Alternatively: To Cowpie Heaven and Back! Or: The CPPs Ride Again (Cow Pattie Partners - Thanks YooJin!)
Friday 8/31 - Despite the recent fire in the Weaverville Area (100% contained by 8/30), seven intrepid, Confused souls made their way up to the beautiful Trinity Alps for three days in the wilderness. The North Bay group: Deb (Crazy Toe Deb), Jennie (The Motor), Kay (Leadfoot) and the South Bay Group: Bob (Fungi Bob), Chirag (Larry the Crime Donkey), Will (El Presidente), and YooJin (3cm Gyno?).
Meeting in the Denny's at Red Bluff, we discussed route options and decided (rightly so) on a short trip of 18 miles with the possibility of a couple of side trips. Our plan was to pick up the self-serve permits at Weaverville Ranger Station, camp for the night at the Eagle Creek Trailhead, and then drop a car at Scott Mountain for the shuttle back. Unfortunately, the Linkart book (the bible of the Trinity Alps backcountry), was somehow outdated mileage-wise, and Will's communications with the Coffee Creek Ranger Station didn't yield any other clues; in a nutshell, we couldn't find the trailhead and due to the late hour, decided to camp at Scott Mountain and double back on Saturday to drop a car at Eagle Creek. Bedtime: Between 1:00 and 2:00am.
9/1 - Upon rising and breakfast (well, Chirag continued to sleep for several hours after the rest of us), Bob, Deb, Kay and Will set out to drop the shuttle car at Eagle Creek. Unfortunately, it was as difficult to find in the light as in dark! Apparently, several access roads to the trailhead had been washed out and were under construction. After 45 minutes of going up and down HWY 3, we took a gamble on a road (Eagle Creek Loop) far outside the mileage we were looking for and finally found the trailhead. So we started off back to our compatriots waiting at Scott Mountain (and hoping Chirag was finally awake!) and I discovered the physics of the mix of nylon backpacking shorts, fine Audi Corinthian leather seats, and Leadfoot Kay's driving style, and wound up on Deb's lap (was it good for you too?). Probably not, as I was requested to put on my seatbelt!
Finally, we hit the trail around noon. We decided to pass at camping at Mosquito Lake (I wonder why?) and made a few more miles to the Boulder Lakes to camp for the night. Moving thru the meadow for the far most Boulder Lake (there are four), this city boy (NY born and bred) was amazed at the size of the poops that come out of cows! The volume just totally dulled my senses; is that what eating grass all day does to the digestive tract? These bovines need some KO! Well enough of that, let's just say there was lots of big cow poops all over.
Given our late start, it was a hot and long hike so most folks decided to take a swim before anything else (except me, I could only bear to dip my head in the lake; I was therefore known as "Dirty Bob", by my account I was a smelly but "Clean Bob"! So after much looking around for cow-poop-less and level spots, we settled in and made dinner and camp in the dark due to the late start. However, a full moon lit our evening and a hearty rest was had by all (except Kay and I who are insomniacs!).
9/2 - We broke camp around 9am and headed out to our first side trip, Telephone Lake for lunch. This trip was for two purposes, the lake was a know water source (as several creeks we thought would yield water were dry), and for the idyllic setting. Will briefed us that the Lake was about 600 feet below us and if we wanted to do both the Lake and Eagle's Peak side trip later, it would be about 1200-1400 feet of climbing (after approx. 2000 feet on day 1). But these hearty souls said, "Bring it on!". At the top of the ridge heading down to Telephone Lake, seeing the grade, and not seeing the lake (it was on a second plateau below the first), I thought, "Will has lost his mind, any water we take from the lake will be drunk before we get back to the top!". However, this group astounds, after a leisurely lunch next to a beautiful alpine lake, the gang motored up the grade gamely, following Jennie, our "Energizer Bunny" (You rock!). I hoist my Nalgene Bottle to you in honor!
My god I'm long-winded, but this day ain't over yet. After picking up our packs we hiked for another mile to the base of Eagle Peak where another decision was made, if we go to the top it is most likely another night setting up camp, eating, and bear-bagging in the dark. Personally, I can't stand doing that stuff in the dark, but the rush of the climb out of the Telephone Lake Basin charged me (and I guess everyone else) with the idea that this had to be done! So we started up what was to most of us a 600 foot Class 1 climb, however, Deb and YooJin thought that was too easy and decided on the Class 2 approach! What I thought was incredibly cool, was that once we summited (7,800 feet) Eagle Peak, and were all hanging out, that a bald eagle came thru the thermals as clear as day, it took my breath away as I had never seen one in the wild. It was an awesome end to a great day.
Unfortunately, we still had to find a camp for the night, so we made our way down, picked up our packs, and had to make a cross-country foray over some not so nice terrain (meadows with cowpies and steeps). Finally, as night was falling and the full moon rising (no CCR plug intended), we found a relatively cowpie free camp at the side of Eagle Creek and spent a wonderful night sleeping with the sounds of rushing water in the background!
9/3 - OK, I've rambled long enough, the trip out was mostly downhill, thru some biting plants (as Chirag called them, they were mostly overgrown Manzanita), we all missed the shorter Eagle Creek trail and took a nasty, gravel-shrewn fireroad down to the car.
We headed back to Scott Mountain to pick up Kay's car and came upon a lone hiker coming off the PCT. He was a little bummed out about the water situation in the area and took Kay up on her offer of the excess water she and Deb had brought. What's funny (moving forward in time) is that on our way home (with Leadfoot Kay in front as always), we passed a hitchhiker with a backpack. Will thought it was the same guy we saw at Scott Mtn., but I pooh-poohed it (no pun intended!). Well, the next minute, Kay took a U-turn (slightly illegal, but I won't tell) and went back to pick up said hiker. It was the same guy! Given the lack of water, he decided to go back to Washington and the girls dropped him at the Redding Greyhound Station - Five Gold Stars go the Audi crew for the good deed (BTW - they still lapped us on the drive home!)!Finally, we headed to Weaverville for a late lunch and ice cream at my favorite ice cream parlor in CA (be advised, this is always after a two to five day trip). Good byes were said, but they were only meant for the next time we meet on the trail!
Epilog- Kay wrote a wonderful, equally long narrative of the trip that I won't recount here (I've subjected you to enough), but she had an interesting thought about how surreal it is to end a trip like this, that started with several strangers, who for a few days, become an integral part of your life. From my own perspective, I find it interesting that all the masks we wear in day-to-day life, the product manager, the dot.com executive, the research scientist, the husband, the wife, the webmaster, all those things that define us in the "real" world, seem to slip away on the trail, the result is that you are left with the true essence of what you are, and what your partners are. I think that is one of the special things about being in the "Cathedral of Nature" (John Muir ?).
So long for now and get outside!
PS - YooJin has promised to treat anyone on this trip for giardia-related illness pro-bono at her clinic in Santa Clara! Hopefully she won't have many takers!
PSS - Don't get the wrong idea about Trinity Alps being overrun by cows! It is a huge, astounding beautiful wilderness. It is much less crowded that the Sierras, the permit system is self-serve, and generally (in most years) you can have a campfire in an established camp. I would heartily recommend a visit if you haven't ventured there as yet.