Trinity Alps Wilderness Area, CA

Canyon Creek Day Hike - Stuart Fork to Long Canyon Backpack - June 17-21, 2005

Trip theme: "Calamity Jane"

The primary goal of our trip to California was to summit Mt. Shasta. However being a bunch of flatlanders from the Delaware area we needed to toughen up a little bit instead of racing from sea level to 14,000 feet. Our original plan had some of us flying in on Friday, summiting Half Dome on Saturday, then meeting up with others flying in on Saturday, and then doing a 3 day backpack trip on the other side of Yosemite before heading to Shasta. Everything was well laid out ahead of time and then I got a call from the National Park Service a week before we were to leave. They said that my Yosemite campsite reservations were cancelled because the site was still covered in snow. I said "uh oh" and checked the snow conditions in the park. No cables were installed on Half Dome and the Tioga road was still closed with no opening day in sight. Calamity! We very quickly replanned to backpack in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area which is at a much lower elevation and closer to the ocean. I scrambled around on the internet to find possible routes and maps and got enough information to get us by.

The Friday contingent successfully made it to Sacramento, however in my rush to replan the trip I had forgotten to bring the paperwork for the rental car I had reserved. No big deal, we'll just go to every counter until we find the one who has my reservation. Calamity! None of the car rental places have ever heard of me (note: it turns out Alamo was who my reservation was with but they apparently lost it). Fortunately we were able to get another SUV with Avis but unfortunately it cost us an additional $75. Then off we set to Weaverville. We arrived later that evening to find it pouring rain. Calamity! What happened to sunny California? So instead of tenting it Friday night we stayed in a hotel.

Next morning we get up to do a day hike in Canyon Creek to find it still pouring rain. Calamity! Well we're a bunch of tough Saturday hikers so rain or shine we're hiking. However we did decide to book the rooms for another night because there was no end in sight to the rain. En route to the trailhead we stopped off at the Weaverville ranger station for some advise on a backpacking route. The lady ranger we talked to discouraged us from doing a loop up Hobo Gulch (due to dangerous stream crossings) and instead suggested that we put in at Stuarts Fork and do a car shuttle over to Long Canyon. With well laid backpacking plans in hand, along with many excellent maps, we set off for our rainy day hike. At this point it was me, Ed, Tom, John and Peter. Shortly into the hike Peter had an intestinal emergency. Calamity! A quick lesson in how to sh*t in the woods ensued and the crisis was quickly resolved. Ed, Tom and I were moving along at a pretty good clip so we decided to separate from John and Peter and meet back at the car later. Our goal was to reach Canyon Creek lakes and turnaround. Unfortunately the last stream crossing was too dangerous and we were forced to turnaround. We talked to a guy who was camping up there who indicated it has been raining for 50 hours straight. I'm sure this hike would be nice if you could see something other than the fog, but at least we got in 14 miles with some elevation gain to 5,000 feet although the inside of my boots were completely wet. We were to meet up with the rest of our party at 5PM in Weaverville at a restaurant. Calamity! The restaurant is closed. We drop off Ed to wait in the rain while Tom and I decide to get a beer. Fortunately we shortly met up with the rest of our group, George and Neal.

Sunday morning found the rain clearing and us optimistic about our upcoming backpack. We left my car at the far end of the shuttle and then returned to set off from Stuarts Fork. The trail is a gentle climb with no steep hills and several stream crossings. The stream crossings would normally have been pretty easy but were made somewhat difficult by the snow melt and the excessive rain, but nothing we couldn't readily handle. We had to switch to Teva's for one of them and this was the first time I could recall that I actually had to take my boots off to cross a stream. The pace was a little slow so at one point I bombed ahead and managed to get about a half hour rest break at a very nice spot along Stuarts Fork where a side trail goes up to Alpine Lake. Later that afternoon we arrived at Morris Meadow. At first I was disappointed but we kept going in search of a campsite. Good thing we did. The trail opened up into a beautiful meadow with fantastic views. This was absolutely one of the prettiest places to camp I have come across. Not getting enough miles, all of us except John and Peter set off for a day hike in an attempt to reach Emerald Lake. Shortly after leaving camp we came across "Bob" a new park service employee photographing needed trail work. "Bob" seemed slightly dazed and it became apparent why his boss had asked us to look out for him when we were in the parking lot. While we were talking to "Bob", George yells "Bear!". We turn to see a black bear run across the trail and into the woods. Cool! Now I've seen my first bear in the wilderness too. A little ways further down the trail, George yells "Bear!". This time we look up on the side of the mountains to see a black bear glissading down a snow field. Double cool! Ed and I decided to forge forward while George and Tom decided to watch the bear (Neal had already bailed). Our turnaround time hit and no Emerald Lake. Screwed again on the alpine lake. Tonight we built a fire, chased off obnoxious deer, decided that we need to go over the pass the next day instead of stopping short, and apparently punctured Neal's Thermarest.

Monday morning was still nice and we set off about on the Deer Creek trail making a steep climb almost right out of camp. Calamity! Peter is already sucking wind with little chance of continuing along our chosen route. John catches up to us sans backpack and it is decided that John and Peter would turnaround and go back to the car at the Stuarts Fork trailhead. Neal also is slightly struggling and decides to go back with them as well. Since my car is at the far end and Neal's car is at the near end, this works out fine. I give John a map and we agree to meet the next morning in Weaverville at 10AM. The rest of us continue along Deer Creek at a gentile climb. I had just gotten my boots dry when I dunked into a creek and got them wet again. After awhile we got to snow line and had to start route finding a little to maintain the trail. A short while after that we got to Deer Creek which turned out to be a life threatening stream crossing. Well not really, but it was certainly the toughest of the trip. Tom and I went with Teva's, Ed went with boots and no socks, and George went bare foot. The water was mid-calf to knee level and very very cold. We wound up crossing the creek two more times (stupid trail route) before the trail gave way to all snow. I post holed my way forward before standing at a bare spot in front of the climb to Deer Lake. Calamity! It was steep, covered in loose wet snow, and looked to have had recent avalanches. Couple that with the failure of the compass on my Suunto to function properly (iron in the hills?), no ice axes among us, and our complete unfamiliarity with the trail on the other side we made the difficult decision to turnaround. Only problem was our car was at Long Canyon. We rationalized that if we humped it back we could either catch the others or alternately we could get up very early in the morning and certainly catch them before they got to the car. The way back the Deer Creek trail was uneventful except that I dumped in the same frickin' creek and got my boots wet again. We bushed wacked around two of the Deer Creek crossings making only one crossing which was pretty easy (note to park service: the bush wack was easy, how about a re-route!). Ultimately like the Energizer bunny we just kept going and going and going. After 20 long miles for the day, we finally were able to agree on a campsite and settled in for the night and another campfire.

Next morning Ed, George and Tom are leaving camp at 5:30AM and just waking me up. I stroll out about 6AM. We were a little surprised that we didn't catch the rest of our group the previous night, but figured they must have just camped at the trailhead campground. If we start off early we'll catch them before they even break camp. I'm strolling along and am almost to the trailhead when Ed comes walking back up the trail. Calamity! They are not at the trailhead, their car is gone. Crap, what a bunch of pansies. There are no other people around this time of the morning, so we set off down the dirt road to a small resort about 1.5 miles away. At the resort nothing is open, so we leave George and Tom while Ed and I walk the additional 1.5 miles out to the main highway. There we commence to laying our fate at the hands of strangers, namely hitchhiking. Amazingly the 6th car stopped and picked us up. A guy hauling mulch was a backpacker and was glad to help us out. In fact he took us all the way to our car up a side road saving us a bunch of walking, Thanks! We get the car, George and Tom, and make it to town at exactly the time and place we are suppose to meet. Calamity! They are not there either. We drive around downtown a little looking for their car, stopped in at the ranger station to complain about the advise they gave us, and went back to the meeting place. This time Neal found us and led us back to the original hotel where they had stayed last night. At this point we are confirming plans for getting to Shasta. Calamity! Plans are developing, changing, morphing, canceling. Fortunately my car is heading to Shasta regardless so the other plans are amusing. Ultimately it is decided we'll all camp together at Castle Crag's SP tonight and split up in the morning. We decided today to get our rental gear and make an acclimatization trip to the Bunny Flat trailhead on Shasta. This all went well and eventually we found ourselves at dinner at a place I like in Shasta. Calamity! Peter lost John's cell phone somewhere in the parking lot at Bunny Flat. John can't eat dinner with a missing cell phone, so they convince Neal to loan them his rental car to go look for it. We finished dinner an hour and a half later and there is no sign of them. We decide to run some errands and come back. Still no sign of them. We decide to drive up to Bunny Flat and look for them, no sign of them. We get back to the restaurant, no sign of them or Neal now. So we bag it and head back to camp, still no sign of them. Eventually they came back with a story of a found cell phone and a very kind person from Shasta who found it. Thankfully nightfall came and today was finally over.

Overall the Trinity Alps Wildneress Area is a nice place to backpack for someone who is looking for a high mountain feel without the elevation or the gut busting climbs.

Putting on our rain gear at the Canyon Creek trailhead. Tom, Ed and Mark make it to snow line.
The "view" back down Canyon Creek Setting off for our backpack at Stuart Fork. George, Peter, Tom, Ed, John, and Neal
Trinity Alps sign Waiting for the others along Stuart Fork
The incredible Morris Meadow Ed and Mark at the extent of our day hike
Looking back towards Stuart Fork from Deer Creek Come on guys its easy!
Ed attempting to get swept away in Deer Creek There seems to be something in my boots
Heading up to the Deer Lake pass. Uh oh.... Tom practicing his snow travel skills
A picture of 3 big chickens. With the 4th behind the camera. It was steeper than it looks Ed contemplates his failure at Deer Lake
Gee, this trail looks awful familiar At least I was able to get a much better picture of this in the afternoon on the way back.

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