What an incredible wilderness area, those Trinity Alps.
We’re so lucky, living here in southern Oregon. We have access to some of the best wilderness areas in the entire nation – all within several hours of driving.
I was lucky enough to have a bit of vacation. My good friends Torrey Johnson and Dashiel Bivens accompanied myself as branches of a guiding trio – providing wilderness experience for incoming High School sophomores. What a lovely bunch of boys. Serious though – we all had a blast, guides and the guided.
We left on Saturday 7/24 – early in the morning. We experienced a blown radiator cap on Dash’s Honda soon after passing Etna, but we managed to make it to the TH in relatively short time! Bit of a later start for a long first day, but it worked great.
Our first night was spent in the Caribou Lake basin – Little and Big Caribou, Snowslide lake. We camped at the latter, and were eating dinner in the dark.
The next morning we were up and hiking south. We crossed the top of Sawtooth Ridge above Caribou Lake in the afternoon, and after enduring a tough evening downpour, and some awesome thunderstorm weather, we pitched a hasty camp on the northeast side of Emerald Lake. It lasted maybe 30 minutes to an hour.
Our next day was a much-needed layover in the Emerald/Sapphire/Mirror valley. Relatively heavy packs, and general business of providing services beyond the personal level made for a strenuous couple days! We were all stoked though, and the boys and Torrey and Dash and I enjoyed a day hike through the valley to Sapphire and Mirror Lakes. I got whipped into shape quick. Mirror Lake was frigid. One of the coldest I’ve entered in a long time – but awesome. So clear afterward. The approach up the valley had some inspiring views. Waterfall after waterfall.
The third day was our longest in terms of mileage. We hiked south to Morris Meadows, and then up over a pass into the Deer Creek drainage. Nine and a half miles later, we were making camp in some large boulders beneath Luella Lake. Really awesome little secret spot.
In the morning we were up early, and hiking east to Granite Lake. I’d never been, and was very excited. The climb from the valley was short and intense. By one p.m. we were at the lake, and circumnavigating to find the ideal spot. The rocks on the southeast part of the lake provide awesome exposure to sun in the morning, and a cut in the amount of biting insects you encounter. Plus, the swimming is great. We enjoyed a leisurely day in the sun – tanning, swimming, replenishing our water supply. I was tempted to summit the ridge running the length of Granite Lake’s basin, but decided against it as the sun fell lower and lower. I’ll come back for it!
We encountered rescue helicopters that day. A scout, and then a larger chopper an hour later – flying super low. I have yet to talk to the USFS about it, but I will – we were all curious as to what had occurred. Something requiring evacuation via aircraft! I’d never seen a helicopter fly so close to a ridgetop before.
We were up early again the next day, and found ourselves back up on the ridge summit by noon. Hiking north below Seven Up Peak, we enjoyed an awesome panorama of views throughout some of the best parts of the Wilderness. Sawtooth mountain, and the whole glacial shield-like formation of the ridges adjacent to it are so awesome from a distance. I love it.
We took a late lunch, and instead of descending into Bowerman meadows, cut cross-country to Horseshoe Lake across a ridge and a small valley. This was an excellent decision, and it saved us about two and a half hours of grueling ascent in the late afternoon. It’s pretty clear on a topo which way to do this cut – if you have a large group spread out in the meadow, it clearly sees a lot of traffic in this regard.
Our last two days were fairly laid-back. We enjoyed it immensely. Real vacation, with some serious wilderness. Both Horseshoe and Ward Lakes are a bit less cold than the rest. Ward’s swimming isn’t ideal, but Horseshoe has the best camp/swim/climb rock around, on the west side of the lake. Complete with bear-hang tree on site!
Somewhere between Horseshoe and Ward Lakes, my camera suffered a malfunction. I’ll have to send it back to Canon to get the lense repaired after I return from the Sierra. Such is life with technology.
Ward Lake was the last day, and it was a great way to relax and exit the wilderness with calm and poise. I took a couple naps. We were on the road the following day by 1 pm – south to Weaverville for a stop at NAPA Auto (replacement radiator cap), and east to Redding.
I avoid this particular city like the plague, but our clients had specifically requested In-and-Out Burger. There is but one in the area. Luckily it was literally in, and then out.
We arrived home on Saturday the 31st, in the mid-evening.
I can’t even capture the refreshing feeling I’ve had for the last couple days! Exiting the wilderness is hard for me in many ways – I often feel a disconnect from people around me, from myself, and sometimes my moods play havok. It’s some type of post-wilderness depression. I don’t know if I can really quantify this for you. No doubt it’s been the same for this 8-day trip, but the Trinities always provide the most refreshing perspective, and they take care of you in ways that other mountains can’t even compare with. I view the wilderness as a type of medicine, and this trip was so necessary for my mental stability! I wish photos could do such a beautiful place justice, but they never will.
I’ve felt so much more healthy and clear-headed as a result of this trip. The magic of the Trinity Alps truly goes much deeper than most really wish to attend.
Snow coverage is still present, but it is all very doable. Even the Canyon Creek drainage is on-point right now. We crossed the Sawtooth Ridge above Caribou Lake without incident or trouble. We encountered a men’s group (yup) who had high hopes of crossing from Mirror to Canyon Creek Lakes. I doubt they accomplished this, considering the types of gear they had brought, but it sounded like an awesome idea to me. If you’re stoked on that sort of ultralight mountaineering, bring a pair of 4-6 point trekking crampons and a self arrest pole, and have at it. Woo!
Mosquitoes aren’t so bad this year either. I’ve seen so, so much worse in the Trinity Alps. I mean, like to the point where even DEET doesn’t do anything. It’s not like that this year! Sure, bring a tent/mosquito net/etc – but strive to find sites that have minimal tree coverage above all, and exposure to wind – I slept out without tent, net, etc for five nights in a row without suffering at all – it’s all in the site selection. Those bushes and trees provide mosquitoes with the elemental protection they need.
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Thanks for reading, and namaste to you.