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.


  1. Beautiful hike in an awesome area. Nice to see the crane and not the bears 😉

    1. As scary as it may be, I do still like to see the bears! (Just at a distant as they run away from me!)

  2. Beautiful country! I think a lot of trails will be late opening due to the banner winter snow we've had.

  3. I love the pictures of the cranes. That truly was a big pile of bear poop!

  4. Watch out for Big Foot!!!
    Bears are out here in Ouray, too...hungry after a long winter snooze.

    1. I remember great piles of bear vomit in town! We learned they overindulged on apples...

  5. It certainly is going to take time to clear the trails after the hard winter. We are seeing similar obstacles here. But the full streams and rivers sure make for beautiful hiking. That trail of bear prints is spectacular! But I am glad you didn't run into one this time of year:)

    1. We are loving all the water everywhere in dry California...even if it means the water takes over our trails!

  6. I have to look up where Quincy is in the map and this is another beautiful CA town to explore. I would be scared upon seeing those bear prints, but how cool is that to know that they were. Looking at the snow and the pine trees is just enough for me to feel cool. We are in the upper 90's and will probably get to a hundred in the next few days.

    1. We have to drop into Redding in a week and it's supposed to be 100...yuck!

  7. Awesome to see the sandhill cranes and the bear tracks. Such a wonderful week of adventures and exploring! I've never seen the pitcher plant...very interesting and unique.

  8. Wonderful Sandhill Crane photos! They're such a beautiful rusty brown -- they must have found some good iron-rich mud for their preening rituals. Love your cute little frog, too. I like that you always include wildlife/flower photos along with your gorgeous landscapes. Those hiking trails look like serious obstacle courses!

    1. The animals are some of the best things about getting out in nature!

      I've not seen many sandhills, perhaps the current color has to to with breeding season?

  9. It would seem logical that the color change is related to breeding season, but Sandhill Cranes preen by rubbing mud on their feathers, and the rusty brown color is caused by mud staining their feathers. Such interesting behavior! The juveniles are naturally a grey and rusty brown color, but don't have the white cheek patch and red crown. :-)

    1. That is fascinating! They are beautiful birds and I love the sound they make.

  10. We definitely must take this route north next time - you're seeing such wonderful places! Those cranes are amazing, but the cute little frogs are my favorite. Your snowy roads look much like those we've encountered the last couple weeks, seems so crazy this late in May!