After last week’s grueling trip, I was looking forward to a slower paced week. Luckily we didn’t have anything too crazy or hard in store. For this trip, we were also going to have a third person, confusingly also named Josh, along helping out. We headed out Wednesday afternoon and drove up to the trailhead. Our first goal was to get to Bowerman Meadows (without getting lost this time) and a small pond near Gibson Lake. Since we got a later start, we didn’t have time to hike out that afternoon, so we set up camp at the trail junction and spent the night there. Early the next morning, we headed out. We decided that in order to survey everything as efficiently as possible, we would split up. I headed off to Bowerman Meadows while Tyler and the other Josh headed for the pond.
The trail up to the Meadows is really a nice hike, winding its way through lush meadows, towering groves of conifers, and even the occasional cottonwood grove. I knew that I didn’t want to keep following the main trail like we did last time, but I wasn’t exactly sure the best place to cut off up the hill. A ways down the trail, I took a quick stop to get some water and check my GPS. By sheer luck I noticed a small, overgrown side trail while waiting for my GPS to get reception. Figuring it was worth a shot, I headed up. It wasn’t well maintained and was very overgrown, but it was definitely a trail. It wound its way slowly but steadily up the mountainside through a dry meadow that was still full of yellow and purple wildflowers.
Trail up to Bowerman Meadows
After about ¾ of a mile, I finally reached the top of the crest and got my first glimpse of Bowerman Meadows. Situated at the base of a rugged, near vertical, almost 1,000 ft. granite cliff on top of which Lake Anna and Billy-Be-Damned Lake were perched, it was quite the view.
I ran into a couple backpackers who were camped up there and chatted with them a bit before heading out to do my survey. Due to the very dry winter we had, many of the pools in the meadow were dry and I didn’t find much, only about half a dozen Cascades Frog tadpoles. After taking a quick snack break, I packed up my gear and headed by towards camp. I waited there for Tyler and Josh to get back from surveying their site. Once they had, we packed up our gear, hiked back to the truck, and headed back to the field office in Lewiston where we spent the night.
The next morning we headed west though Weaverville and Junction City to the trailhead for East Fork Lake. Despite being very close to the most popular trail in the Trinities, East Fork Lake gets very little traffic, and we were about to find out why. Right off the bat the trail began to steeply climb up the ridge. We must have gained over 1,000 before the first mile! Luckily, after that first mile of brutal uphill, the trail leveled off for a while. For a while I was even enjoying the trail, though I almost got scared to death when I rounded a corner and saw a bear on the trail about 50 ft. ahead of me. I didn’t have time to take any pictures because as much as he startled me, I scared him more and he took off up the hill through the bushes as fast as he could.
Pretty nice trail (so far)
After settling my nerves, I continued on towards the lake. All good things must come to an end, and the fairly level trail soon gave way to another steep ascent. Only this time, instead of the trail being clear and well defined, it was pretty much completely overgrown with black oaks and manzanita, making the uphill battle even more fun.
Not such a nice trail anymore
After about a mile and a half of shoving my way through the brush, I finally made it to the lake. It wasn’t a very big one, but it was very scenic, tucked away in a small granite cirque with tall, rugged ridges on all sides. After taking a short break to set up camp, we set off up the steep hill on the south side of the lake to survey some small ponds up there. After finishing that up, we scrambled back down to the lake, surveyed it, set the gillnet, and called it a day.
East Fork Lake
Bright and early the next morning, we got up to pull the net and process the fish. We caught quite a few brook trout, but all of them were fairly small. Then it was time to pack up camp yet again and head back down the trail, which was significantly easier going downhill! Since we didn’t have enough time to hike to our next destination that afternoon, we headed back to the field office for the night. Our next hike up Canyon Creek was going to be a long one (almost 7 miles), so we got an early start at 5:30 the next morning. Canyon Creek is the most popular trail in the Trinity Alps, so I was expecting a crowd, especially since it was still the weekend. But I wasn’t expecting the parking lot to be as crowded as it was. There were probably 20 or more cars there!
Starting down the trail, it was easy to see why it’s so popular. I think it is about the closest thing to a flat trail as you will find in the Alps. And the scenery along the way is outstanding! Carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, the valley along Canyon Creek is lined by some of the tallest, steepest, and most scenic mountains in the entire Trinity Alps Wilderness. The creek itself is quite gorgeous, winding its way through massive, granite boulders washed down to the canyon bottom during the last major flood. There are also several sets of waterfalls along the creek, and while nowhere near as impressive as those of someplace like Yosemite, they are quite scenic and a good place to take a break from hiking.
Small waterfalls along Canyon Creek
Pool along Canyon Creek
While our original plan was to backpack all the way up to Boulder Creek Lakes, we decided to instead set up camp below the lakes and day hike to them for our surveys instead. This gave us some extra free time, so Tyler and I decided to head up the trail a bit more to check out Canyon Creek Lakes.
On the trail to Canyon Creek Lakes
I’m very glad that we did. As you make the last final ascent up the trail and pop out onto a large granite slab, the gorgeous Lower Boulder Creek Lake is spread out before you. And it was located in what has got to be one of the most impressive settings in the Alps, with 8,891 ft. Sawtooth Peak looming overhead to the right, along with oddly-named 8,592 ft. Wedding Cake and 9,002 ft. Mt. Thompson (the tallest point in the Alps) towering in the distance. By far one of the most scenic places that I’ve visited in the Trinities so far!
Wedding Cake (left) and Mt. Thompson
Just a short scramble up a granite hill leads to Upper Canyon Creek Lake, which is just as spectacular as the lower lake, with a sheer granite cliff plunging straight into the water on the far shore. We still had some time to kill, so Tyler decided to go for a swim while I stayed on land and tried my hand at a little time-lapse photography.
360 degree view of Upper Canyon Creek Lake (left) and Lower Canyon Creek Lake with Sawtooth Peak in the middle
But the respite from work could only last so long, and it was soon time to head back to camp. The next morning we were off for Boulder Creek Lakes, which are located on a medium sized plateau on the side of the canyon. The plateau itself is cut through by a surprisingly deep gorge carved out over the centuries by a small stream. After navigating our way around the gorge, we came to the lakes themselves, which are a compilation of two larger lakes surrounded by numerous ponds scattered about on the granite.
Boulder Creek Lake with Mt. Hilton (8,964 ft.) on the right
We set the gillnet as soon as we got there, then Josh and I headed further up a small canyon above the plateau to get to Forbidden Lakes while Tyler stayed behind to survey Boulder Creek Lakes. It was a bit of a scramble up to Forbidden Lakes, with some bushwhacking at the very end, but it really wasn’t that bad, especially compared to things we had done earlier in the season! The lake itself wasn’t much to see. It was very low due to our poor rain year, so low in fact that we decided not to gillnet it. Despite being rather small, it was situated in a very impressive area, at the head of a very steep and narrow canyon.
Since we didn’t have to set a net, we finished our VES of the area and headed back down the hill to rendezvous with Tyler. We helped him finish surveying the last of the sites near Boulder Creek Lakes then waited for the net to finish setting. Ideally we want to set the net overnight or for 12 hours, but when pressed for time, a set of 4 hours can be used. Once the net had been in the lake for 4 hours, we pulled it and processed the fish. For only having been in the lake a short time, we caught quite a few fish. And good sized ones too! Not wanting to let them all go to waste, and having no time to eat them ourselves, we gave some of them away to some backpackers camped at the lake.
View of Sawtooth Peak coming down from Boulder Creek Lakes
Then it was off back to camp for our last night in the wilderness. The next morning we woke up early, ate breakfast, packed up camp, and headed back down the trail to the truck. We must have been eager to get home, because we covered the 6.5 miles in only a little over 2 hours! All in all, it was another good trip, and I can fairly confidently say that I now have a new favorite place, and one I will undoubtedly be visiting again in the future.
Miles hiked: ~130
Sites surveyed: 73