Elk Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 14-Oct-2018

Elk Lake Red Buttes Wilderness California

Elk Lake (sometimes called Moraine Lake) is one of six little lakes clustered at the southeast end of California’s Red Buttes Wilderness. Such high-elevation lakes are rare in the Siskiyou Mountains because this range was largely unaffected by lake basin-forming Pleistocene glaciation. [1] Lily Pad is the easiest to access, with Towhead and Echo not far behind. However, Hello, Goodbye, and Elk take some effort to visit. I wanted to see what it would take to reach Elk and also see what impact the 2017 Abney Fire had had on Cook and Green Pass and the stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) running west from there. The LovedOne demurred on yet another hike likely to involve bushwhacking and boulder flogging, opting instead to design a quilt. Continue reading “Elk Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 14-Oct-2018”

Goosenest (Klamath National Forest) 07-Oct-2018

Goosenest Mount Shasta Northern California

Tricky drive; short hike; spectacular views. Goosenest (8,280 feet) is an extinct (hopefully) shield volcano with a cinder cone on top, resembling a goose’s nest (actually it looks more like an albatross nest, but those aren’t that common in Northern California). It sits just north of Mount Shasta and affords amazing views of the north side of that peak and a 360º view across much of Northern California. The hike to these views is short (3.3 miles total – if you circle the crater) on a well-graded, well-maintained trail plus an obvious use trail. It even has an official trailhead with a sign and an information board. The trick is finding that trailhead, as we would discover as we followed conflicting (and sometimes incorrect) driving directions to (eventually) reach it. Continue reading “Goosenest (Klamath National Forest) 07-Oct-2018”

Making a Difference in the Sierra Nevada (July 1968)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” ~ Dickens

Do these oft-quoted lines apply to 2018?  Probably. But they most certainly apply to 1968 – one of the most tumultuous single years in history, marked by events, both amazing and awful, that were intensely dramatic and lastingly consequential.

The Vietnam War dominated the news all year. In April, Martin was assassinated and, in June, Bobby. In June, the Six-Day War broke out. In August, the Soviet Union crushed Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring. In October, hundreds of protestors were killed and injured in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square. In November, Richard Nixon was elected president.

While all this (and more) was going on, my dad had been dead from cancer for 4 years, mom was pressing forward as a single mom running her own business, and my days in high school were a less cheerful version of the Lord of the Flies. I was about to auger in. As a last resort, mom reached out to the Big Brothers organization and, after a couple of false starts, I got matched-up with Jerry: a scientist (geology), backpacker, hiker, desert rockhound; a wonderful person with a great sense of humor and the patience of a saint. Doing outdoor stuff was second nature to him and I was welcome to come along.

So, regardless of whatever else was going on in 1968, I will always cherish it as my year of outdoor firsts – first dayhike, first backpack (Marie Louise Lakes in the Sierra Nevada), first fish, first night sleeping out, first time at altitude, and (to be honest) first time really cold and miserable and bug-bitten – all things I’d spend the next 50 years doing as often and as much as possible.

Jerry and I were only together for about three years before I went off to university and he took a job in another city, got married, and started his own family. But he – and the outdoors – were there when I needed them the most. Since then, going outside has been the gift that’s been both an inspiration and a refuge. So, looking back across these 50 years, it’s obvious that one good person, stepping-up in the right place and at the right time, can make a difference.

Marie Louise Lakes John Muir Wilderness
Jerry, Marie Louise Lakes, John Muir Wilderness, July 1968
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Telephone Lake Loop (Trinity Alps Wilderness) 14-Sep-2018

Telephone Lake Fox Creek Ridge Trinity Alps Wilderness Northern California

The hike to East Boulder Lake in Northern California’s Trinity Alps Wilderness is a pretty popular one, since it offers easy access on a good trail to a big lake (ignoring the cows, of course). We did it in 2015 as a loop, with a return via the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the tie trail from Middle Boulder Lake.  Further map-gazing suggested another loop – up the Middle Boulder Trail and the Telephone Lake Trail to the PCT, then west for a return down the Fox Creek Ridge Trail (and a short walk on Forest Road 40N17).  With cooler weather and an easing of the smoke from the horrible wildfires that have plagued us for most of the summer, today was as good time as any to try this loop. Continue reading “Telephone Lake Loop (Trinity Alps Wilderness) 14-Sep-2018”

Climbing the 16 Major Northwest Peaks (1996-2006)

Mazamas Portland Oregon Mountaineering

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on 35mm slides. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the slides haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. The photos below are some of those old slides.

Continue reading “Climbing the 16 Major Northwest Peaks (1996-2006)”

The Seven Summits of NorCal (July 2018)

Seven Summits Northern California

In 2015, I came across a small book (The 7 Summits of the Siskiyou Trail) by Aria Zoner – an Ashland-based ultra hiker~backpacker~peakbagger – that described a 448-mile long hiking loop through seven wilderness areas in Northern California (NorCal), with scramble climbs (Class 3 or less) of the high points in each wilderness.  While 448 miles seemed a bit much, these seven hikes/scrambles looked like fun, so we added them to our never-diminishing list of hikes to do just in case the couch started to look too inviting (assuming, of course, the cat ever lets us sit on it…). Not counting Mount Shasta (which I’d already climbed in 1997 and again in 2003), it took us two years to reach the other six. Mount Shasta, mainly because of its height and snow, was the most challenging. Thompson Peak and Preston Peak were next in difficulty due the length of their respective approaches and the complexity of the scrambling (but never over Class 3) involved. Boulder Peak has no scrambling, but it’s a long walk with a lot of elevation gain. Red Butte, Russian Peak, and “Harry Watkins” were relatively easy due to nearby trailheads and short approaches; but each still involved some cross-country travel and route finding. In the end, seven unique adventures in parts of wilderness areas we might not have gotten around to visiting otherwise.

Continue reading “The Seven Summits of NorCal (July 2018)”

Preston Peak (Siskiyou Wilderness) 9/10-Jul-2018

Preston Peak Siskiyou Wilderness Northern California
UPDATE: The area around Raspberry Lake was burned in the 2018 Natchez Fire.

Our quest to reach the high points in seven of Northern California’s wilderness areas concluded with a backpack and subsequent steep scramble to the summit of Preston Peak (7,313 ft / 2,229 m), the highest point in the Siskiyou Wilderness. Preston rises more than 500 feet above any other peak in this wilderness and presides over a superb landscape of gem-quality green-blue lakes, rugged geology, meadows flush with wildflowers, and a biodiversity matched by few places on earth (hence the Preston Peak Botanical and Geological Area). Preston’s bulk is easily recognizable from the summits of many other peaks in the Klamath Mountains, Siskiyou Crest, and Southern Cascades, and its presence on the horizon has taunted us during many of our hikes in these areas. It felt good to finally get up close and personal with this peak.

Continue reading “Preston Peak (Siskiyou Wilderness) 9/10-Jul-2018”

Russian Lake via the PCT (Russian Wilderness) 07-Jun-2018

Russian Lake Russian Wilderness Northern California

In 2016, we did a short hike to beautiful Bingham Lake in the Russian Wilderness, along with a scramble to the highest point – Russian Peak – in that wilderness.  But where was the wilderness’s namesake lake? Well, southwest across the valley formed by South Russian Creek (a tributary of the Klamath River). Our plan to hike to this lake in 2017 along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was thwarted when wildfires blew-up all over Northern California, closing roads and trails and filling the air with choking smoke. So I (The LovedOne’s knee wasn’t up for this one) took advantage of the early trail openings afforded by our minimally snowy winter to do this hike before any wildfires (of which we sincerely hope there are none this season) had a chance to enter the picture. Continue reading “Russian Lake via the PCT (Russian Wilderness) 07-Jun-2018”

Schonchin Butte (Lava Beds NM) 04-May-2018

Schoncin Butte Lava Beds National Monument California

After looping the Big Nasty, we drove over to Schonchin Butte for the brief (1.4 miles round-trip; 500 feet of elevation) hike to the lookout on its summit. Today the lookout was closed, but is usually staffed from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily from June to late September. The lookout and the trail leading up to it were built from 1939 to 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It’s perched on the rim of the small crater in the center of the butte and commands an amazing view in all directions. Even with today’s lingering overcast, the view was pretty amazing. Well worth the short hike! Continue reading “Schonchin Butte (Lava Beds NM) 04-May-2018”

Hiking the Big Nasty (Lava Beds NM) 04-May-2018

Big Nasty Trail Schonchin Butte Lava Beds National Monument California

While the primary attractions at Lava Beds National Monument are its numerous lava tube caves, there are some above-ground sites worth visiting too. Having hiked to Whitney Butte in the past, today we aimed for Mammoth Crater, the Big Nasty Trail (despite whatever purient thoughts you may be harboring, this trail was named after a brush-covered formation of rough lava rock), and the lookout atop Schonchin Butte. Continue reading “Hiking the Big Nasty (Lava Beds NM) 04-May-2018”

Jenny Creek Falls (Northern California) 24-Apr-2018

Jenny Creek Falls Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument California

Jenny Creek – which has been proposed for designation as a Wild and Scenic River – flows south out of Howard Prairie Reservoir in Southwestern Oregon for approximately 22 miles until it empties into Iron Gate Reservoir on the Klamath River in Northern California. Along the way, the creek passes through the eastern edges of both the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the Soda Mountain Wilderness. Jenny Creek and its tributaries (Keene, Corral, Johnson, and Beaver Creeks) are separated from the Klamath River by two waterfalls (a 15-foot lower and a 40-foot upper) that were created as the creek carved through a lava flow that occurred approximately 5 million years ago. By separating the upper reaches of the watershed from the river, these falls have given rise to the Jenny Creek redband trout, a unique lineage of trout found only in the upper creek. Hence many good reasons to appreciate these falls in person. Only one tiny problem – how to reach them? Continue reading “Jenny Creek Falls (Northern California) 24-Apr-2018”