Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 10, 11 & 12-July-2020
My Birthday weekend!
I… in all transparency, kind of forgot that fact right until the last minute. It’s a bit weird, since this is the first year that’s really happened as far as I can remember. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? COVID, life changes, moving to a new town, a new apartment? The world is spinning, especially quickly this year. What’s one more birthday in light of that?
Well, it’s my birthday, for one. And thankfully, I have excellent friends and family who didn’t let me forget it, even if I almost did myself 🙂
Mike and I met up in Yreka again, this time going a bit further inland than we’d gone last time. I’d hiked this trail before, but it was back in… ohh, 2015, I think? It was a long time ago, and I’d wanted to re-try the loop again.
So we met up, got some food, and drove in to the trailhead – a surprisingly long ride versus what I remembered, but the Mustang is a glorious champion, undaunted by the roughest roads or dustiest trails. Up we ground, throwing billowing clouds of dust behind us from the high California dirt.
It was beautiful. Seriously beautiful. Easily worth the drive.
We got to the trailhead later than we’d planned, but thankfully we weren’t particularly surprised or concerned – we had a fair number of possible plans in our head, and so we set up camp in the daylight, and got the chance to rest and relax by Taylor Lake – chatting and enjoying our dinner of Subway sandwiches. Maybe not the most standard backpacking meal, but you know what? There’s not much that beats a double sub – 6” meatball, 6” steak and cheese, with hot peppers across the board. After that, I was ready for the hike the next day.
Ohh! I saw a mushroom car on the drive down! It was cool. Check out the pictures.
Saturday dawned beautifully. I seriously spent way too long taking pictures of the flowers by our tents, with the sun rising above them… I’m tempted to post every single picture, since they all came out so gloriously well.
It was a good morning.
We ate some breakfast, had some coffee, packed up our gear and headed out. No rush, no stress, but also no lazyness and a lot of positive energy. It was a good start to the day, and we were really good about keeping that energy going as we kept hiking along the ridgeline. We cruised onward really well, making our way to Hogan Lake a bit earlier than we’d expected.
After looking at the approach to Big Blue, we made the executive decision. Even though we’d made really good time, the approach was pretty clearly a heck of an ascent. We weren’t quite feeling up for carrying the full packs up that talus field, so we dropped our actual camping gear, cinched down the packs, and headed upward.
(Ed Note: “Talus” is a term for large rocks. Not quite boulders, but not gravel either. “Scree” is similar to the gravel used on roads, whereas “Talus” is more like 2′ diameter rocks… give or take)
It was not easy going.
We’d made good time earlier – averaging maybe 2mph. Not speedy, by any means, but for two guys just getting back into backpacking? Pretty good, thank you.
On the talus? We made maybe 0.5mph. Remember too – this is not a marked trail. After Hogan Lake, we were on our own. There were a few Cairns, yes, but they were far between, and often not quite where one would expect to find them.
It seriously took us nearly two hours to get up to Big Blue. And let me tell you, we were not energetic when we made that summit. We were pretty toasted – but thankfully we had a glorious Alpine Lake to greet us – cold water, open areas, a nice breeze… it was exactly what we needed.
We dropped packs, relaxed, and even made a quick lunch for ourselves. We didn’t rush, and just simply rested and enjoyed the views.
After a rousing rock-skipping challenge, we put on our brave faces and headed back down. Again, not super quick going… but we did make slightly better time than we did on the way up. Turns out – gravity does help.
We were debating heading all the way back to Taylor, but as we got closer to Hogan Lake, and it came time to bushwack the last quarter mile, that plan went by the wayside. That quarter mile was not quick, and finding the unmarked trail was harder than we’d expected. By the time we were back at our gear, we were ready for dinner and sleeping bags.
One quick fun story – we couldn’t actually find the trail back, and ended up having to slog through a pretty rough marsh to get to what we could see as the trail. After wishy-washing a while though, we finally had a revelation! We didn’t have to slog through the marsh. We’re humans. We have tools!
There was, fortuitously, a fallen tree right near where we were. Not too big, but just the right side to make an impromptu bridge. So we hefted the log, maneuvered it, and hucked it into the marsh where it was needed. Great success!
But okay, back at camp. It was good. We ate dinner, had gatorade, and… immediately hid in our tents because the mosquitoes were infinite, bloodthirsty, and cared not for the bug spray defense we attempted. We slept early, and slept well.
Another quick fun story!
Mike thought he saw something outside the tent, at one point, and asked me to come with him to brush his teeth. No shame at all – in the woods, taking extra risks to be brave isn’t smart. So I got up and joined him…
And saw something outside his tent.
I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t mention anything at first. Once I saw the eyes clearly burning in the treeline though, I called Mike over and pointed him in the right direction.
We froze for a bit, waiting for the eyes to move. They were clearly eyes, about two feet from the ground. Far enough away that we didn’t know if they were a cougar, a bear, or sometime as boring as a cow. We kept the headlamps aimed, Mike grabbed his bear spray, and I hefted my camping knife. It felt smaller than I remembered the knife feeling.
Then, the eyes moved. With a second set near them.
It was a herd of deer! Coming through the clearing we’d set camp in! We didn’t see a whole lot of them, maybe 6 or so, but once they got close enough we could clearly see them, and clearly see that they weren’t actually monsters coming to eat our intestines.
A big relief, that last bit.
Sunday was a quick day, but absolutely no less amazing than Saturday had been.
We got up, made coffee and breakfast, and got what water we needed from the stream. Thankfully the mosquitoes didn’t come out this morning, or had gotten their fill of the deer the night before, and we weren’t bothered too badly as we packed up and hefted our bags onto our backs.
We made pretty good time on the way out – nothing much interesting to report from that section, aside from the usual glorious views. We chatted and enjoyed, taking breaks as we felt fit. We just kept to the theme – no hassle, no stress, just roll with the flow and keep the best pace that we could.
We took a break at Taylor to cool our feet, but before we knew it the trail had dropped us back at the parking lot, where our intrepid steeds awaited us. We packed up, rested a moment, and then headed into town to find ourselves the most interesting looking restaurant we could find.