Picked up Kathleen in the City and drove approx. 7 hours to the Hobo Gulch Campground near the trailhead. Picked up the self-serve permits (ooh,campfires permitted) at the Weaverville Ranger Station on the way. Will, Jack, and Erhhung arrived around 2:00 am. Whereupon Will proceeded to set up his camera for a star trail picture (what a nut!).
"The Death March to Low Gap". Started out from the Hobo Gulch Trailhead around 10 am. Rolling trail rising and falling alongside the North Fork of the Trinity River. After three stream crossings (and one shin with a bruise the size of a golf ball, yeah, I fell in on the last crossing) we came upon some pack animals on a ridge to the left. We ventured up the ridge and found Bruce and Carol, owners of the Morrison Cabin. They come out for a few weeks at a time to do maintenance and relax. They hadn't spoken to anyone in over a week!
They told us the history of the cabin (it's been in his family since the 40's) and showed us around the place. After our history lesson we set off to what we thought was a campsite at a place called China Gardens. After a stop at an idyllic setting along a bend in the river called George's Cabin (or Jorstad Cabin), we went approx. three miles to China Gardens. Guess what, no campsites! Big mistake on my part as I could have marked several good sites on the map from my guidebook. So we pressed on, low on water but thinking there had to be a good site along the river shortly. Not! The last several miles were all up and away from the river and we finally rolled into the Low Gap campsite as night was falling. Total distance approx. 13-14 miles. A somewhat painful end to our first day (Jack excluded!).
"On to Grizzly". The plus side of our first day mileage was we only had 5 miles to Grizzly Meadows, making an afternoon scramble up to the Lake a no-brainer! Grizzly Lake sits in an alpine basin in the shadow of Thompson Peak, the highest mountain in Trinity (over 9,000'). The Lake tops out at approx. 7,200'. From Grizzly Meadows, there is a not so well marked scramble trail up to the summit of approx 800'. Before we go there, upon entering the Meadows proper, you see a "Yosemite-esque" sight, a loud, beautiful waterfall several hundred feet in height. Grizzly is allegedly very popular due to it's beauty, but we saw very few people over the course of the entire trip.
Jack and Will decided to bring their packs (you guys rock!) up the scramble with the idea that they might go cross-country to Papoose Lake and meet up with us at Hobo Gulch. Erhhung, Kathleen and I decided to drop our packs and make a day-hike of it. The scramble wasn't too bad (w/o packs), but lots of wet rocks making things a little dicey from time to time. At the top, a frozen Grizzly Lake and snow everywhere, dashing Will and Jack's hope for a x-country foray.
After a few pictures, the weather turned and it started raining/hailing. We decided to head back down and heard a sudden crash, two large rockslides above sent us quickly back to the tree line (a lot of good that would have done!). Fortunately, the basin is somewhat steep and we weren't in any real danger. On the way down, Erhhung and I decided to practice our rock-climbing skills (i.e., we were looking for the easy way). After several dead ends, low on water, and the elements closing in, we decided to climb back up and look for alternatives. We eventually made it back to camp approx. an hour after everyone else. Jack asked what we were doing "frapping around" up there (we Americans have another phrase for it, I think). Once back to camp, a fire was lit amidst the ever-present sound of the river. It doesn't get any better than this!
"A Diversion". We started our trip back with a side trip up the very steep China Spring trail. Unfortunately, there was apparently no China Spring at the top! We decided to do a little off-trail hiking along the ridgeline to find a vista for our photogs. Will or Erhhung will have to fill this in as Kathleen and I stopped about ½ way to their destination. Our route back was going to be another steep climb via the Bob's Farm trail; apparently we missed the turnoff and didn't realize it until we recognized the China Gardens non-campsite from Day 1. We finally caught up with Jack (who was clearing the trail of rattlesnakes, how Indiana Jones of him!) and decided to make for George's Cabin to camp. It's a great spot complete with two fieldstone fireplaces, tables, outdoor kitchen, and a bench-type swing. Very comfy!
"The March Out". There was some concern among the group that we might be back to the trailhead very late in the afternoon unless we broke camp early. So early it was! We started our 8-mile trek at 7:30am and took a route that caused us to miss two of the three stream crossings from day 1. We made great time and got back to the trailhead around 11:30am, I think. After that, we arrived in Weaverville just as their parade was ending and decided to hang around for lunch, frosty cold beers and ice cream! We bid our farewells and made plans to get back out together before Jack heads back to Europe. All in all, a great trip, in a beautiful setting, with some outstanding people.