Woo Hoo ... another backpack trip to describe :-)
Caribou Wilderness Backpack
Wednesday, July 3, 2002
I got up at 4:30 a.m. and had a quick breakfast and was on the road to the Caribou Wilderness by 5:00 a.m. I had a strong cup of coffee before I left. After about two hours of driving I stopped a truck stop area for some more caffeine. I got this soda called Jolt but not the Coke Jolt but a raspberry soda version of it. It woke me up and kept me going. After passing Sacramento on I5 I found a rest stop and took a bathroom break. Then it was off to Red Bluff and a gas stop. At Red Bluff I peeled off on to route 36 to a town called Chester. Shortly after Chester I turned on a small road, road 10. From there I turned onto a dirt road that took me to the Hay Meadow trailhead of the Caribou Wilderness. The wilderness is to the east of Lassen National park. I got to the trailhead at 11:30 a.m. I was to meet W. and K. at noon. They arrived pretty much on the dot at noon. As I waited I had to swat at a few mosquitos.
We got our packs out, locked up the cars, ate some lunch, and we were off at 12:55 p.m. Our packs were heavy with all the food we needed for 5 days of backpacking. I’m guessing my pack weighed about 45 pounds at the beginning. As we started to hike we soon all pulled out our mosquito head nets and applied our insect repellent to exposed skin. The bugs did not dampen our spirits though. We were prepared for them. The trail was nice and flat and passed through Hay Meadow and then went uphill gradually to the Beauty/Long Lake junction. We headed off to Long Lake. We passed Long Lake and had to make one somewhat tricky water crossing or maybe I should say swamp crossing! The actual trail was covered with water so we had to hike a small bit along the water to a long log across it. We all very gingerly made our way across. We all assured each other that if we fell it was no big deal and we would just get a little wet. It would have been only a one foot fall into about knee high water. None of us fell though and we were much relieved. It is hard to balance over logs when you have a heavy pack on. Long Lake was beautiful but a little shallow with a reedy shoreline. After Long Lake we passed two more nameless shallow small lakes. Then we passed South and North Divide lakes. The mosquitos got really bad in this area and we were all tired. It was hitting me hard that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. , driven for 6.5 hours, and then backpacked for 5 miles. The last 3 miles of hiking were the kind where you try not to think about when you will get there and you just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and try to ignore the mosquitos. I almost missed Black Lake but W. pointed it out and said the magic words that the next lake was Turnaround Lake where we were going to set up camp for the first night.
We arrived in camp at 5 p.m. We were too tired to search for a perfect campsite so took an adequate one close by. Its biggest fault was that it was close to swampy lake land and so we had lots of mosquitos to deal with. W. and K. had brought a mesh shelter that you can hang up with rope and handy trees. It was about 5 by 4 feet and about 5 feet high. So you could crawl under it and sit three people on the ground to escape from the mosquitos. We came to call it the mesh palace. We had our dinner in it that night after it was done cooking. Its hard to eat dinner with mosquitos buzzing all around your face. After dinner we escaped to our tents and did some reading and decided that since the next day was a lay over day and we were just going to go on a day hike that we would sleep in as late as we wanted. I was using a tent I borrowed from L. It was nice and roomy with good mesh windows so I could see out but the bugs couldn’t get in! I slept well that night.
Thursday July 4, 2002
We didn’t stir till around 9 a.m. Then we took our time getting breakfast ready and packing our day packs (for all of us the top of our packs can be removed to make a butt pack) for the day hike. We hit the trail for our day hike at 11 a.m. We hiked to Jewel Lake first. It was a gorgeous clear little lake and we found a pile of rocks right at the shore that were perfect for getting into the water for a swim. We stopped and stripped and had a marvelous skinny dip. There were very few mosquitoes there and the swimming was awesome. The water was a bit cold but I grew used to it fairly quickly. K. got in by wading to her knees in the water and then diving. I got in by wading to my knees and then losing my balance and sliding down the slanted rock and plunging in. Oops. W. had brought her pink floaty tube, her name for her pink inner tube. It took her a while to blow it up. By the time she finished K. and I had gotten out to warm up. We enjoyed watching W. float around on her pink tube. Then we had some lunch and headed off to Gem Lake. However we discovered that the trail on W.’s topographic map did not exist so we changed plans and headed to Cowboy Lake. We descended down about 300 feet and saw Cowboy Lake. It wasn’t very impressive. We continued on to Emerald Lake. We had to hike back up those 300 feet to get to it but it was very worth it. Emerald lake was beautiful, better than Jewel lake. We all loved it and we took another skinny dip there. It felt so good to plunge in after that 300 foot climb! We also nicknamed Emerald lake Hypothermia lake. It was much colder than Jewel but still not so cold that it kept us from enjoying the swim. There was a nice stiff cool breeze blowing the whole time and absolutely no mosquitoes. We were just purring at how wonderful it was there. Alas we had to move on. We continued hiking our loop and finally reached Gem Lake. It was an OK lake but most of its shore was covered with reeds or logs and so wasn’t too inviting to swim in but was pretty to look at. Gem Lake was the last lake of the loop. We then continued back to Turnaround Lake. The mosquitoes were fierce again right before Turnaround. We got very accustomed to pulling our mosquito nets down and reapplying the insect repellent on this trip. We came to call reapplying the repellent to “re-deet” in honor of the ingredient in the repellent that really does the most effective job of repelling those bugs. Our day hike ended up being about 7 or 8 miles so we were pretty tired when we got back.
The bugs in camp were bad that night. We started a camp fire, lit a citronella candle, and lit a mosquito coil. The candle and coil didn’t seem to do diddly squat but the smoke from the fire provided some relief. I still escaped to the mesh palace to eat my dinner but W. and K. braved the bugs and sat around the fire and ate. I sat with them but had my mosquito head net on and my rain coat to protect myself from the bugs. I usually ate right before W. and K. because we were sharing one stove. I would get my boiling water to have my instant mashed potatoes and raman noodles. Then as I was eating they would use the stove to cook their dinner. It worked out fairly nice that way. The bugs drove us to our tents early again that night at about 8 p.m. I read my novel some (One True Thing by Anna Quindlan) and then fell asleep fairly early. My tent quickly became my comfort haven away from the mosquitoes. Oh we didn’t think too much about it being the 4th of July but we did notice a party of folks who had ridden to Jewel Lake on horses for a picnic who were dressed up in red, white, and blue cloths!
Friday, July 5
We got up a bit earlier the next day. I believe we were on the trail by 10 a.m. We were breaking camp that day and moving on to camp on Widow Lake. We hiked along the trail next to Turnaround Lake and hiked right past our junction. We realized we had been on the trail too long and should have seen our junction so we backtracked but not far enough. We looked at the topo map and determined that we were going the right way after all. But the trail just led to a steep rocky hill side so we looked at the topo again and determined that we needed to backtrack even further than we thought. We finally found the junction this time. Our hike to Twin Lakes and Triangle Lake was a sort of quiet tired hike. It was hot, the bugs were a pain, we later found out from W. that her knees were killing her and her reaction was to just be very remote and quiet. When we got to Triangle Lake though we stopped to pump some more water through our filter and go for a swim. This rest and swim stop improved our spirits greatly and the breeze blowing across Triangle seemed to keep the bugs away. Triangle Lake was colder than Emerald so we dubbed it Frostbite lake. Triangle Lake was quite big and there were many people there that day. When we skinny dipped we put on a little show for some day hikers. Of course it was me that was standing there naked trying to get the nerve to dive in when the hikers came by. Oh well. I just ignored them and finally got the nerve to dive in. The hikers were greatly amused but not offended. We were not offended either and laughed along with them. The water was too beautiful and clear to for go a swim just for modesty sake!! After a swim we ate lunch and headed off on the last 2 or 3 miles to Widow Lake.
The hike to Widow Lake was hot and dry and a wee bit stressful as we were worried about missing another junction. I led this section of the hike and mostly kept on the right path by following the foot prints of other folks. We passed by a sign telling us we were in Lassen which was good as Widow was supposed to be in Lassen. After what seemed like ages we finally hit the junction we wanted that pointed the way to Widow Lake. We were a bit glum to see the sign saying it was .9 miles away. We were surprised when five or ten minutes later we got to Widow Lake. We couldn’t figure out how it could have been .9 miles. Widow Lake was beautiful but a bit of a disappointment after Jewel and Emerald Lakes the day before. It was a murkier lake and the shoreline was grassy or muddy. No nice rocks to jump off like at Emerald and Jewel. We couldn’t find a very good camp site and ended up camping up the hill from a grassy shoreline. We put up the mesh palace and headed down to try out swimming. The water was warmer but it wasn’t much fun to have to walk through the slimy mud to get to the deep part of the lake. W. and K. were also not happy about the taste of the filtered water from the lake. We finished our swim and headed to the tents for naps as it had been a sort of cranky tiring day. During nap time I heard serious discussion from W. and K.’s tent but I didn’t really pay attention to it much. After naps we had some dinner. W. and K. proposed to me that we not stay at Widow for two nights but head to either Jewel or Emerald Lake the next day. I agreed with this idea as Widow was not very impressive and was full of bugs. I later braved the masses of mosquitos at the lake side after dinner to pump some water. As I sat there pumping there were about 10 to 15 mosquitos hovering around my mosquito head net and I would have to swat them off my hands every once in a while. Even the deet didn’t seem to repel all of them. Anyhow, we were driven to bed early again by the bugs and we decided to get up at 6 a.m. so we could do the hot dusty section of the trail back towards Triangle Lake in the cool of the morning.
Saturday July 6, 2002
We got up at 6 a.m. and I was greeted by K. with the question of had I seen or heard the bear that came to our site last night. I hadn’t. Apparently it came by around 11 p.m. and sniffed at our packs but found nothing of interest in them (we stored our food in bear proof cans and stashed the cans far away from the tents). I guess I was so tired that I slept through the entire visit. I did hear the noisy squirrel earlier in the night. We giggled about that squirrel. It was the noisiest little thing. It must have carried on for 5 minutes. It was in the tree right above my tent. I have a window in the top of my tent so I watched it race here and there and make its funny noise. Any how, we checked out our bear cans and they had not been disturbed at all. We had breakfast and packed up everything and got on the trail by 7:45 a.m.
We found the hike back to Turnaround Lake much easier this time. We knew where we were going for sure. It was cooler. We had a nice stop at Triangle Lake to pump more water and eat a snack. We reached Turnaround Lake at around 11 a.m. I think. We decided at this point that we had enough energy to go to Emerald Lake, our favorite lake! We braved the mosquito row part of the trail and reached Emerald Lake at around 12:30 p.m. We were a little disappointed that we had to share the lake with two other women and they had snagged the good campsite. We found an OK site for our tents. Then we had a delightful afternoon of resting, swimming, napping, and reading by the lake with no mosquitoes bothering us! W. was able to plunge her legs in the water and in effect ice her knees. They were very sore. It was good that she got plenty of rest that day. We said hi to the two other women. They were a Mother and daughter backpacking together. They were impressed that we were all women and had no men with us. We asked them where they had been and they said they had been at Evelyn Lake and really liked it. We cooked dinner on the rocks looking over the lake. It was so pleasant to not have to worry about bugs and be able to cook dinner and eat it without mosquito head nets and re-deeting or lighting a fire. The mosquitoes finally did come out around 8 o’clock. As usual we escaped to the tents. We decided that day that we would backpack to Evelyn Lake the next day and hope the two women were right that it was nice. That way we would have a fairly short hike out the last day of only 2 miles or so.
Sunday July 7, 2002
We were up at 6 a.m. again and on the trail by 8 a.m. Unfortunately there were tons of mosquitoes around that morning. We decided that it was the stiff breeze on the lake all afternoon and most of the evening that had kept them away before. In the morning the water was very still and you could see clouds of mosquitoes in the sun rays! Ug. Oh well. We soon got on the trail and made our way past North and South Divide Lakes and headed to Long Lake. We reached the infamous log and had to traipse over it again. This time we all just flew across. We must have gained our hiking legs over the past few days. After the log crossing we hit the junction to the Posey/Evelyn/Beauty trail. We reached Posey Lake and it was nice but again had a reedy shoreline and didn’t look like pleasant swimming. So we headed on to Evelyn hoping the two women at Emerald were right about it. It turns out they were very right. Evelyn Lake was a deep clear cold lake with a nice camp site with rocks on the shore where you dive right off the rock into about 10 feet deep water. Over on the other side of the lake from camp were more rocks and we had lunch on them while waiting for the campers from the night before to pack up and leave the camp site. We got there at 11 a.m. and the camp site was vacated by noon. We had a nice lunch and swim before we hiked over to the site and set things up. The water was very cold but not so cold that it kept us out of the lake. W. and I had two wonderful swims and K. was in there three times. My, she loved to swim. Swimming on backpacking trips in clean clear lakes is marvelous. Not only is it refreshing and fun but it cleans you up a bit too! It was good to get all that sun screen and deet washed off for just a little bit before you had to reapply it later. We all loved the swimming. The bugs were not too bad at Evelyn either. Some came out in the early evening but not so many that dinner was a pain. We didn’t bother putting up the mesh palace that night. We did head to bed around 8 p.m. We all finished the novels we had brought with us for the trip on that marvelous sunny bug free afternoon at Evelyn. I got in a nice one hour nap too. It was a great way to spend our last full day on the trails.
Monday July 8, 2002
We got up at 7 a.m. and sadly packed up our gear and said goodbye to Evelyn Lake. It was a great place. We were on the trail by 8 a.m. We hiked back to the cars and Hay Meadow Lake and a good pace. I think we were all anxious to get the long drive home started and get some relief from the mosquitoes. We reached the cars at 9:30 a.m. I changed into some clean cloths I had left in the car and we drove on the dirt road and the small paved road to the main route 36. We made a quick pit stop at a rest area to use a real bathroom! That was nice after a week of going in the woods and having to wave mosquitoes away from your butt! Then we drove to a gas station and filled up. We caravanned till just after we got in I5. I signaled for W. and K. to pull into the next rest stop and requested that we ditch the caravan as K. liked to drive at 75 mph and I preferred 70 mph. So we hugged goodbye and went our merry ways. I had a long uneventful drive home with one stop for gas. I had my air conditioning on full blast in the car as it was in the 100’s in the valley and in the 90’s in the bay area. I got home at 4:15 p.m. I had some McDonald’s for dinner. Since then I have unpacked my backpack and done laundry. I’m mostly ready now to head back to work tomorrow. All in all this trip was great. I could have done without the bugs but Jewel, Triangle, Emerald, and Evelyn Lake were so beautiful and the swimming so fun. I also enjoyed spending 5 days with W. and K. They are great friends. We had so much fun together on this trip.