Yippee! A day hike!!
Life happens and it had been a long time since our last day hike into the Trinity Alps. So, on this September day there was the typical pre-hike excitement but also the anxiety of knowing that with all the life-happening distractions of the summer, we are both in pretty bad shape. So something easy-peasy please. We settled on Bowerman Meadow, recalling that the first mile and a half up Long Canyon Trail to the fork signed Bowerman Meadow is moderately steep, but we can do anything for a mile and a half. After the fork we would be rewarded by a nearly-flat trail the rest of the way to the meadow.
Taking the turnoff at Covington Mill, we arrived at the Long Canyon Trailhead in the morning and were shocked to see 17 cars parked. Whoa. So this is where the displaced Canyon Creek hikers ended up. (Canyon Creek Trail has been closed due to damages from the Middle fire.) There were a few groups of backpackers just getting started so we waited to let them go first. While we waited we chatted with a trail runner who was going to day-run the Four Lakes Loop. Yeah, you have fun with that. No doubt he would be passing us on the way out.
It was a beautiful day for a hike. The sky was blue, the air was autumny-crisp, the trees smelled fabulous and we were expecting a high of 80 degrees. Heaven. A mile from the car we were taking a break, enjoying our first snack, gazing at the forest and talking about life, when several more backpacker groups passed us by. They were all headed to the lakes. Only a brother and sister team, day hiking locals Polly and John, were headed to Bowerman Meadow.
We hiked onward to the fork a half mile further and easily crossed beautiful East Fork Stuart Fork and just like that, we were on our way to the meadow. To celebrate, we sat under a tree and reveled in our success at easily making it this far even with our current less-than-stellar fitness.
From behind us there was a blood-curdling scream. We both jumped and screamed loudly ourselves. We turned expecting to see our deaths there looming, but instead it was a chipmunk running down the tree trunk giving us hell. With ears laid back and eyes filled with craziness, it continued to scream at us and fake-charge us until we finally ceded the tree and got back on the trail.
Well, that was different. You think you’ve seen it all out in the wilderness when out of the blue you encounter a murderous, scary-as-heck chipmunk.
With our hearts still in our throats from the crazy-chipmunk close-call, we were back on the trail and looking forward to the flat part. Uhhh, no, not flat. We had fallen prey to the trail-flattening trick that time plays on our brains. There’s nothing flat anywhere on the trail. It starts out steep and stays steep all the way to the lower meadow. But it’s only a mile and so, so, so very worth it.
We arrived at the meadow and were greeted with a scattering of gorgeous wildflowers still blooming, birds singing, and the grasses high and lush. A stand of aspen trees rustled, white trunks and green leaves contrasting with the conifers on our trudge up the mountain.
We plopped down and pulled out our food. We knew Polly and John were out there somewhere but we couldn’t see or hear them and we felt like we had the basin entirely to ourselves. Just the way we like it. The butterflies were enjoying the last day of summer. It was the equinox and tomorrow would be fall, but for today the leaves on the aspens were still green; no sign of turning golden yet.
We stayed there for a long time before packing up and heading back down. When we arrived back at the trailhead there were 28 cars; so many that they were overflowing to road-side parking.