This time of year, we start to get that itch. Local trails have served us well over the winter, but the wilderness beckons. In this wonderful, wet, snowy year, a big question among hikers is what trails are open? How far can we get? Can we make it to a LAKE?
Of course, the answer varies depending on skills and equipment.
With last Saturday set aside for a foray, we were feeling all floaty over the thought of our first hike into the Trinity Alps Wilderness after a long winter of low elevation hiking.
Amy: Where should we go?
Cathy: We could head up Stoney Ridge Trail.
And that’s how it is for us — one of us could hike up Stoney Ridge Trail every week and never get tired of it. And the other of us — eh, not so much. It’s those switchbacks. They certainly offer a panoramic view once you get past the tree line; but … Ugh.
So, there we were Saturday, zig-zagging up the trail. We didn’t bring snow gear, so we planned to hike until we hit snow and then turn around.
We saw about five vehicles at the trailhead, at 4,620 feet.
It was wildflower heaven even before we got to the wilderness boundary. Various violets in yellow, white and purple, fuzzy pussy ears, stately blue brodiaea, deep purple larkspur, the last of the shooting stars, and bright splashes of pink phlox.
Then, into the shaded forest. Here and there, dogwood put on a show.
We zigged past a campsite. The name Big Rock Camp fits, we decided. Looking down between the trees, a full Trinity Lake could be seen in the distance. Zaggggg. Oh look, there it is again.
Hitting the first little patch of snow on the trail at about 5,930 feet elevation, we kept on going. Out of deep forest at that elevation, the manzanita are blooming like crazy.
More elevation and more snow, alternating with bare dirt trail. Red rock and white snow are a beautiful combination.
We started following tracks in the snow of what appeared to be three people and a dog. Eventually the tracks parted from the established but now invisible trail and went straight up the mountain alongside Stoney Creek.
Walking in their tracks, we almost made it to Red Mountain Meadow about four miles in. Hiking uphill in deepening snow is hard work, and with the creek nearby it started to seem dicey although the tracks forged ahead. We turned around at about 6,200 feet.
Crampons, we thought. Micro spikes. Add to shopping list. We wondered, how far did the three-people-and-a-dog get? All the way to Stonewall Pass? The Stoney Creek Trail and Stonewall Pass are the gateway to the Four Lakes Loop, which is likely the Four Frozen Lakes Loop at the moment. There’s time.
We headed back down, taking a small detour along our descent to visit Stoney Creek as it pounded its boulder-lined chute.
If you’re going
From Weaverville, drive north on Highway 3 past Trinity Alps Road on the left. Look for the signed road to the trailhead on the left (if you get to Stoney Creek Swim Area you’ve gone too far). Turn onto the dirt road and drive six miles to the trailhead.