Patterson Lake (South Warner Wilderness) 26-Aug-2015

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

After enduring 3+ weeks of wildfire smoke in the Rogue Valley, we needed to find someplace where we could hike under blue sky even for just a short time. After consulting various meteorological prognosticators, it seemed that Northern California’s South Warner Wilderness / USFS (which has been languishing on our to do list) might be just such a place. So we drove to Alturas, California and checked in to a hotel amongst a throng of people of their way to this year’s Burning Man in the Nevada desert just to the south. Arrayed as we were in grubby hiking clothes, we fit right in.

The next morning, we drove to the Pine Creek Trailhead for a hike to Patterson Lake, the largest lake in this wilderness. A premier backpacking and fly fishing hideaway, Patterson Lake can be reached from a number of trailheads but the most direct route is via Pine Creek Basin, a 12-mile round trip. We arrived at the 6,800-foot trailhead under smoke-free, cool, clear, full bluebird weather conditions.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Pine Creek Trailhead

For the first 2 miles or so, we climbed gently but steadily up through the forest along the South Fork of Pine Creek. This is one of those wilderness areas we have to share with cows but we only saw 6 all day and none on the trail.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Along the Pine Creek Trail

After 2 miles, we left the forest and passed into the meadows and small lakes in Pine Creek Basin.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

A lake in the Pine Creek Basin

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

A lake in the Pine Creek Basin

Some of the willows had turned color, signaling the start of Fall in the high country (this basin is at about 7,400 feet).

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Fall starts earlier in the Pine Creek Basin

From the basin, we started climbing a broad sagebrush covered ridge,

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Climbing out of the Creek Basin

with views of the Alturas valley and Mount Shasta.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Overlooking Alturas, with Mount Shasta on the far right

We followed the trail as it worked its way up the broad ridge, mostly through sagebrush but through an occasional aspen or pine grove. Despite the drought, we found that many of the springs shown on the map in this area were still running, some quite strongly.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Further up the trail

After about 5.5 miles, we reached the wilderness’ dividing ridge and a junction with the Summit Trail – which runs the length of the wilderness north to south.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

At the trail junction on the divide

We had a nice view back along our route and could, with a little squinting, see Mount Lassen in the distance.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Mount Lassen is out there somewhere

We then followed the Summit Trail north toward Patterson Lake, under clear blue skys at over 9,000 feet.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

On the Summit Trail toward the lake

The Summit Trail took us up to a high point on the east ridge of Warren Peak,

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

The Summit Trail traverses below Warren Peak

and then swung us around the ridge for an expansive view of Cedarville to the north.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Looking north toward Cedarville and Oregon

We then dropped down 300 feet to the shores of Patterson Lake, which featured a flock of ducks, fish, and crystal clear waters.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Patterson Lake

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Patterson Lake

The geology here is volcanic and the different ash and basalt layers from different eruptions are starkly evident. The Warner Mountains are a fault-bounded block of the Basin and Range province and have been uplifted between 5,000 and 12,000 feet along the fault zones. Bedrock of the area consists of 5,000 feet of coarse clastic sedimentary rocks of Oligocene age that are overlain by 5,000 feet of rhyolitic to basaltic volcanic rocks of Miocene age.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Patterson Lake showcases the areas complex geology

After lunch at the lake, we retraced our steps, getting a nice view south along the spine of the wilderness – with Eagle Peak (the wilderness high point) in the distance.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Looking south toward Eagle Peak

We descended through sagebrush,

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Heading back in to Pine Creek Basin

and patches of fading corn lilies that clustered around the springs that dot the slope.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Farewell to the corn lilies

We had another look at Mount Shasta and of clouds that we hope are the harbingers of rain for this weekend,

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Clouds surround Mount Shasta

and of the start of Fall colors.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Falls colors in Pine Creek Basins

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Reflections in the Fall

A totally awesome hike (12 miles roundtrip; 2,800 feet of elevation gain) in an area new to us under perfect weather conditions! We’ll be back sometime – likely to dayhike Eagle Peak at the south end of the wilderness.

Patterson Lake South Warner Wilderness California

Our track to and from Patterson Lake

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