Dates: Saturday, August 31 – Monday, September 2, 2013
Locations: Trinity Alps Wilderness – Preacher Meadow & Swift Current/Granite Lake Trail to Granite Lake
Hikers: Sarah & Nick
Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted as Sarah)
Synopsis: It has been a very busy Summer for Sarah and me, with a combination of work and planning for our wedding! We were long looking forward to an enjoyable weekend of backpacking over Labor Day up in the Desolation Wilderness in the Lake Tahoe Basin and had a trip all planned. However, the horrible Rim Fire in Yosemite has been blowing smoke up in a direct line towards Lake Tahoe, making for some pretty rough air conditions. I actually had triathlon scheduled in Lake Tahoe in the weeks prior to Labor Day that was cancelled due to unhealthy air quality. As an aside, a special thanks to all of the fire service workers that are out trying to control the Rim Fire. It is a massive undertaking and will be really interesting to see the effects heading into Yosemite next year.
Needless to say, Sarah and I were looking for a different plan and decided to head up to the Trinity Alps Wilderness in Northern California near Mount Shasta. I had never explored the area, but it has been high on my list for a while given the size of the wilderness area. The Trinity Alps Wilderness is actually the second largest wilderness area in California – it currently has over 600 miles of trails and embraces over 500,000 acres of land.
Sarah and I decided to hike into Granite Lake via the Swift Creek and Granite Lake trails. Our plan was to drive up Saturday afternoon and car camp in Preacher Meadows camp, which is relatively close to the Swift Creek trailhead. Then on Sunday morning we would wake up early and hit the trail to hike up to Granite Lake.
For car camping, Preacher Meadow was great as it was virtually empty – very surprising given it was Labor Day weekend. That just shows how much less use the Trinity Alps area receives than many other areas of California. We pulled up to a great spot with no one around and set up camp.
The camping area was really empty – it was great to relax. Photo: Sarah
Sarah got some awesome Indian food going.
We chilled out the rest of the night for an early start the next day.
On Sunday, we got up early to hit the trail, as we wanted to get up to Granite Lake early to get in some swimming and relax for the afternoon up in the mountains. The first mile or so you head up the Swift Creek trail before the junction with the Granite Lake trail. Photo: Sarah
First time in the Trinity Alps Wilderness for us both!
The beginning of the trail is along Swift Creek, with cascading water an many small waterfalls.
The weather was great as it was not too hot yet in the early morning. Sarah was having a great time.
As if the sign was not obvious enough… that way! Photo: Sarah
Interesting textures on some downed trees.
Just past the junction of the Swift Creek and Granite Lake trails, there is a big footbridge over Swift Creek. It is impressive the Forest Service built such a large bridge at this point in the trail.
As the trail headed up and gained elevation, we broke through the forest cover for some great views of the surrounding peaks.
Heading up towards Granite Lake, you continue to pass small waterfalls.
Many of the wild flowers were going off.
This was an extremely scenic hike with a little bit of everything. Right by the spot we stopped for lunch there were awesome trees.
Just when I had stuffed my face with a sandwich, Sarah pulls out the camera! Photo: Sarah
As you get closer to Granite Lake, you head past Gibson Meadows. It was beautiful as the wind was blowing through the alpine meadow grass right where we had lunch.
After a good lunch we continued heading up to Granite Lake – it was getting pretty hot when you were in the wide open out of the forest. We were really looking forward to jumping into the cold lake. It was funny, though – as the second you would head into the forest it would cool down significantly and the wind would really feel good. Sarah pushing through a hotter section.
When we got up by Granite Lake, we walked around and found a great campsite in a secluded place a bit further away from the lake (but with great views of Mt. Shasta). This shot is from a bit later in the evening of the view from camp.
We dropped our bags and walked five minutes over to the lake. It was beautiful.
After taking some pictures, we headed down to this little cove to take a swim. It was cold, but felt really great. Sarah and I both got in and swam around for a bit. Sarah got out to warm up, and I swam out to this huge downed tree out further in the lake. It was much bigger when I was by it, but after some slippery movements underwater on the truck, I was able to get up on the top of it out of the water. Photos: Sarah
Well, what do I do now? Cannonnnnballlll!
We headed back to camp and set up and just chilled in the sun to dry off and warm up. Sarah was so happy just relaxing in the sun.
We set up camp about 100 yards from a cool waterfall dropping away off the edge of a good sized cliff.
Later in the afternoon, at about Wine-30, we broke out the plastic mini bottles. They were actually pretty darn tasty!
We made some awesome pizzas, including some smoked salmon on top – I think Sarah was pretty impressed with my Whisperlight stove skills. Photos: Sarah
She was definitely loving it!
Tending the fire – it actually cooled off quite a bit and felt great.
The sun headed down and we scored an AMAZING sunset with Mt. Shasta off in the distance.
Fortunately I had my 1.4 aperture lens with me, so when I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom I caught a good shot of the Milky Way right above our camp site. The starts were going strong!
The next morning we woke up early (as we had gone to bed super, super early – which was awesome to be honest).
The hike out was easy and all downhill. Gibson Meadows in the early light.
Sarah in one of the sections half way through the trail that is really narrow and over grown – you don’t see this type of underbrush in the High Sierra that is for sure!.
All in all, we had a great time and I was super pleased with the Trinity Alps Wilderness. We only explored one single trail, so there is a TON left to see. Now we are backing and both really excited for our wedding in less than a week and a half! One last camping trip engaged and the next one will be married!