One of my favorite Trinity County backpacks during June and July is the northern part of the Yolla Bolly Wilderness. It is the southern boundary of the Klamath Province and has all the beauty of the Trinity Alps on a smaller scale, but hardly any people because of its remoteness.
Within four miles of the trailhead, one can go to North Yolla Bolly Lake or Black Rock Lake, both at the base of granite mountains, or climb North Yolla Bolly Mountain or Black Rock Mountain (trail up to the top is mostly overgrown), or hike through two large meadows, Pettijohn Basin and Cedar Basin.
The trails are not difficult and they are always in excellent condition. All of this is less than a one-and-a-half-hour drive south of Hayfork via Highway 36, Wild Mad Road, Pine Root Gap turnoff to Stuarts Gap trailhead.
In mid-July, Maggie, my dog, and I left Hyampom on a Wednesday and in two hours were at the trailhead for a four-day backpacking trip. We began the short uphill climb and then gradually went up a shoulder, enjoying the old growth, small springs and meadows with wildflowers, even some phantom orchids.
After about one-and-a-half miles we came to an unmarked fork easy to miss but noticeable with rocks on the ground edging the fork. On this trip, Maggie and I went to the right to Black Rock Lake. (If we’d turned left we would have been able to visit the other choices listed above).
We hiked down one-third mile to Pettijohn Basin, passing by huge old growth cedars and Jeffrey pines. There is a large campsite and a couple of small campsites around the edges of the meadow. The meadow was beautiful covered in green grass, white wildflowers with North YB Mountain towering above. We took a break at the creek just below the campsite, cooling off, eating lunch and enjoying the leopard lilies, large larkspurs and swallow-tailed butterflies.
Refreshed, we continued on the trail, crossed the creek and then descended gradually through meadows of corn flowers, columbine and lupines. Then we gradually climbed up to traverse the mountainside with a couple of switchbacks, through old growth and across dry creeks. After one-and-a- half miles we dropped down to Black Rock Lake.
Medium-sized, it is the largest in the wilderness, green-colored, lined with willows, firs and pines, nestled at the base of Black Rock Mountain. There is a large campsite when you first drop down to the lake, but we went to the left to a lakeside campsite with the Black Rock Mountain rising behind. With the late heavy snow melt, green grass and an abundance of wildflowers were all around the lake. After setting up camp, eating dinner and reading, I enjoyed the quiet of the mountains including the 10 p.m. frog mountain meadow lullaby!
I awoke with the blue jays squawking and the golden mantel barking up a storm because Maggie was sitting at the base of its tree. The next two days followed a comfortable routine including reading, walking around the lake, scrambling up Black Rock Mountain to a hanging garden overlooking the lake. I didn’t go far, but one could go to the top of the mountain. I didn’t catch any fish, but the lake was refreshing to swim in, not ice-cold.
I was sure someone would come in Friday or Saturday, but we had the lake to ourselves. We left Saturday afternoon. Back at the trailhead late Saturday afternoon, there was only one parked vehicle.