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Split & Two Step
Begins: Jul 12, 2016
Date: Tue, Jul 12th, 2016
Start: Etna, California
End: Long Gulch Lake
Daily Distance: 13
Trip Distance: 13.0
Hours Hiked: 8.13
Daily Ascent: 4370
Daily Descent: 1499
Max Elevation: 7215
Entry Visits: 219
Journal Visits: 5,169
Guestbook Views: 21
Guestbook Entrys: 2
Not an easy first day!
Not an easy first day!
We rose at 7:00 to do our final preparations and were ready for our breakfast, which was served by our hostess, Vicky, promptly at 8:30am. It was a wonderful concoction of egg souffl decorated with sausage, tomatoes, avocado, and mushroom slices. The hash browns and crispy large biscuits with jam filled in the empty corners. All seven guests were delighted. It was sad to hear from Vicky that she and her husband Dave are putting the B&B up for sale this summer. It is a resource for all hikers in this area, as well as anyone visiting Etna.
We didn't finally depart until after 10:00am, but soon found ourselves driving slowly down the very curvy Coffee Creek Road, which eventually turned to a dirt road. We parked at the East Fork Coffee Creek trailhead, and left our car, which was at least momentarily shaded, at 12:15pm. We had a one-mile road walk to get to the North Fork Coffee Creek trailhead, seeing only two teenagers riding the opposite direction on an ATV during this dusty stroll. Even though the views were limited from the road, Two Step joyfully remarked on how blue the sky was and how green the pines. She was very excited to be heading back into the wilderness.
We reached our starting trailhead and immediately started up a 10% grade hill. I noted our starting elevation was about 3400ft, and the day was quite warm. We were definitely sweating buckets walking in the sun on the road, but the trail led us into the shade of the pines, and we would be in shade or dappled sunlight for the majority of the day.
We were rehiking a portion of one of the first trails we did when we first started backpacking back in 2006. I had few memories of the trail other than crossing a bridge and seeing fishermen in the creek, and visiting with rangers at Hodges Cabin about 3.2 miles from the trailhead. I had forgotten the continuous uphill climb. We reached the bridge over Coffee Creek after about an hour, and the ranger cabin after another half hour. We could no longer find a bridge to cross the creek to reach the cabin, and even though two chairs were sitting invitingly in front of the cabin, we didn't feel like fording the water. Since it was well after 2:00pm, we plopped down on a log and enjoyed a 40-minute lunch.
After lunch we continued following near the creek and soon were climbing across our second bridge. We saw two snakes as we hiked, one of which was a small rattlesnake, but through the entire day we would not see a single person. I was watching the elevation creep towards the mile high mark as we walked quickly up the trail. When we crossed the creek again, this time on some tricky rocks, Two Step got worried that we might have missed our turn-off. Unable to locate our exact position on our maps, I brought out our Garmin GPS and we quickly determined we had walked well beyond our turnoff. Turning around allowed us a short break in our uphill climb, but even moving quickly downhill it took 20 minutes to walk back to the almost nonexistent side trail. But there was a well aged wood sign about 30 feet off the trail.
The rest of the afternoon was an exercise in navigating hard-to-find trails. We relied heavily on our Garmin, eventually scrambling through miles of rocks and bushwacking through bogs and 8-foot high brush to try to stay on what was obviously an unmaintained trail. Just before our navigation "guide" directed us towards a bog, we heard a large cacophony of high pitched yaps and yowls. At first we thought someone had brought along a pack of dogs, but we soon saw 3 large coyotes prancing through the boggy Meadow. Not sure how wise it was to be following a large pack, we trudged forward.
We realized something was seriously wrong when it was after 7:00pm and our Garmin was directing us up a 35% slope over rocks and roots with not the slightest hint of a trail. We knew the actual trail must have been relocated, but we were out of water and only a couple miles away from a lake that was our goal for the night. We climbed over 1000ft to reach 7200ft - much higher than we had expected to go today - and to reach the top of a ridge. Here we finally found a well-worn trail with switchbacks down about 1000ft to a beautiful lake. It had been an 8-hour hike and over a 4000ft climb. Not the easy warm-up day we had planned.
With camp set up and our dinner consumed, we looked over our recently procured, up to date forest service map. It was straightforward to see on the updated map where we had taken our wrong turn, and also see that the Garmin "trail" we had followed was no longer on the map. Tomorrow, we will partially retrace our path to climb out of the way we came in, but try to do it on the maintained path this time!
From the Trinity Alps,
Split and Two Step
Split And Two Step's Trinity Alps Trek
Other Trail is located off the beaten path, somewhere between the soles of your feet and your imagination.
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