 10:00 they return. Yea! And with big smiles on their faces. Yes, they found the parking lot and the cars!! Wow! Whew! Yea! Relief! (Randy didn't have his keys.) Quickly we pack up and head up the road. Past a locked gate we then come to a fork in the road where we drop our packs. Randy and Jeff hurry on up the trail for the vehicles while the women wait at "Rock Spa" and use what's left of our precious filtered water to wash ourselves! Clean! Found! Clean! Forty-five minutes later the SUVs pull up. Phone calls are made home on Randy's cell phone. Laura (Jeff's wife (who is always a "joy" he says) thought we weren't coming home until Sunday anyway. Lupe's mother dreamed she was rolling down a hill, all dirty. Well, it was more like sliding. The hill and dirty part was right! Debra's husband was very worried. But we have all made it out with no major injuries. Just lots of scratches and stories to tell.
Soon we are all clean(ish) and in clean clothes, piled into the vehicles, headed toward Weaverville with food on our minds. Miller's Drive In is the place to be. Bacon Double Cheesburgers, French Fries, Chili Cheese Fries, Milkshakes and Floats, food galore......


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