Beautiful Streams of the Northern Sierra

I plan to camp at McCloud Falls tonight. So, north on I-5, cross Lake Shasta, then turn east before Mount Shasta. Not a very long drive, and pretty pleasant if this part if I-5 isn’t too thick with big rigs. On the way to the campground I do a drive thru on the town of McCloud, to see if any of its few restaurants look worth coming back for in the morning. They do, so I will!

Fowler's Camp Campground:  

On the McCloud River, within hiking distance of the three waterfalls. Apparently heavily used in the swimming months, but pleasantly uncrowded tonight.

The hike to Lower Falls is less than a mile and very scenic.

Hike to Middle/Upper Falls is a little more than a mile. You can walk the paved road back to make it a loop if you wish.

tonight:

At the far, downriver corner of the campground, very slower to Lower Falls. The set aside a handful of campsites as non-reservable. This is one, and it's quite nice.

They tried to gas-powered leaf-blow my campsite with me in it this morning. Not cool.

Deer at Fowler's Camp

Fowler’s Camp is awesome again. I think it’s very busy in the summer, but I have again caught it in the off season. I luck into what looks to me like the best site in the whole darned place. On the same side of the road as the river, bathroom and water 20 yards away. It’s pretty early in the day, and this is one of the non-reserrvable sites, so that helped.

Middle Falls of the McCloud

Hung out for a while, but visited by the camp host so I didn’t even have to make the walk back to the kiosk. I did what turned out to be almost exactly the same hike as last time. Choose not to go right (downstream) to nearby Lower Falls, rather take the longer hike to Middle and Upper Falls. Run out of daylight at the base of Upper Falls, so toil up the switchbacks to the parking lot above, where I walk the paved rioad back downhill to camp in the gathering gloom. I did one different thing this time, namely decide to take the road to Lower Falls instead of to the campground. The idea was to make it to the trailthen walk back, but it got really dark so I buskwhacked my way back on something that Google Maps called a road, but which was in face a barely discenable footpath. Again, a little excitement in my prosaic life. :-

Thursday (Sep 5) 

Really lovely morning except for dumbass camp host leaf blower. I heard it in the distance getting closer … and closer … finally it was very loud and smell the damn gas fumes, so I stuck my head out and she was blowing my picnic table. WTF?!?!? Haven’t you got any sense at all? I shooed her the fuck away with rather violent gestures which maybe I should regret, but I meant them sincerely at the time.

really zoom in on the lenticular clouds - very dramatic!

I don’t like to backtrack, but I will this morning. Six miles back to breakfast in McCloud, at the foot of the incredibly photogenic Mount Shasta.. There is no food going forward until Burney, which is also a side trip and whose restaurants are pretty bad. So let’s see what McCloud is about. There were two likely joints. One is the coffee shop of the old McCloud Hotel. It was the winner in terms of atmosphere and general cool factor, but the other new place has wifi and a better looking menu.

Does not look like a tri-tip scramble, but it is.

Clearwater Coffee was quite nice. I got the steak and feta scramble. When it came out it looked like some kind of bean sprout salad, but it was in fact my yummy scramble, with sprouts and avocado on top.

A crew of high school jocks and maybe the cheerleaders came in while I was eating and provide light entertainment with their dorky conversation and hotness.

The one and only gas station had diesel at as good a price as I’m gonna get around here so I filled up, which should get me to Nevada.

Lower Falls of the McCloud from the viewpoint

I don’t have long to go today, so I went back to the falls area. First to the Lower Falls parking area. It really is quite close to my campsite. Then taking the Falls Road up the hill I walked down last night, past the Middle and Upper Falls parking lots, then five miles or so to the Cattle Camp swimming hole turnoff, and finally for a little exploratory drive-thru on Cattle Camp Campground.

Then back on US 89 to follow it all the way to wonderful Hat Creek. I had the sense to look up the hours for JJ’s Cafe before I lost phone reception, and found that they aren’t open tonight. That clinched it that I should stay at Bridge Campground rather than driving on Cave. Cave is way better for walking, but for just chillin by the river close to your site Bridge is the best.

Bridge Picnic Area and Campground:  

Three miles north of Old Station. There is a perfectly idyllic picnic area on the east side of the road and a campground on the west.

The campground has no water so it's a little cheaper than Cave and Hat Creek.

Even better, the big RVs don't come here, so it's more mellow - a win-win for me!

tonight:

Third night in a row camping next to swiftly running water - good planning on my part!

Hat Creek in the background, that cool little stone wall in the middle, my stupid finger upper left.

There is a trail along the river that goes all the way to Cave Campground (4 miles the sign says). Sadly though, a forest fire ravaged the area in the last few years. The burn area starts 50′ from the edge of the campground. I tried the hike a few trips ago, and it’s no fun. Any time you brush a charred tree trunk to get charcoal stains on your clothes. There’s no shade, and it’s just kinda bleak.

But it is opposite of bleak in the shade by the creek, so that’s where I stay, at the picnic table by the creek doing my puzzles and blogging. I’m so happy the fire fighters were able to save this campground!

Friday 

The notice board at JJ's - I grew up with a beer called Falls City back in Louisville.

I set up the hammock last night, but it’s in hot sun this morning, so that’s a no go. Not much else going, so around noon I pack up and make the five mile drive to JJ’s Cafe. Gosh I love JJ’s!! It’s one of those hidden gems in the middle of nowhere, with great food and a great all around presentation. I splurged and got the rib-eye steak. I had eaten one bite when the cook came around the corner from the kitchen and headed my way. She was a nice little old white lady in a baseball cap, I had waved at her when I came in. Anyway … she was worried that perhaps my medium rare was a little too rare. It was such a fine, thick hunk of meat that here usual time was too little. I gave her most of it and she took another whack at it. Amazing! Even the pancake I got instead of bread was perfectly done, the best pancake I’ve had in a while.

Hat Lake is kind aspirational rather than actual.

Road repair backups aren’t just for Route 299! I get a nice fat 20 minute time out here on Route 44 between Old Station and the entrance to Mt Lassen. Clear sailing after that. In the park I stopped at the Loomis Museum, the old stone Ranger Station that is now the north side Visitors Center. It’s a cool little spot.

I know Route 89 over Mt Lassen pretty well by now. I’ve stopped at every stop worth stopping at, and read pretty much every Point of Interest sign there is to read. So I did not stop at Chaos Crags or the Devastated Area, been there, done that. I did stop (again) however at the Hat Creek Trailhead. There’s a little marsh that they choose to call Hat Lake, and it pleases me to stop here and pay my respects to the headwaters of wonderful Hat Creek, which gives me so much happiness.

Not long after is the Summit Lake Ranger Station, then Summit Lake and it’s North and South Campgrounds. Cheapo that I am, I stayed at the less deluxe South Campground, but tonight I and going to splurge and spend the extra dollar on:

Summit Lake North Campground:  

Lovely spot at 9,000'-ish on the north side of a little alpine lake. On the south side is Summit Lake South Campground. I now prefer paying the extra $2/$1 for the deluxe North experience.B Loop is reservable, A Loop is first come first served.There's a lake to swim in or just admire and you're in an awesome place!

tonight:

More important that the water to me is the fact that North is newer. The loop roads are in good condition and the campsites are better laid out and the pads are more or less level.

It's a champagne night at Summit Lake.

I happened so speak to a ranger on the way in and he hooked me up with a really nice campsite. The B Loop is reservable and theoretically full on a Saturday night, but a site freed up today because its occupants moved to a site closer to their friends. It’s on the outside of the loop, set back a little so it’s quite a bit more private than most of the sites, and quite close to the lake and the hiking trails.

North side of Summit Lake

I thought really hard about breaking out my little kayak, but laziness won. I did go splash around in the lake for a while. Wouldn’t quite call it swimming, but I got mostly wet. It was fun. Then I hikes up the trail a mile or so. We are at >7000′ so I went slow. Out of nowhere on the trail I was passed by three firefighters. They were in full yellow slicker outfits carrying carrying ridiculous amounts of equipment, and moving up the steep hill like it was nothing. Those dudes are in shape! They said there was a report of a fire a few miles up.

Smoky twilight at Summit Lake

It’s a waxing gibbous moon tonight, my favorite! So back at the campsite after dark I walked over to the lake for moonlight reflections. It made me sad. In fact the fire made me have gloomy thoughts all along the hike. Not only that this beautiful mountainside could get devastated tomorrow, but even worse, this entire ecosystem may not survive climate change. Folks walking here in 20 years might see something completely different.

Saturday 

Got pretty cold up here last night. At around dawn it was 41° outside and 51° inside. My propane tank is empty, so turning on the heat isn’t even an option. For whatever reason it didn’t really feel that cold.

A strong urge to poop got me out walking around around 8 am (still pretty outside) which reminded me again how much of the world is morning people. Maybe a third of the sites were already into their day – fire going, coffee boiling, the sound and smell of bacon sizzling. One bunch was already breaking down their tents and will probably be on the road by 8:30. The cynical explanation is that they were so fucking cold in their tents they might as well get up and get the blood moving. :)

new mud pot?!?
Enjoy the mountain as always. Did not stop at either of the picture perfect alpine lakes. Did stop at the overlook with the fire notification, and did stop at the Mud Pots as I always do. There appears to be a new mud pot on the other side of the road!
Beer and Wine Festival, Mt Lassen Visitors Center

After the Mud Pots it’s a very short drive to the new Visitors Center. I read yesterday at Loomis that there is a Beer and Wine Tasting there today! I waffled on it for about ten minutes, then decided what the heck. It was great fun. $14 gets you 10 drink tickets and the choice of a pint glass or a wine glass. The wine glass was much cooler. There was one beer table – Lassen Ale Works out of Susanville, and four or five wine tables, all little vineyards in the Manton area. Tucked into the Sierra foothills east of Red Bluff and south of Shingletown. The wines were tasty (even some bubbly!) and the beer was fresh and refreshing.

Finishing up that last glass before (eek!) hitting the road.

I am definitely going against my risk management handbook by driving out of here, but it’s the middle of Saturday afternoon and have gotten pretty good at being a boring driver. The plan is to take the slow but scenic route home. Stay on 89 all the way to the Sierra Valley, possibly all the way to Truckee and I-80.

But at the turnoff where 89 leaves 36 I decided to drive on in to Chester, check out Jeff’s place and eat in the little bar and grill nearby. To my amazement there are all the usual suspects, sittin around in a circle in those kitchen chairs, almost exactly as I left them 16 days and 4 hours ago!  LOL! :)

Jeffroe's Fruit Stand and Pie Shop:  

My friend Jeff lives and works in Reno until Memorial Day, then he commutes to Chester every weekend to run his fruit stand / pie shop / ice creamery / burrito place. It's really fun to hang out here.

tonight:

also on the way back!

The fruit stand is indeed closed for the winter, but Jeff is doing some structural work on the kitchen floor and the plumbing, so he’s up for the weekend, and the old fella that does everybody’s projects is here “supervising”, i.e. shooting the shit with whoever is handy. Shippy is up from Oroville because he can, Burt hasn’t left for the winter yet because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go, so here we all are! I gotta stay the night to be part of this shit show!. With some small amount of discipline I can still make it home for the first Niners game tomorrow at 4pm-ish.

It’s pretty darned funny though. 16 days later I’m back with almost exactly the same sausage fest I started the trip with. This is the first time I’ve partied with the guys without any softening female influence. There’s always been Jeff’s GF or Shippy’s GF, or Lark – somebody to to keep this randy old bunch of 60-somethings respectable. I gotta sat it was a little too testosterone-y for me. But the meal was great, and it was mostly fun to talkwith the guys until sadly we veered off into politics. I’ll bet yopu can predict how the rest of the night went. In the age of Trump I exactly ZERO patience with smug old white libertarians. They gotta sit down.

Sunday

I stayed in the van till the dudes headed out for some drunken Sunday golf at a Lake Almanor course, so I had the place to myself to get organized. I tried a different coffee place and it was spectacular! The Koninkrijk Koffiehuis is a little Bavarian(?) place downtown. They had a whole display case of delicious looking pastries, but the Sunday only special is fresh-baked apple strudel, so I went for that. It was pricey but super tasty and filled me up for the whole trip home.

I did backtrack a little and take CA 89 – through Greenville, along the Feather River, past Quincy, past Graeagle, through Chilcoot to US 395 South. I took a short cut on Chandler Road to bypass Quincy. It’s probably not faster, but it avoids town and is more rural, so I usually take it.

Back in Nevada, I got diesel because I’m almost empty, and got home for the last half of the first quarter!