My summer was about to end, whether I was ready or not. All I had done this season was go to a few baseball games, and a pre-season football game. I nursed my car back to health, and that made creative financing a much more difficult task. I had enjoyed a few day hikes, but I was missing something. I missed camping. More to the point, I missed camping my way. So this weekend a friend and I left the car at a parking lot, and decided that we should camp 10 miles into the Trinity Alps. There is this place called Boulder Creek Lakes, so why not go there. As if we had thrown a dart at a Topo-Map of the Shasta-Trinity Forest we packed up our stuff and headed out. Boulder Creek Lakes are not big lakes by any means, but the one we stayed at was impressive nonetheless. It was the getting there that became the story.
It was decided that we would not try to leave the coast under the cover of an early dawn. We left the trailhead at about 3:30 pm and made our way up Canyon Creek at a brisk, but patient pace. We had a hard climb ahead near the entrance to the lake, so we decided to camp the night by Canyon Creek in one of the many sites by the shore. This evening shot of the creek catches Canyon Creek in a more sedated phase. Usually this creek is thundering down the canyon towards the Trinity River.
In the morning we were up and ready just after the early birds started their day. I was so pumped up for the climb to the lakes, I could barely remember to pack all of my gear. As you can see, I had my pack in top form with everything secured for what was going to be a hell of a hike. The distance was not all that far, but what I was unaware of was the physical challenge the terrain was going to present only a few hours later.
Hiking the Canyon Creek trail is made a little easier by the fact that we walk under a canopy of pine trees most of the way to the upper falls and trail junctions for the lakes. However, once we broke off towards Boulder Creek Lakes, we left behind the cover of the trees. With the heat of the day rising, I took this picture of the trees we left below. It was now a hike over steep terrain marked by granite and loose soil. That was OK, but we quicly realized that the trail was not maintained by the Forest Service.
Now a trail that is not maintained by the Forest Service means that only hikers like us keep it from disappearing by using it. If there is little traffic, the trail gets overrun by brush and tree branches. That is what we faced on a trail that was already full of rocks, roots, and steep slopes. With the heat pounding down on us we saw the top of the canyon bench getting closer. On that bench was the lake we were going to camp at. I looked back and I saw the small piece of granite exposed we crossed on our way up. That open space was about half way up this canyon wall. As the trail disappeared at times, we got cut up by branches, and very rough chinquapin. This two mile stretch was some of the hardest hiking I have ever done. Usually you can walk a hike and check out the scenery, and lose yourself in the moment. On this trail, I had to pay close attention to my footwork because of all of the rocks and roots that could trip me up at any time. I had to duck under branches with my heavy back pack. I used my arms to move more branches, and even to climb over/under huge rocks that were in the trail. We crept along so slow up this ridge, I wondered if all of this insanity was going to be worth it.
Oh it was so worth it! Once we crawled up a granite out cropping we hiked over the bench and made our way into a small meadow and then we saw it. The lake looked so magnificent in the bright sun at high noon (we made it to the lake by noon on Saturday). As you can guess by the picture, we were not exactly a stone’s throw from the shores of this lake. We still had to traverse another small ridge, and cross a small creek. After what we had just gone through, this was all gravy since we could actually see the lake.
Wow! We were so excited to be by the lake, but we were also itching to get our packs off and set up camp. First we had to find a campsite. It was good to see some trees after watching the tree line disappear as we hiked up the canyon. If we were lucky we would find some shade.
“Ah, yes Mr. Tapperass, we have been expecting you! As you can see, we have reserved your lakeside tent location. If there is anything else you need, please ring us. Enjoy your stay.”
I ended up going to find a high alpine bathroom, and then went off to explore the area. It was pretty cool, and I maybe should have taken my camera. I will be honest, I left with only a shovel and TP for my original mission. The thought of taking my camera did not even cross my mind. I hope you understand. For the first time this summer I had no phone calls, no sound of neighbors, and no sounds of cars. No urbanization to speak of! It was so nice to get away. Far away.
As with anything this good, it was fleeting. The very next morning we got up just as the sun was washing the tips of the peaks with rays. We had 10 miles to do back to the car, and back to civilization. As usual, a part of me wanted to stay. I wanted to say “the hell” with the world, and stay in this lakeside paradise.
However, I put on my pack, and headed back down the canyon, and back to my life. I needed a weekend like this, and now I can close the book on my summer in a proper way. Besides, whenever I have a bad day, I will just remember this image:
What a way to end my summer!!!