Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Last Days in the Northern Sierra

We spent a week, including Memorial Day holiday, in tiny Canyon Dam, CA situated at the southern end of Lake Almanor. With only 31 people there is not much to the town; a couple of RV parks, small general store, kayak rentals...the focus here is the lake.

We stayed at Whispering Pines RV Park, a 25 site park with full hook ups, gravel roads and sites, nice concrete patios and a table at each site and lots of beautiful grass and trees. This is a one man operation and Stuart works hard to make this a pleasant place to stay.

The park is right off the highway but it's not too noisy. There are also train tracks adjacent to the park and several freight trains pass by each day at a very slow pace to negotiate some tight turns. Fortunately they rarely blow their whistles. AT&T signal was good, Verizon was weak, and the park wifi was sporadic.

With the southern Lake Almanor boat launch just half a mile away, the RV park gets lots of fishermen and there is plenty of space to park boats on site, plus a fish cleaning station.

The Lake Almanor Recreation Trail is an 11 mile paved path that runs along the south west shore of Lake Almanor, with the southern trail head at the Canyon Dam Boat Launch parking lot, just half a mile from our RV park. We first rode this trail when we stayed in the area in June 2014 and fell in love with this curvy path of gentle hills through healthy forest with gorgeous views of the lake.

Most of the bike path is through heavy forest which is really pleasant to ride through on a hot summer day.
But when you stop and walk through the forest to the edge of the lake your view just might include beautiful,
snow capped Mt Lassen.

Five miles into our 21 mile bike ride this happened:
I braked into a turn going down a small hill and ended up meeting the pavement with my body! 

After regaining my composure I decided the scratches were pretty superficial and everything was still working both on my body and on the bike so we continued our ride, and I am so glad we did! It was such a nice day in such a beautiful setting that the accident was really just a blip in an otherwise perfect day along Lake Almanor.

The shocking red of Sarcodes are hard to miss among the browns and grays and greens of the forest.

Taken from a perfectly placed bench along the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail.

It's now been a week since my accident and the scratches on the leg are practically healed (the skin was protected by my bike shorts which didn't even rip!), but the bruise on my thigh is huge and grotesque! The arm is still all scabbed up, but is healing like it should.

Hans broke a tooth while we were in Quincy the previous week so one day we drove the 30 miles back there so he could get a crown done. We appreciated the ability to get a crown in one day, but small town dentists are not inexpensive!

On the way home we stopped off at Round Valley Reservoir near the town of Greenville for a hike. We walked forest roads all the way around the reservoir for a pretty six mile hike (a little longer than the 1.5 miles I thought I had read!).

Sand hill cranes in a meadow at Round Valley Reservoir.

The Pacific Crest Trail passes through Plumas County and there are several places to hop on for a day hike. We hiked a three mile section of the PCT where it passes near lovely Domingo Spring.

Domingo Spring is a seasonal spring thanks to snow melt from Lassen that pops out of these rocks!
Just a quarter mile from the Pacific Crest Trail, it's a great place for through-hikers to replenish their water supplies.

We passed this pretty and very wet meadow soon after we started our hike on the PCT.

The PCT climbed through forest for a couple of miles before we started to hit some large snow drifts.
At this point we decided we'd had enough, but not before I spotted this reflection of a snow drift on a snow melt pond.

Now that's a hardy mushroom!

A morel!
We took a drive through pretty Indian Valley one day, making a stop at the excellent Indian Valley Museum. This small hidden gem has a ton of artifacts representing the area's mining, logging, and Native American history as well as a large collection of gems and minerals. The day we visited 93 year old Francis Musser, who owns the gem and mineral collection was there telling stories of his life in the valley.

Indian River.

Tired youngster.

The lakes in the area are known for excellent fishing and Hans had been contemplating fresh trout for dinner one day as we biked the lake trail...when we arrived home that afternoon our neighbor showed up with three enormous fish he'd just caught and gifted us one of those beauties! Delicious!

Lake Almanor trout.

Our final two days in the northern Sierras/southern Cascades have been spent just outside the entrance to Lassen National Park at The Village at Childs Meadow. Arriving on Memorial Day we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It looks as though this was once an RV park that was left to the elements for several years and new owners are working to make it habitable again.

They have 22 FHU sites and 7 tent sites which are all currently in a very rustic state, though the utilities look new. Hopefully they will bring in some gravel to level out the sites. During our brief stay the restrooms and laundry were out of order. Management is refurbishing a convenience store/cafe and a row of motel rooms. AT&T signal is poor, Verizon is good.

This is a really lovely location with forest behind the park, beautiful Childs Meadow and a fancy resort and restaurant across the highway and Lassen National Park a few miles down the road. We walked a several miles of forest roads right from the RV park with some wonderful meadow views.

Meadow views on a walk from the RV park.

Spencer Meadow National Recreation Trail head is just a quarter mile from the RV park. We weren't up for the entire 13 mile lollipop loop, but we did enjoy 3.5 miles of the trail through healthy forest that, like most of the trails we've hiked in the northern Sierras this spring, was full of downed trees from big winds and plenty of snow melt streams.

2.5 miles of steady climbing through thick, healthy forest brought us to this fantastic view of Childs Meadow.
Our RV park is in the trees below Hans' hand.

This dramatic rock outcropping was a surprise after all the forest hiking we'd done.

Downed trees change the course of any existing streams.

The animal of the day was frogs! Lots of these little guys were hopping out of our path.

Most were gray like the frog in the previous photo, but this one matched the pine cone debris.

We often had to make detours around fallen trees.

The mountains we've had the pleasure of exploring these past few weeks have had many magnificent specimens of old growth trees...ponderosa pine, sugar pine, douglas fir, incense cedar. We discovered the ponderosa pine below right behind our RV park.

I LOVE giant trees!

We've extended our stay in the mountains by several days to avoid excessive heat along the I-5 corridor in northern California but today it's time to bite the bullet and head into Redding. Fortunately the temps will only be in the 80's, not pushing 100 like it has been. A brief stay to stock up then we continue north to a meetup with a very special person.

I almost forgot...we got to share our reasons for full timing on The Wandering RV. Check it out!

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.