Remember business travel? How it was a necessary chore but one that now we (maybe) long for? The upside of those days was an accumulated a pile of hotel reward points that we planned to squander on some BIG TRIP of our own choosing. But, alas, no. 😦 So we spent some on our trip to the Oregon Coast in mid-June and the rest on a just completed multi-day trip to Northern California. But that’s only two hours from home you say! Yes, but we wanted to do a few hikes in and around Mount Shasta and didn’t want to spend four hours per hike commuting. So we made a surgically clean hotel room our basecamp for a few days. Which was good because the soaring afternoon temperatures made it really nice to have some A/C (and a shower). California has slipped back to only take-out or outdoor seating at restaurants, so we had some nice meals outdoors – just like camping but the cooking was way better. 🙂 There were other tourists around but not nearly as many as in a “normal” year, so it didn’t hurt that we were there to pump a little money into the local economy.
Our first hike was one suggested by Hike Mt. Shasta: from Kangaroo Lake to Bull Lake and back on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) (we passed on climbing Cory Peak due to the heat). We started on the Fen Trail, a signed nature trail that runs from Kangaroo Lake up to the PCT. Here a fen is a marshy area where shallow bedrock keeps water near the surface, making for small, luxuriously verdant meadows hosting numerous wildflowers and patches of pitcher plants (Cobra Lilies).
The Fen Trail ends where it junctions with the PCT just below the crest of the ridge above Kangaroo Lake. From the ridge top, we could see the Salmon Mountains to the north, slightly obscured by a faint trace of smoke from the Badger Fire near Yreka. Fire season has been upon us for several weeks and several wildfires have now erupted in Northern California. Smoke from some of these would directly impact one of our later hikes.
From its junction with the Fen Trail, we went south on the PCT as it climbed continuously, but almost imperceptibly, to the ridge above Bull Lake. Along the way we passed five NOBO thru-hikers. People were being dissuaded from hiking the PCT this year due to the Big V but if you’ve spent months (or years) dreaming about, planning for, and getting ready for such a trip, it’s hard to say no. And, if you’re careful with trail angels and resupply runs to town, it’s hard see how wandering around out here doesn’t constitute some of the best social distancing possible. 🙂
We also passed several wildflowers we hadn’t seen before, a patch of Cobra Lilies around a spring near the trail, and the crumpled remains of an old line cabin above Robbers Meadow. The cabin may be gone but, judging from the dried poop, cows still roam this area.
The PCT swung us around above the two, small unnamed lakes in Robbers Meadow – which can be reached by a somewhat faint trail from the PCT.
By the time we got to the saddle above Bull Lake, the day, which had started out moderately cool, had warmed considerably. It was still pleasant in the shade but much less so out among the sun-blasted rocks. When we came into view of Mount Shasta, The LovedOne pronounced that we would enjoy the cool breeze flowing over the ridge while snacking in the shade of a nearby tree. We would enjoy the delights of Bull Lake from above and afar – and so it was.
A day hiker, who was doing an out-and-back to Bull Lake, passed us as we were snacking and that was the last person we saw on the trail for the rest of the day. Snack consumed, we headed back along the PCT, with the heat now more than noticeable.
On the way down the Fen Trail, we briefly explored a side trail that takes you to some old-growth trees. In these cool depths, The LovedOne availed herself of the cooling grasses.
This out-and-back hike was 8 miles with 1,000 feet of gain – about half in the climb up the Fen Trail. Despite a little smoke, we had great views, learned about fens, and encountered some old and new favorite wildflowers. It was, however, hot. With temperatures soaring into the triple digits down in the valley, we weren’t spared much even up here near 7,000 feet. It was a four liter day. The cooling breezes flowing over the ridges were most welcome. The cool waters of Kangaroo Lake are a popular summertime destination, which was reflected in the full parking lot we found on our return. We were in the truck and on our way to Mount Shasta before everyone else decided to head home and crowd the twisty, one lane (but paved) road to the lake. 😀HOME