Dates: September 1st-3rd 2016 Where: Trinity Alps Wilderness, Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California Permit: Free at Weaverville Ranger Station!!! Who: Ben and Sarah Miles: 18 round trip
Thursday Sept 1st: The down and dirty; we woke up hella early and drove 4.5 hours from Oakland, Ca. and picked up our free permit outside the Weaverville ranger station. Sarah made delicious fried rice to eat on the drive up to sustain us and it was AWESOME. We then drove some more to the Long Canyon Trailhead, got our shit together, and then starting hiking uphill FOREVER. Seriously, you will just go uphill all day, so many feet (about 4,000ft of gain over 8 miles) This trail does not play or lull you into some sense of flat security, you are gonna work for it and it is worth it! So up and up and up we go.
Sarah was feeling a lot better this time, since last year she had some wicked bad GI distress on the way in, no bueno (this would not be a backpacking blog if we did not talk about poop right?) But I digress, we worked our way up into the mountains, heading up shady switchbacks with little streams running over them, so cute! We only saw one couple coming out and that was it for the day. We took a wonderful lunch break stretched out on some huge rocks before hitting the last big climb to Bee Tree a Gap.
Once over the gap the trail winds down a ways on thin switchbacks above Deer Lake before climbing back up the mountain side on sandy slopes to Summit Lake.
We debated several options for where to stay the first night and decided since it was still early afternoon we would bypass Summit Lake, where we stayed last year, and try for Diamond Lake.
Turns out this was an EXCELLENT decision, it was beautiful and we had it all to ourselves. It has a pretty rad infinity pool situation when you get down to it and a great campsite with a view of the valley behind with the white trinities looming beyond that. There was some smoke rolling into the valley and along the white Trinities from distant fires but it never came farther than the valley below us.
To add to the awesomeness the sunset was out of this world and the bug situation very minimal, especially compared to Oregon standards. I wandered around getting pictures and enjoying the changing sky. Sarah crawled into her sleeping bag as soon as it got chilly but I had a hard time tearing myself away from the views.
There was just so much pretty and solitude! I finally got exhausted from the long day of driving and hauling ass up hill and crawled into bed. Thankful to be just where I am, in this moment, with someone awesome to share it with.
Friday Sept 2nd: Our luck continued with a wonderful sunrise the next morning and we slowly packed up to head around the loop clockwise to Luella Lake, planning on staying at Summit Lake our second night to make our exit the next morning shorter. Plus Summit Lake is really fucking awesome. It has great tent sites, views, and excellent places to poop. All a hiker of trashy status really needs to be happy.
The morning held some cloud cover which made hiking pleasant and we made great time to Luella Lake where there was a big snow patch lingering in the shade. We took a nice break here and watched several naughty chipmunks running over the red Periodite rocks.
It was hard to leave this enchanting little lake but we had a big climb coming up and there is only one very small and slanty campsite here. So off we go into the meadow down below to climb back up to Deer Lake that we passed yesterday on the way in.
As we dropped into the valley we saw two people headed our way, our first humans since yesterday morning, score! We greeted them but they were not in the mood to chat and headed quickly past us. The valley here is very pretty and I hope to explore it more next time we come up here.
After dropping into the valley we of course had to climb back out of it on some steep switchbacks, stopping occasionally to catch our breath and look back at the valley stretching beyond. Just as I was taking in the views and thinking this is the perfect place for bears, we ran into some pretty fresh bear scat right off the trail. We never did see it’s owner but be aware there are bears here and maybe carry some bear spray if you are by yourself. I also wish I had taken a picture of the bear poo, I will always regret that I did not.
Shortly after the bear poo we heard Deer Creek on our left and finally knew that we are getting close to the top of the climb. We crest the little pass and reached the outlet of Deer Lake, slowly flowing down the rocks to the valley below. We cruised over the outlet and admired Deer Lake from a new perspective. Deer Lake is very picturesque with the big grey peaks surrounding it. I would not mind staying on the little campsite that is up on the hill from it some time either. You can see the little trail to the campsite going up from Deer Lake in the picture below. We made great time and hit Summit Lake around noon. There were two men ahead of us on the trail to the lake and they choose a spot around the North side, we decided to stay in the area near the trail we had last year and hoped we would luck out that not many other people would show up. We set up camp and headed out to summit Siligo Peak, which was challenging but felt pretty safe, even Sarah who hates heights did it! We were rewarded with views all around the Four Lakes Loop.
Several other groups did show up throughout the day when we returned but they all choose spots along the North side of the Lake so we had our camp area all to ourselves. Although in such a quiet spot it is hard not to hear your neighbors, especially when they let their dog run all over the place and through your camp with no recall, yell talk, and some others light an illegal fire…so there was that. So much for Leave No Trace and destroying desperately needed downed wood for this rocky, pretty treeless area but I digress. We took several deep breathes and enjoyed the beauty around us anyway, hoping that we would not wake up to a forest fire. I dipped my toes in the chilly lake and read The Hobbit for the hundredth time until dinner time. We ate and then stashed our bear cans in a little rocky shelf before snuggling into our comfortable tent for the night. I’ve seen lots of deer poop in this area maybe they only come out at night here? I dunno.
Saturday Sept 3rd: The morning dawned bright and clear so we quickly packed up to hike in the cooler morning hours. We left in high spirits, eager to escape our not very thoughtful neighbors, and the likely hoards of hikers coming in for the long labor day weekend. I caught a cool reflection of Siligo Peak in Deer Lake down below us as we chugged out and over the gap. We saw several tents in the two available spots at Deer Lake by people who likely hiked in Friday afternoon, smart idea. It was also getting really hot so we were glad to escape the heat and be walking downhill all day towards cold beers.
On the way out we ran into tons of hikers and dogs coming up, some in large groups of 4-6 people. I definitely had to wonder where everyone was going to be staying tonight. There are very limited established campsites in this area and Summit Lake is the only area that offers more than 1 or 2 possible sites. Diamond Lake, Luella Lake, and Deer Lake are very limited in flat areas. The two times we have been to this wilderness during weekdays we have run into barely any people, sometimes not seeing any for 24+ hours, and that is when I would recommend going.
Several groups asked us about where they should head and if we had seen many other people. As they day grew on I had to keep increasing the number from 5 to 12 to 30 something people we had seen coming up on our way down, I lost count there were so many. 😳
Basically we passed a billion people and were sad/glad to be leaving and going to get burgers SOOOO soon. The trip down is rough on the knees and pretty exposed in some places but the switchbacks are well graded. The last mile or two feels like it never ends and I kept thinking just around this corner … no, okay just around this corner must be the trailhead … nope! We did finally make it there around 11am, back to the bustling trailhead that had maybe 3 cars (including ours) when we hiked in to now having over 30 cars parked in every crevice! And some people who were just starting to hike in, yikes. Soon we were at our car trying to hide behind the doors to change into clean clothes and shortly back on the road down the mountain to Woody’s Brewery in Redding, Ca. Definitely recommend this place if you are near by, really good food and beer. Cheers to another great trip!