Monday, May 22, 2017

Early Season Hiking in Quincy, CA

It was a beautiful 26 mile drive from our site in Clio to Pioneer RV Park in Quincy, CA. We passed through thickly forested hills and tiny hamlets nestled in verdant valleys surrounded by the snow touched mountains of the southernmost Cascades.

Pioneer RV Park is a basic RV park, with paved (but bumpy from roots) roads and sites. It is far enough off the highway to cut down on road noise, though close enough to the local mill that you get a little noise and the scent of cut wood. AT&T signal was strong, Verizon was okay, we did not use the park wifi.

A walk along country roads near the RV park.

We heard this guys screech long before we spotted him.

With much snow still covering the higher elevation trails in the area, we were happy to discover a lower elevation trail system has been developed in Quincy. Called the South Park Non-Motorized Trail System, maps are available at the local ranger station (I could not find it online).

Our first hike on these trails was the prettiest, the Cascade trail. From the north trailhead off Old Highway Road, we hiked alongside lovely Spanish Creek for 2.5 miles enjoying spring flowers, cool forest and the constant bubbling and churning of the heavy flowing creek cascading through the canyon.

Spanish Creek is running high with all the snow melt right now.

Quincy, CA has a rich mining and logging history that is well preserved in the excellent Plumas County Museum.

Excellent artifacts and information at the Plumas County Museum.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area was recognized as a botanical treasure back in the 1870's when Rebecca Merritt Austin first started collecting the unusual plant specimens found here. Mining and logging took over for many years but in 1976 the site became a protected botanical area to preserve the habitat for native California pitcher plants. three other species of insectivorous plants, 12 species of orchids, 24 species of lilies and numerous ferns that thrive here.

A good, though potholed, dirt road (detailed directions) brings you to the easy two mile loop trail leading to the Darlingtonia Bog where the pitcher plants are found. Thanks to the long hard winter we were a bit early for full bloom this year but still saw some beautiful plants and a pair of sandhill cranes which are a harbinger of spring in these parts.

California pitcher plants thrive in the Darlingtonia Bog.

Pitcher plants with their flowers towering overhead.

Unidentified, but brilliant, water plants.

Pond adjacent to Darlingtonia bog and the small meadow where we saw the sandhill cranes.

Keddie Wye, a unique trestle where two railroad lines come together.

We hiked another few miles of trails in the South Park Non-Motorized Trail system that gave us an excellent workout as well as beautiful views of Quincy in the American Valley.

Springtime in American Valley.

As daily temperatures warmed into the 80's we headed into the mountains towards Bucks Lake Wilderness. The road was open just to the resort area full of summer homes and yet-to-be-opened forest service campgrounds along Bucks Lake.

Mill Creek/Lakeshore Trail along the east side of Bucks Lake was mostly clear of snow, but still had mountains of tree debris and lots of tiny streams overtaking the indication of bear. We hiked a pretty 1.5 miles of shoreline before we got tired of scrambling over debris and turned back.

Ponderosa pine saplings grow out of boulders along Bucks Lake.
Summer homes and lodging dot the far shore...where we enjoyed a cold beer post hike at Lakeshore Resort.

Massive old ponderosa pine.

Bucks Lake Road and Bucks Creek Road were not fully cleared a week before Memorial Day weekend.
Snow mobilers were taking advantage of this last opportunity before roads were plowed and crowds descend.

For our final hike in the area we decided to tackle Bucks Creek Loop, a 4.5 mile hike that we knew would be covered in debris and occasional snow drifts but would also offer solitude and shade and a chance to see some wildlife. While all of the above was true, we never saw any animals...but there was plenty of bear sign and we were prepared with bear spray just in case.

We renamed this trail Buck Creek Obstacle Course!
It is going to take lots of man hours to clear all of the trails in California's mountains this year.

Bears fresh out of hibernation tear apart rotting logs to get at the tasty insects inside.

This bear has been eating well...

We passed through large patches of snow where we relied on small blue nordic trail signs placed high on the trees to keep us on the trail.

We saw bear tracks numerous times on this hike, this set was pretty fresh...

...and pretty good sized!

While it would have been exciting to see a bear, it would have been scary as well!
We talked to each other and to the bears as we hiked so we wouldn't come upon one unexpectedly.

Snake Lake was a pretty stop a couple of miles off Bucks Lake Road. This small, shallow lake is covered in lily pads and has a beaver lodge too. The beavers have even built up the dam by a couple of feet increasing the water level!

Beaver lodge on Snake Lake.

Industrious beavers have built up the dam increasing the lakes depth.

We felt it should have been named Frog Lake, there were hundreds along the shoreline!

Today was another very short drive to our next stop: Canyon Dam, CA on the shores of Lake Almanor where we'll ride out the Memorial Day Weekend.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thwarted by Snow in Graeagle, CA

Reno, NV to Graeagle, CA was a beautiful 65 mile drive into the mountains. All the mountains over 6,000 feet still had snow, the valleys were green and moist, and water was flowing everywhere...just gorgeous!

We spent a week at Clio's Rivers Edge RV Park, a pristine park on the Middle Fork of the Feather River. This 200 site RV park was less than 10% full during the week and maybe 15% full on the weekend. I don't think we'd have enjoyed it as much if it were full, but it was perfect at this slow time of year. Verizon signal was decent, AT&T signal was good but the speed was slow, park wifi was poor.

We appreciated the paved roads, concrete patio and pea gravel at our site, it kept down the dust if it was windy and the dirt when it rained or snowed. Yes, we did have a light dusting of snow one morning!

There are many trails in the area, but the extreme winter this year made most of the trails still inaccessible due to all the snow left in early May. Fortunately we could do a very nice 3 - 4 mile walk right from the RV park into and beyond the tiny town of Clio across the river from our park.

We had site G2, with lots of room on both sides of us.
We loved all the beautiful, healthy trees throughout the park.

View across the meadow next to the RV park.
Deer hung out here daily.

The Middle Fork of the Feather River.
Note the RV on the left...there are several RV sites that back up to the river...offered at a premium price.

Deer in the meadow in the evening.

Tiny Clio had a post office and the Blackbird Inn and Restaurant where we had an excellent pizza and tasty local brews.

One day we tried to hike to Frazier Falls, knowing that the road might not be open all the way to the trailhead. Sure enough a few miles up the road the snow drifts became too thick to get fact, we got stuck trying to plow our way through a particularly heavy patch.

High centered on a good 18 inches of snow!

It was 65 degrees and sunny, the snow was melting fast and it only took us about 15 minutes to get free.

After getting unstuck we parked and walked up the road, and the snow got deeper and deeper.

This was a pretty snow melt pond right off the road.

Plumas Eureka State Park is another place we attempted to take a hike. Though the historic mining complexes at Johnsville and the Jamison Mine were closed we were able to park at the head of the Jamison Mine Road and walk in to explore. The Upper Jamison Creek Campground was a shambles, with branches and trees down everywhere and signs of heavy water runoff here and there. It will be some time before it will reopen to the public.

Several mountain lakes can be reached from the Jamison Mine Complex so we decided to see if we could get to the closest one, Grass Lake, just a mile and a half from the closed campground. The trail was as much of a mess as the campground had been...clearly it had been a rough winter! Still we continued on till the snow got too deep and we worried about losing the trail.

Pretty mountain views from Grass lake Trail.

A particularly messy section of trail.

At this point we could still figure out where the trail was going...but not much longer!

A few crossings like this thanks to snow melt.

This beautiful waterfall was our stopping point.
We actually managed to get in a 6.5 mile hike on this day!

The Brewing Lair was an awesome find. Located up a gravel road on a hillside off of hwy 70, nestled in the forest The Brewing Lair makes some wonderful IPA's and has a unique outdoor venue. All seating is outside and there are beautiful homemade ping pong tables, corn hole, a slackline, 9-hole disc golf course and picnic areas with BBQ's (bring your own food). I don't know what they do when the weather is bad, but it is a fantastic place to have a tasty brew on a nice day.

Hanging out at The Brewing Lair.

Picnic area, fire pit, ping pong, etc. in a beautiful setting.

Madora Lake was a pretty, easy 1.6 mile hike very close to town.

Pretty Lundy Ditch.

Madora Lake looks like a great place for birds with all the grass and tree stumps.

Just a couple miles down the road from our RV park is the sweet tourist town of Graeagle. This former mill town now has multiple golf courses, easy access to the mountains and lakes, and some cute shops so there are lots of summer homes in the area.

Cute, old red and white houses line the main drag of Graeagle.

Nearby Lakes Basin Recreation Area has miles and miles of trails among subalpine lakes and some good fishing too...but this year we could only make it a few miles up the road till we reached snow. The snowmobilers were still enjoying the road!

Gold Lake Highway is still a winter sports destination.

Fortunately the road to Gray Eagle Lodge was open, though the lodge itself was not, and we were able to explore the lodge grounds and take a short hike to lovely Lilly Lake.

Gray Eagle Lodge is composed of 20 small cabins in a gorgeous setting along Gray Eagle Creek.
A couple of the cabins sit right on the edge of the creek which is running strong this year.

A short, snowy, heavily damaged trail brought us to pretty Lilly Lake.

We really loved this area, it was postcard beautiful and seems to have a lot of hiking...if there weren't so much snow this spring. We'll definitely be back, possibly this autumn, the fall colors should be spectacular.

Onward to Quincy, CA where we may have the same problems with snow...