Backpack: Trinity Alps Wilderness

Click to view a gallery of backpack pix.

6 1/2 miles into the Trinity Alps Wilderness was a perfect reentry into backpacking for Sooney & Nick. We were joined by our new hiking buddies, Maria & Steve, who are also members of Ashland’s Backpackers Interest Group (BIG). The trailhead is 11 miles up Coffee Creek Road (from the north you’re about 8 miles north of Trinity Center on Hwy. 3). We left Ashland around 7 a.m. and arrived at the trailhead 3 hours later. Another 3 hours found us at Union Lake (disappointedly more like a pond) situated in a beautiful cirque-like amphitheater, complete with massive meadows and craggy granite faces towering 2,000’ above us. Although the lake is slowly transforming into a meadow (Nick did swim but sank to his knees in gunk), the sunlight reflecting off the jagged parapets both at sunrise AND sunset presented lovely panoramas we enjoyed from the comfort of our wonderful tent.

Our plan had us camping at Union Lake and on subsequent days hiking to 2 nearby lakes, Foster Lake and Landers Lake. After 3 nights, we returned to our car after breakfast along the same route as we arrived. 26 miles produced some sore muscles but we gained far more than we expected. Swims on both the day hikes were marvelous and our hiking companions modeled what we’d expect from experienced backpackers. Our want list increased by over a dozen items but nothing could improve on our meals; Sooney put together a delicious menu for each day, individually wrapped in plastic bags and safely stored away from marauding bears and chipmunks.

We awakened each day to a glorious chorus of song birds, all competing with each other and reminding us how fortunate we are to be able to even reach these distant parts. Others in the BIG family will appreciate our exploratory efforts when planning subsequent group outings.

P1040863Foster Lake: On a topo map the distance is misleading. Over 2 1/2 miles you gain 1,700’ on pretty-well maintained switchbacks. Annoyingly, several sections were vertical and steep—that’s no fun. Once you summit the granite ridge, you’re welcomed by a small Lilly pond. Shortly after that is wonderful Foster Lake, and the cool water evaporated any negativity one may have accumulated during the ascent. We lunched, napped, swam, and spent another hour scooting up the next ridge to Lion Lake. Visiting that lake was more exploratory, and rather than descend 500’ only to climb back up, we photographed Lion Lake with Mt. Shasta posing in the background and returned to Foster Lake for another swim. The hike down was punctuated by several shady viewpoints and adequate springs to replenish our bottles and soak bandanas.

Where's Steve? Click for a clue.
Where’s Steve? Click for a clue.

Landers Lake: Roughly a mile into our hike the day before, there’s an intersection heading into another drainage west of Foster Lake. The distance was 4 1/2 miles to the lake but only 1,500’ in elevation gain making for a much milder hike. Wildflowers were blazing and probably numbered almost a hundred different species throughout our visit. As soon as we arrived at Landers Lake, we took our requisite swim and, while eating lunch in the shady campsite, used walkie-talkies to monitor Steve’s 800’ climb to the summit of Red Rock Mountain. He managed the hike in an hour & a half, bush whacking most of it on manageable terrain and thoroughly enjoying the view overlooking much of the Trinity Wilderness.

Birds sighted on this leg of the journey:

Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Northern Goshawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Rufous Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Cassin’s Vireo, Steller’s Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mountain Bluebird, American Robin, Hermit Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Brewer’s Blackbird

Among the 100’s of wildflowers we walked through, here are a few ID’s:

Western Columbine, White Camas, White-flowered Bog Orchid, Cinquefoil, Coyote Mint, Wild Rose, Checkerbloom, Blue Eyed Mary, Gooseberry, tiger lily, monkshood, darlingtonia, paintbrush, lupine, yarrow, bear grass, cow parsnip,  buckwheat(?), penstemon, scarlet gilia