Monday, July 30, 2007

Rae Lakes Loop

Kings Canyon
43 miles
5 days - 4 nights
6,943 elevation gain
High point: 11,978
Bill and Julie

I have wanted to do the Rae Lakes Loop for several years now. I also wanted to take five days rather than the four many folks do it in. When we were camping in Big Sur - Bill finally agreed to do it with me in July. This would be our longest backpacking trip together. It was a serious undertaking for us - 43 miles with an almost 7,000 foot elevation gain including hiking an almost 12,000 foot pass with full packs.

Our friend Steve who is the signmaker at Sequoia - Kings Canyon National Park and who has done the Rae Lakes Loop many times was our consultant, cheerleader and logistics guy. He gave us maps, permit forms, inspiring photos and crucial advice on the best route and campsites.

Both Bill and I filled our backpacks with weights and walked the hills of Lompico to train for the trip.

I spent the first part of July in Redding. I did a lot of hiking at elevation at both Mt. Shasta and Lassen. While in Redding I visited a Tibetan Buddhist Temple in the mountains with my mom and dad. I bought a peace prayer flag that you hang and the wind takes the prayer into the world. It is traditional to hang a prayer flag before large undertakings. There are certain days that are auspicious and certain days it is bad luck to hang the flag. My mom checked the website and found that July 20th, the day after I got back to Santa Cruz was an auspicious day. Bill and I hung the prayer flag with it's message of peace on our deck where we can watch it fluttering in the breezes. It sent blessings on our upcoming trip.

As usual - I procrastinated on getting our permits. When I finally submitted our request, two weeks before departure - I found out all advance permits had already been issued. The ranger told me five walk up permits were issued each day at 1:00 p.m. We decided to take our chances and just show up early on Sunday to get our permit. I thought if we arrived at noon, an hour before the office opened, we would have a good chance.

We left Lompico at 7:15 a.m. We usually drive through Los Banos, but looking at the map decided to take I-5 and then cut over on a little side road. We stopped at a busy rest area on I-5. When I got to the restroom there was a line and who was waiting but Mary! I couldn't believe it. She was on her way to Baja for three weeks with her family. The timing was incredible that we ran into each other. It was the first sign that this was going to be an interesting trip.

We got to the entrance of Kings Canyon at a little after noon - but it takes another hour to drive the narrow, windy road to Cedar Grove and Roads End. As I pulled over to let cars pass - I wondered whether they were going to get permits and would beat us to it. I thought good thoughts and kept my my fingers crossed.

We got to the permit office at 1:20 p.m. The ranger was busy talking patiently to a family of day hikers. When it was our turn I asked if we could get permits for the Rae Lakes Loop starting the next day. "No, I don't think so", she said. My heart sank. She asked how many in our party and we explained it was just the two of us. She did a lot of checking and then said - "I can get you two in, but that's it for the day." I was overjoyed.

She was very thorough discussing our route and the terrain. She was clear on what to expect. She told us at one of our planned stops - Junction Meadows - there was a very large, very fearless bear. He had not been intimidated by 15 trail crew members shouting at him. She told us the weather forecast was cloudy, but rain wasn't in the forecast - though you never know in the mountains. The temperatures she listed were very mild - including 40 degrees on the summit of Glen Pass. Since heat was one of Bill's biggest concerns, this was a huge relief to us. We bought our $15 permit and rented two bear canisters for $5.00 a piece. $25.00 for five days seemed extremely reasonable - though she said many people complain about it.

She told us there were bear lockers at each site as well - but they were trying to phase them out - because other people left them unlocked, used them as drop offs for larger trips and left garbage in them. You needed to put anything with scent - toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, etc. in either the canister or locker. We were thankful for the lockers, since our two bear canisters were completely packed with food when we first started out.

We went and found a shady campsite at Sheep's Creek campground. We reorganized our packs with the bear canisters. We planned to get an early start the next morning to avoid the heat.

Day 1
Roads End - Upper Paradise Valley
10 miles
hiking time: 6 hours

We were on the trail head at 7:30 with our full packs - but feeling good. The first two miles are completely flat and not too interesting. I knew it would be long coming back this way at the end of the trip. It's a little under five miles to Mist Falls and the ranger said it takes most backpackers about two hours to get there. We got there in an hour and a half, which was encouraging.

Bill was off racing ahead. My only request was that he keep me in sight. He prefers to move quickly and take longer breaks, while I prefer slow and steady with shorter breaks. I resigned myself to the fact that I may not see much of him on the trail.

The other two times I have been to Mist Falls it has earned it's name. Even standing hundreds of feet away - you would get soaked from the mist. Not so this year, with our lack of rainfall. After Mist Falls the elevation and heat began. Bill started feeling his heavy pack. He appreciated my slower pace with lots of breaks and we stayed together for the rest of the trip with me setting the pace.

We were hiking up a beautiful valley. When you turned around it was like a miniature Yosemite. There are three campsites in Paradise Valley. Both the ranger and Steve had recommended going to the Upper Valley, if we could make it. I was hiking in front and suddenly heard a rattling sound. On a rock next to the trail was a BIG rattlesnake. Bill had never seen one before. He kept calling it a cobra - which was just as exotic to him.

We watched as it slithered off the trail and we quickly walked by. I appreciated his warning me that he was there. We made lots of noise while hiking the next part of the trail. We walked through the Lower campsites without stopping and headed for the middle campground. For these campgrounds, you need to camp in designated sites. There was a little map showing where all the campsites were located - which was really helpful.

No one was in the Lower or Middle campground where we stopped for lunch. I went and looked at all the campsites - logs, rocks and fire rings. They were all very nice. The whole Paradise Vally is beautiful surrounded by granite cliffs and the river.

We sat on a rock eating our lunch and watching a chipmunk. He would run down the hill and come back with a load of duff, the size of his head in his mouth. He would put it in his hole and then repeat the exact same process - always following the same trail. He was so cute with his mouth stuffed. We admired his persistence. We felt the same way.

There was about 300 feet elevation gain on the two miles to Upper Paradise Valley. It seemed like more. We kept thinking - this must be the campsite - no, this must be the campsite. Finally, we were there.

We dropped packs and Bill relaxed. I went off to find the best site. I'm much more picky about campsites - so Bill let's me go look at all the choices and then decide. We were the first in camp - so I had lots of choices. I found a great site and we set up camp. I went and played in the river. Bill went to explore a beautiful new log bridge. The view of the cliffs was incredible. A completely different view in each direction.

There were yellow flowers dotting the riverside. Eventually more hikers arrived. Since this is a loop trail - you see the same folks at every camp. Our immediate neighbors were a preacher and his wife from Fresno with her musician brother who liked his "medicine" in the form of spiked lemonade.

There was a young brother/sister team who I thought at first were a couple. She was from San Diego, he was visiting from Connecticut. They set up their camp and then went to scramble up a giant rock wall behind us. Oh, to be young! Bill and I were quite content to play dice in our campsite. We had done enough hiking for the day.

Three guys did their cooking on the bear locker. One of them had a great thermarest chair. I definitely had chair envy after sitting in it.

It had been so warm before the trip - that Bill hadn't wanted to take the rainfly for the tent - but I had insisted. He laughed at me for wanting to carry my rain gear. That night it sprinkled all night. My side of the rain fly wasn't properly staked so my sleeping bag was fairly wet in the morning. Funny how that worked out. :-)

Day 2
Upper Paradise Valley - Woods Creek Crossing
6 miles

Once again we were up and on the trail early. It was only 6 miles to Woods Creek Crossing - but I didn't want to push the 14 miles to Rae Lakes. We leap frogged with the brother-sister team. Our original plan was to camp at Dollar Lake - which would have been 9 miles - but the ranger told us the area was closed to camping for restoration.

The brother-sister team were going to push on. They got to the campsite right before us. She was nursing a huge blister, so I gave her one of my blister donuts.

There is a swinging suspension bridge before the campsite. For those who know about my suspension bridge dreams and the the previous hike when we went in search for such a bridge - this was a treat. Only one person at a time was supposed to be on the bridge. It definitely swayed as you walked and though you knew you couldn't fall through the gaps - it was eerie. Steve told me this is a famous back country bridge - because it is so well constructed. It is beautiful. I ended up walking back and forth across this bridge to overcome my fear. By the next day - I had it down.

I picked our next campsite and we had all afternoon here. People started pouring in - because this is also the junction of the John Muir trail. All the hikers from all three Paradise Valley campsites stopped here as well. Then a large group of high school kids and their six pack horses arrived. It was cool to see the horses go by.

The brother-sister team had decided to stay. The brother went off to climb one of the surrounding peaks. Their campsite was overrun by the large group who wanted to "share" it and they were thinking about moving. Finally the group found a distant site and disappeared. It quieted down. The sky was black and it looked like a big storm was headed our way. We battened down the hatches - but it ended up disappearing over a ridge.

I started reading "Three Cups of Tea". A hardback book I debated about carrying in. It was for book club the following week, so I decided to carry the weight. It was definitely worth it. The first chapter is about Greg Mortensen attempting to climb K2 in Pakistan and spending the night on a glacier with just a blanket. I read it aloud to Bill. It was a perfect book for this trip.

Day 3
Woods Creek Crossing -Rae Lakes
7 miles

We woke up to clear skies. Since we knew everyone would be heading to Rae lakes we were up early again. We always got a strong start, avoided the heat of the day - important to Bill and got the best campsite - important to me.

We hiked through a beautiful valley and finally arrived at Dollar Lake. We were the first ones there - I was able to skinny dip in the surprisingly warm water. I thought I would dip in and out - but the water was great. To have this gem of a lake to myself was a special treat indeed. You could see "the Fin" which is right about Rae Lakes. I ended up cutting the bottom of my foot - but the swim was worth it. I bled on a rock, enjoying the sun. Luckily this cut didn't bother me for the rest of the trip.

We packed off to Rae Lakes. A mile beyond Dollar Lake there was a bear locker and campsite at an unnamed lake. (Steve later told me this was Arrow Lake). Next time I would camp here instead of Woods Creek.

We arrived at Rae Lakes - beautiful lake dominated by the "Fin" and the the "Painted Lady". I found an amazing campsite right above the lake with great views of the lake. The campsite was open but rocks had been piled up as a windscreen. There was a tree at one end of the campsite. It started to cloud over so Bill put up the tent and we put the sleeping bags out to dry.

The rain started unexpectedly and although I got my sleeping bag inside in time - Bill's got pretty wet. It was just sprinkling, so I went for a walk to the upper lake. When I got back to camp there was a crack of lightening followed almost immediately by a clap of thunder. It was CLOSE! Then it started really pouring.

Bill and I at this point were so wet we didn't want to get into the tent and get the sleeping bags wet. We huddled under trees trying to get out of the brunt of the rain. We waited probably an hour and then it became clear it wasn't going to let up. We decided we would make a dash for the tent. I went in first - leaving my soaked rain jacket outside. Everything was relatively dry. The tent was holding up well. Bill came in. It is a very small tent - just room for the two of us and we huddled in the center - trying not to touch the sides of the tent.

I read Three Cups of Tea. Bill tried not move. I was taking serious inventory of what clothes were dry and planning what to do if it rained all night. We talked about whether we should try the pass the next day and decided to wait and see.

After three hours, the rain petered off and then stopped. We emerged thankfully from the tent. Slowly the sky cleared. We ate dinner and Bill called it a night. I watched the alpine glow on the Painted Lady and watched the moon rise over the lake.

The preacher, his wife and the brother who had way too much "medicine" and I played a card game called Wizard. It was like spades - but with two extra wild cards. We stopped the game long enough to watch a spectacular sunset.

I was really cold that night until I zipped the sleeping bag all the way to my chin. Then I warmed up. I was anxious to see what the morning would bring.

Day 4
Rae Lakes - Junction Meadows
10 miles

This was the big day. It was a little overcast when we woke up. We tried to decide whether to do the pass or not. We heard a long rockslide in the distance.Our packs were wet and heavy - but the weather seemed to be clearing. Of course - it had been perfectly clear the previous morning. I didn't want any lightening or rain while we were climbing the pass. We decided to go for it.

We were on the trail at 7:15 a.m. We wanted to get over that pass fast. A group of Canadians and Europeans passed us. We played leap frog with them all the way to the top. The pass was brutal. A little under 1,200 foot elevation gain but over 2.5 miles. But you were climbing from 10,800 to right under 12,000 feet! You could feel the air getting thinner as you climbed. My climbing method is to make small goals - the end of a switchback or a tree up ahead - something reachable. Then stop and take three breaths. Others would climb farther, faster, but my technique worked for Bill and I.

We passed another group who were trying to dry out their sleeping bags and tents in the sun. They had been out for 28 days and had started in Lake Tahoe. The group ahead of us had stopped. One of the guys had a GPS and said "only 500 feet to go!" I knew 500 feet was still a very long way. The switchbacks seemed endless. The woman in front of us called to her teammate far above us, "Can you see the top?" "What did he say?" I asked. "Not yet" she replied.

Even when we could see the top - progress was slow. The last 50 feet were the steepest but suddenly we were there! The views in both directions were spectacular. What a feeling of accomplishment. We had arrived at 9:15. The other two groups had been on top for awhile and were taking summit shops. After one of the photos, the digital camera got dropped and broken. There was a big silence. What a bummer! One of the women took our summit shots. In one direction you could see the 14,000 foot peaks of the Sierras. Unfortunately - her thumb covered most of the picture. (At least she didn't break the camera).

The wind felt good at the summit - but we were ready to head down. It was all downhill from here. In addition to the cut on my foot, I had developed blisters on my toes and a boil on my neck where the backpack rubbed me. It felt great to be going downhill. The trail crew was working on fixing a rockslide that affected part of the trail. They had climbed up with shovels and were working away clearing the path. I thanked each of them as we hiked by.

We came down the mountain quickly. I started getting a shin splint on my left leg. Bill wanted to hike at least to Spinx Creek (17 miles) or all the way out (21 miles). I finally convinced him this was not in the cards for me. I was beat and we barely made it to Junction Meadows.

I hadn't eaten anything but a cheese stick and I lost it while we were looking for the campground. Bill finally chose a campsite for us. He chose a great spot next to the river with a great view of a rock formation. He set up the tent because it looked like more rain be coming our way. I went to soak my feet in the river and collapsed on a flat rock. Bill built a smoky fire - thinking it might discourage the bear from coming around. I read and relaxed and recovered my good spirits. I was thankful we stopped here so I could get a fresh start in the morning. I sat by the fire enjoying the sunset.

When I got in the tent we heard the guys in the next campsite banging pots together. We stuck our heads out of the tent to see the bear loping down the trail. He didn't come back and Bill and I slept like logs.

Day 5
Junction Meadows - Roads End
10 miles

We both woke refreshed. My shin splint was better. The packs felt light and we were off. The trail was great down meadows at a gentle slope. We both felt strong and covered ground quickly. I could appreciate the scenery and started singing as we went. We reached the Sphinx Creek campground. We caught up to the preacher and company. We leap frogged with a father-son team from Pennsylvania and a group of guys from Atlanta. The view of the valley was great.

The pack had finally merged into my body. We completed the loop and headed over the last two flat miles. Even here I felt strong, like the horse heading for the stables. We started running into the day hikers and we felt like real backpackers which we were.

We made it out in four hours. We turned in our bear canisters and headed to the snack bar and store. I ordered a well deserved cheeseburger and onion rings. Delicious! We saw every group we had seen on the trail (except the brother-sister team). There was a real feeling of camaraderie. We all knew what we have been through.

It was an amazing trip in a truly gorgeous place. We both felt so blessed to be able to experience the constant beauty. Bill loved the trip as much as I did. We both came out high on nature. We didn't even mind the six hour drive back to Lompico - though we were stiff every time we got out of the car. We just relived the trip and counted our blessings.

Lessons Learned: Don't procrastinate on getting permits. Always pack your rain gear and expect the worst weather, no matter what the forecast. A good book is worth it's weight. More whiskey - less beer. Next time I'm buying a thermarest chair!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Brokeoff Mountain

Lassen National Park
7 miles, elevation gain: 2,600
Elevation start: 5535, end: 9235 feet
Hiking time: 6.5 hours
Fawn, Julie

No, that is not Brokeback Mountain and no, there are no sheep on this trail. Ever since the movie, I have to think carefully for the name of this trail.

I wanted to hike to Brokeoff Mountain while I was in Redding. Bill and I had done this hike several years ago and I had remembered it as a beautiful and challenging hike. I wanted to see how it felt since I’m in much better shape now and thought it would be good training for the upcoming Rae Lakes loop. My mom was determined to find me a hiking partner, since she didn’t want me hiking alone.

She emailed her friend, Fawn, and said her daughter was in town and wanted to hike in Lassen. Fawn emailed back, suggesting Brokeoff Mountain. The die was cast. Two other women from Mom’s “coffee” group thought about coming, but Helga had broken her leg recently so they decided to pass.

I met Fawn at her house at 6:30 which felt really early, but we wanted to miss the heat. The trailhead is right before the SW entrance to the park, so we drove down to Red Bluff. We were taking my car, but Fawn knew where we were going.

It turns out Fawn and I have quite a bit in common and got on wonderfully. We got off I-5 at Red Bluff. We were busy talking away. I thought this was an alternate route, driving through orchards. I said – “I don’t remember this way to Lassen, what town is this?” Then Fawn realized that we were so engrossed in our conversation that we were on Highway 99 at Los Molinas and had missed the Highway 36 turnoff. She assumed since I was driving, that I knew where I was going. A very false assumption. J We turned around and headed back to Red Bluff and watched carefully for Highway 36.

The drive was beautiful, another clear day. You see unusual bluffs from the road as you head towards Lassen. We were on the trail by 9:00 a.m. Two other couples in the parking lot left at a lively pace, while we were putting on our hiking boots. It turns out that Fawn has done a lot of hiking and backpacking – just not lately. She hadn’t had her hiking boots on for several years.

We loaded up and hit the trail. I tried to do this hike at the same time last year, but at that time there was hip deep snow. Not so this year. The only snow we saw were a few patches below the peak. The beginning of the trail is lush with bushes and wildflowers. Fawn is a gardener and quite knowledgeable about wildflowers. She pointed out beautiful orange Columbine, Stickweed, Stinky Mint and Elegant Kitty Ears. I was pleased to see so many wildflowers.

The first part of the hike is past ponds, marshes and forest. The hike is a continuous uphill climb. The temperature was pleasant and there were constant breezes to cool us. The trail crosses a little creek filled with flowers. As you climb you get a great view of Lake Almanor in the distance. We stopped to enjoy the view. This was our first blister break. I was still nursing the Contra blister and Fawn has incredibly sensitive skin, so both her heels were raw. I had brought a blister donut and lots of band aids, so we did repairs.

As you hike the mountain looms above you. It looked like the trail crosses the face of the mountain in a very scary fashion, but I recalled from last hike that it went around the more sloping backside. Fawn wasn’t intimidated. Her attitude towards hiking is take it as it comes. Stop whenever you need to. There was still plenty of uphill. You climbed up through rocks and wound your way around the far side of the mountain. Now you had beautiful views to the south. The trail narrowed to a mountain pathway and the switchbacks began. We stopped for a second blister break for Fawn. She put on fresh band aids and doubled up her socks. She took it all in stride – so to speak – not complaining, just hiking along.

There was a great view of Shasta in the distance, framed by a group of trees. Then the switchbacks headed east and you were onto the final climb. There was an arch between two high points which had an incredible view of Shasta. There are three points at the top. Fawn said when she has done the hike with larger groups they lunch at the various high points.

We climbed to the final peak. It is very dramatic when you reach the top. It is a small round plateau with an incredible 360 degree view. Shasta, Lassen, Lake Almanor and the Trinity Alps all visible in the distance. It is a view that you have worked for and it fun to see just high you have climbed. Very rewarding.

The two couples were up on top. The older couple was taking photos of the woman striking yoga poses (something her yoga group does). The younger couple was videotaping the moment on there video cam. We had the guy take our photo with the throwaway camera. We were definitely the least high tech of the bunch.

We sat down to eat lunch. A hummingbird came zipping by. It surprised me that it would fly so high - such amazing little creatures. I enjoyed the view and Fawn assumed the “flattened Fawn” position from her backpacking days. She said when backpacking she always tried to find a nice flat place to take a quick siesta. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful spot.

The couples left and a young guy came up. The trail wasn’t very crowded for a Sunday on a beautiful clear day. We discovered a metal container which was stuffed with little pieces of paper, business cards or whatever people could find to write on. The closest you could come to a log. Fawn and I left our names and she was able to smash all the papers back into the container.

We headed down the mountain at a much quicker pace. The views were spectacular on the way down as well. When we got down to the marsh we took off our hiking boots and waded in the stream and played in the mud. The water wasn’t nearly as cold as the icy water coming off of Shasta. The younger couple was resting there as well, since they were having trouble with their knees.

Fawn and I had a long discussion of whether this was a difficult or strenuous hike. She didn’t think so, but she thinks of difficult as having to hang off a cliff or cross a slippery log across a rushing creek. I generally think of difficulty in terms of elevation gain – though I will take scary factor into consideration. When I went to the official Lassen website they called it strenuous and said it would take 7 hours to hike. We hiked it in 6 ½ hours – but that was with lots of stops and at a slow space.

As we came into the meadows there were several different kinds of butterflies floating amongst the wildflowers – yellow, blue, white, black and a single Monarch. It was great to see such variety. The rest of the hike down was quite pleasant. We were back at the car by 3:30. We got out of the hiking boots - ahhhhh! – always a good moment.

We headed to Mineral where stopped to have our post celebratory drink (the usual Bloody Mary for me, beer for Fawn). We ordered onion rings (nothing like fried food after a nice healthy activity). The onion rings came hanging off a little contraption that looked like a coffee mug holder, complete with an indentation for ranch dressing.

It had been a wonderful day. Fawn was great company and the views from the mountains are still with me. I’m so glad I did this hike and met a new hiking partner and friend. It is the best hike in Lassen – even better than the hike to Lassen Peak.

Lessons Learned: Pay attention when driving to the trailhead. Never try to estimate how long a hike will take – it takes a long as it takes.

Clear Creek Springs

Mt. Shasta Wilderness Area
July 14, 2007
5 miles, 2,000 elevation gain
4 hours hiking time
Sierra Club Hike

While staying in Redding I read that there was going to be a Sierra Club hike in the Mt. Shasta Wilderness area. I emailed the leader, but was having trouble with my mom’s computer so I called him on Friday morning. Turns out I got the last spot. The Mt. Shasta Wilderness Area limits hiking groups to 10 people.

I was to meet the group at the McCloud Ranger Station at 9:00 a.m. I left the house on Saturday morning at 7:30 to make sure I had allowed enough time. It was a beautiful clear day – the clearest I have had in Redding on this visit. As I was driving north on I-5 I got a great view of both Castle Crags and Mt. Shasta. Lots of big trucks on the road made it a little hairy.

I was the first one there and went in and got hiking information. Bob and Lisa – the leader and co-leader showed up shortly. It turns out Lisa was a librarian in Siskiyou County, who was thinking of applying for a job in Nelson, British Columbia – so we had lots to talk about. The rest of the group trickled in. By 9:20 we decided to leave without one of the women who didn’t show. It was too bad – since others had wanted the spot.

We split into two cars. I rode with Bob and Lisa. We drove up Highway 89 to Pilgrim Creek Road and then a left on the dirt Widow Creek Road. This road was pretty good in the beginning, but got a little gnarly at the end. It was 8 miles back to the trailhead. Not a road I would want to take my car on. We arrived at the trailhead.

As we were loading up, Bob pointed out some large tracks in the dust of the parking lot. He circled them and asked us to identify them. We thought they might be dog, but they didn’t have any claw marks so they must be a cat and as large as they were – they had to be mountain lion. Bob showed us our route on his laminated map and we were off.

The group was made up of Dave a retired Pathologist, Carol who had lived in Canada quite a bit, Trisha a fast hiker, Ute and Pat who were German and Diane who had moved to Redding fairly recently. It was a nice group of people. Dave set the pace and talked about the trees and the wildflowers. The group tended to bunch up together, so I moved to the back where I could have more space. Lisa was a good sweep and gave lots of room.

We started through the forest at a steady climb. We came to an overlook where you could see Mud Canyon and it’s waterfall. Bob told is it is a very unstable area to hike. He said he had never seen the waterfall so large and it was because the glaciers were melting so fast. There was hardly any snow on Shasta – though there was more back here then on the front side facing Redding.

Cold Springs is one of the routes to climb Mt. Shasta. Bob said it wasn’t a popular route because there isn’t as much snow and although it is less steep, there is a lot of scree and it is too much of a slog for most climbers.

As we climbed higher and out of the forest you had great views of Mt. Lassen behind us. Some of the mountainsides were clear cut and you could see McCloud below us. We were blessed to have such a clear day.

We took a very slow pace. I hung back to avoid the pack. Ute and Pat struggled a bit with the altitude and elevation gain. When you were above tree line it was a barren landscape. It reminded me of climbing Shasta – which was what we were doing. At one point, you could actually see the summit – which you can’t see from Redding. It was hard to believe that I had climbed all the way up there. That hike came back to me in all it’s effort. Bob has been a guide on Shasta for several years.

Clear Springs was a small swatch of green in a barren landscape. We climbed up to where the water came out of the mountain. Since it is an underground stream with fresh born water straight off the glaciers we didn’t need to treat it. There were delicate plants – Bob said it was heather and if you stepped on it, it could take 75 years to grow back. He was good about keeping everyone off the plants.

After enjoying the view and my lunch, I went down to the creek and soaked my feet in the icy water. I still had blisters from Contra Dancing and my band aid had come off. The water felt great. I found a nice rock and lay in the sun and listened to the creek. It was an alpine moment. Went over to the ledge to get a better shot of Lassen.

The group was soon ready to head back down with Lisa leading. I held back again and enjoyed the solitude. I can be very social when hiking but today I preferred to be alone – often breaking into song. I’m finding myself singing now when I hike and bike. A new habit. If I stayed after African Dance I might actually learn the lyrics. J

Had a nice chat with Bob on the way down about backpacking, guiding and climbing Shasta . I may do it again next year in preparation for the climb of Kilimanjaro in 2009. The hike was described as moderate and that’s how it felt. I had no trouble with the elevation gain – though 2,000 over 2.5 miles is pretty steady. It was warm, but there were lots of pleasant breezes. It was great to be up on the mountain again.

We got back to the trailhead and after talking about some of the environmental issues in the area loaded into the cars. Pat, the other driver, was driving a Honda – like mine – and she said she had found the road pretty rough coming in. We ended up losing them on the way out and though Bob waited for awhile, we didn’t see them again until we were back on the main road. The drive out seemed to take much longer than the drive in. Often that is the case.

I have decided to join the Sierra Club again after this very enjoyable hike. It’s a good option as opposed to hiking alone. I met nice people and have new potential hiking partners in Redding. It wasn’t the same as hiking with the Scruz Hiker’s group – you can’t get a more fantastic group of people than that, but it was a great day on the mountain.

Lessons Learned: Setting your own pace and having your natural space is really important on a hike.

Fall Creek

Henry Cowell
July 30th
2 hours – 4 miles
Jo, Barbara, Graciela, Jan, Paula, Julie

I wanted to do a quick, close hike on my first day off, so we decided to do Fall Creek. We met at Safeway in Felton and carpooled up the road to Fall Creek parking lot.

At the trailhead was a sign warning there were yellow jackets on the trail. We followed the trail down along the creek. It seemed dry even under the redwoods. At the “Y” we took the right hand trail and headed for the Barrel Mill Site. When we reached the turnoff some hikers were just coming out. They said they had stepped on a nest of yellow jackets on the trail and they all had gotten stung.

Barbara is very susceptible to wasp stings, so we decided not to take the trail. Graciela had seen the sign and thought someone had lost a yellow jacket. She couldn’t understand why that would stop us from taking the trail, because someone else had lost a jacket there. Eventually, we cleared up the misunderstanding.

We headed for the Lime Kilns. Barbara and I were in front and took the sharp turn to the left. Barbara sat on a log and I wandered around scoping out the best lunch spot. When I got back the rest of the group still hadn’t arrived. Since they had been right behind us, we knew they must have missed the turn off. Barbara and I went hiking after them calling “You are going the wrong way! Come back!” Eventually, they heard us and came back.

We had a nice shared lunch at the Lime Kilns. I hadn’t brought much food – but Graciela had a delicious sandwich for me. We headed back to the cars. It was a very short hike and people wanted more, but the two drivers – Barbara and I – needed to get back to town.

Everyone except Barbara headed over to Monty’s Log Cabin which was packed. The woman bartender got frustrated after a bit of indecision and change in drink orders. Jo was going to get a beer until she saw how strong the Bloody Mary was going to be, so she changed her order. The woman bartender scolded, “LADIES, get it together here.” We sat outside which was quite pleasant. I like this picture even if it is a bit blurred. Maybe how we were after finishing the Bloody Marys.

We then headed to Safeway and probably did more walking then we did on the hike. They are renovating the store – so we kept walking up and down the aisles looking for things. I was shopping for the Canada Day Party and kept running into everyone else as they shopped. Most fun I’ve had shopping in a long time.

Another quick sweet adventure with the hiking group.

Three Lessons Learned: Confirm time commitments before hiking. Don’t get separated at trail junctions. Be decisive when ordering drinks at Monty’s Log Cabin!