OHE July 7, 1998

Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 08:45:23 -1000
From: Torrey Goodman (tgood808@lava.net>
Subject: Trinity Alps

Can't help but rave a little about an excellent 5 day pack trip in northern CA west of Redding in a place called the Trinity Alps. Very remote by CA standards.

Five of us went on this trip, 3 very experienced backpackers (John, Glen, and myself... and we've all backpacked together on several long trips as well), and two ladies from Australia with great attitudes and no experience at all.

We met up in San Francisco and the night before we left we did our ritiual "pack down". This is truly vital to any successful trip to avoid GME-style snaffus at the trailhead. We had all already agreed to bring our own lunches, trail snacks, and hot drinks (coffee/tea, etc). Then each person was responsible for 1 dinner. So during the "pack down", all communal food was thrown in a pile, anything non-essential was thrown out (at least 2 -3 lbs worth). Then all the food and joint stuff like pots, stove, fuel, tents, etc. were split up with John, Glen, and myself taking proportionally more. We also reviewed our novice packers gear and were able to dump out at least another 3 lbs each from their packs. Our goal was to make their first experience enjoyable, rather than a death march.

The next morning we quickly left San Fran and drove to the trailhead which took an agonizing 7 hours.( I DON"T sit still in cars well.) We very quickly got our boots on and off we went. John is about 6'4 and his pack was about 50lbs (he likes lots of camp comforts), and Glen and I were in the comfortable 40+ lb range. The other ladies were a nice 25+ and struggling a bit at first.The weather was ideal with a cool crispness in the air, sunshine, and a nice trail through lodgepole pine and douglas firs. Only bad part was the very common poison oak. It was absolutely fabulous to not have massive undergrowth and mud to contend with. After racing up a large hill Paka-wanna-be style, to reach the ridgeline which we would follow the next two days, I stopped to marvel at the view where there were no houses, cars, roads, marine bases, power lines, etc visible anywhere. There were just high mountains with snow-peaked summits and flanks covered in a carpet of lush forest. Another amazing fact also registered at this time.... there was plenty of oxygen here!!! I have not backpacked below 12,000 ft in over a year and it was sooooooo nice hiking quickly and not feeling like you have a plastic bag over your head.

We followed the ridgeline for a short time, then set up camp by a small spring as dark slowly descended about 9pm. There was a 1/3 moon which illuminated the forest and allowed us to see the bats feeding in the night sky. We also had a nice fire to ward off the mild chill in the mountain air. Dinner was a pasta primavera and fresh loaf of sourdough bread, with chocolate pudding for dessert. Some of us slept well, but one of the novice campers was overly concerned about bears. Whereas this is a real concern there, and our food was safely hung from a high branch, the brown bears there are not really aggressive. I don't suppose our stories of last year's bear encounters in camp helped to ease her mind at all. Imagine that.

The next morning dawned cool and cloudless where we were at 4000 ft, and below us the valleys were all filled with a dense for. It was like being in an airplane above the clouds. Eager to be off and hiking, we packed up and headed off. AAAhhhhh.. it felt so good to be cruising along under the canopy of pine and fir, ocassionally scrambling over large fallen trees, which became progressively thinner as we slowly gained elevation, following the ridge as it headed toward the snowy peaks. After 3 hard hours of constant elevation gain(5000 ft), we reached a junction that MUCh to our suprise, was no where near where we thought we were. We were planning a particular loop and found we had only gotten past the first part. Our maps were only forest service ones because no topos were available. So they weren't to scale at all!!! Ooohhh, that was not a nice suprise. But, it was beautiful out and one of my companions turned and said... "Got Gorp... Can HIKE" After much discussion, it was decided that heading higher up would cause considerable discomfort for our novice friends, we we reluctantly chose a shorter loop and started heading down towards another trail junction. Loosing all that elevation so quickly was a sorrow state of affairs. But down we went through groves of aspen, oak, juniper, and pine. As we got lower, into the 3000ft range, the undergrowth was quite dense and the trail difficult to follow.The poison oak made it like a game of hopscotch to avoid getting any of it on you. We often had to stop and retrace steps. But the challenge of it was good fun and we all took turn leading.. including the novices.. and they were great.

During lunch, we had the wonderful pleasure of a deer coming right up to us without any hesitancy. Shows how few people are in this area!!! After a very long afternoon of constant downhill (toes ouch!!), we finally reached a canyon bottom with a medium-size river which was swift, clear, and VERY cold. We all immediately stripped down and quickly bathed in the river as dusk was falling and the mosquitos were AVIDLY feeding on every piece of exposed anatomy. A lovely dinner of couscous and tomatoe sauce (previously dehydrated and packed in baggies... No CANS!!!) followed and marshmellows over the fire for dessert. The river only 30 ft from my tent provided a lovely symphony as I drifted off wrapped in a coccoon of down.

More later if I haven't put you all to sleep yet......

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