Ken T. from the California coast and Jay W. from the East Bay worked out the trip together. I think Ken picked the spot and Jay handled publicity and coordination. Both did an excellent job....the site was great and there was a good turnout.
We went up closer to Ken's country – the Trinity Alps in far Northern California. Three of us from the Bay Area arrived at the trailhead on Friday afternoon and everyone else dribbled in over the course of the rest of the evening. We relaxed around the fire Friday evening and crashed out, ready to get started in the morning.
Besides Ken from up North and Jay from the Bay, there was me and Cameron K., also from the East Bay, and three from the Santa Cruz area; the father and son team of Joshua B and Ocean (14) and their friend Katharina P. I'm new, but that seems like a pretty solid turnout, especially for a shoulder season trek. It's great to be able to hang out with people from all over that are really only connected through a common interest , the outdoors.
Ken chose for our destination “L” Lake, above Canyon Lakes, nine miles up at the end of the Canyon Lakes Trail in the Trinity Alps National Forest. The Trinity Alps are much lower than the Sierras, but every bit as beautiful and rugged. We topped out at about six thousand feet. I think the range is aptly named!
I had never been there before, but several in our group had been, some extensively; although I don't think anyone had been to this actual lake before. What a beautiful hike! The seven of us got started on Saturday morning bright and early at 9:30 in balmy weather and headed up the trail. The trail follows the walls of the canyon formed by Canyon Creek and climbs steadily. I would say the first part of the trail was on the easy side of moderate, but as we got closer to the pair of Canyon Lakes it was more on the difficult side of moderate.
Upper and Lower Canyon Lakes sit one above the other in a valley surrounded by high peaks and ridges, with the lakes nestled in the trees and the peaks and ridges just above treeline. We arrived and waited a bit at Upper Canyon Lake for Josh and Cameron to catch up from their shortcut. Then we got ready to push on.
To a casual observer (me) it appeared at first glance like there was no place else to go, we had reached the end of the road. But it turns out we could proceed up a gully and around a ridge and head up the three-quarters of a mile to “L” Lake. This part was on the hard side of difficult. Some of it was hand over foot scrambling. We were following what is called a “User Trail', which we discovered meant “Trail Nobody Can Find”. It was hard work, but only took about an hour or so. At one point I think I saw Billy Goat Gruff's cousin, but I might have been unconscious for a moment.
“L” Lake is set in what I learned is called a cirque, and a beautiful example of one at that. This particular cirque wrapped almost all the way around the lake. The lake itself was sort of a large pond and there weren't many good spots to set up camp, at least for seven people. We ended up finding a workable spot in amongst some trees and since it was getting late, we started getting ready for the night.
Once everyone was settled in, we ate dinner and hung out for a long while. At one point several deer showed up for their dinner, they got quite close to us. That kept us entertained for awhile, then it was time for bed. The evening was not nearly as cold as we anticipated, although there looked to be frost at the edges of some puddles in the morning. It was a great night, I for one slept very well thanks to the ProLite pad I borrowed from Jay (thanks Jay). A vast improvement over closed cell foam.
Once we were all crashed out, the deer came right on into camp and kept right on eating. It was as if we were using their “Hometown Buffet” to sleep in! They were courteous enough not to complain about it. It's interesting to me that when you are sitting next to the fire looking at a deer tramping around, it's very obvious that it's a deer. But when you are in your tent listening to the same noises, it's easy to let your mind play tricks on you. At least that's what I've heard.
The next day we learned from the couple over yonder that they had set their alarm for 1:30 am and arose to watch the moon come over the edge of the ridge. I don't what they did after that.
In the morning we got up and had a leisurely breakfast and those of us leaving got ready to head out. Josh B, Ocean and Katharina were staying in the area for another night, lucky dogs! The rest of us had to get home. We retraced our steps from the previous day, starting with the plunge down to the Canyon Lakes. I wouldn't say we hiked down there so much as fell down there. We took a break at Upper Canyon Lake where Jay showed us how to fish, then continued on. Before you know it, we were back at the truck enjoying an ice cold Sierra Nevada. Then quickly enroute to In 'n Out Burger in Redding to top off.
I know...FINALLY!!, the gear! It was a gear extravaganza of the first order. Bush Buddies, Pocket Rockets, various and sundry Caldera Cones, alky burners with and without simmer rings and Esbit/Heineken contraptions. No two setups matched exactly and everyone was perfectly happy with their selection. Everyone was able to heat up their various noodle dishes and hot liquids no problem.
The highlight, though, were the hammocks. I think Cameron observed that all the UL hammocks that exist in NorCal were probably present on this trip. That's three for those counting. The cool factor for these things is VERY high. While I was on my hands and knees preening up my tent site, the hammock guys (Cameron, Josh and Ken) were playing in the trees. Jay noted that Hammockers seem to look at a potential campsite a bit differently than us ground dwellers. For the right application, hammocks seem hard to beat.
Oh yeah, wait, actually the fact that Ocean cowboy-camped the first night and made a tree branch lean-to up against a boulder for himself the second night is even cooler than the hammocks. Sorry hammockers.
In all, everyone (even me) was more than adequately equipped and only had to worry about having fun.