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Split & Two Step
Begins: Jul 12, 2016
Date: Wed, Jul 13th, 2016
Start: Trail Gulch Lake
End: Upper South Fork Lake
Daily Distance: 12
Trip Distance: 25.0
Hours Hiked: 6.15
Daily Ascent: 2526
Daily Descent: 2221
Max Elevation: 7251
Entry Visits: 367
Journal Visits: 5,192
Guestbook Views: 21
Guestbook Entrys: 2
Lake to Lake to Lake.
Lake to Lake to Lake.
The sun had set yesterday by the time we had eaten dinner, and it was just after 11:00pm when we finally finished journaling and examining our maps to finalize tomorrow's goal and path, but sleep eluded us. I knew there were large animals around, probably deer, after one had nearly run into me as I sat in the dark typing my journal into my phone that was set for minimum brightness. Sounds of a nearby stream and the constant rustling of animals kept us up for a couple of hours, but eventually we settled into a restless sleep.
We laid in bed till after 7:30am, comfortable in our sleeping bags as the overnight low of 45 degrees crept up a couple of degrees. But when the sun finally appeared over the ridge we had crested yesterday, we quickly emerged from our bags and broke camp. A leisurely breakfast and a walk to Trail Gulch Lake to take in the sight of clear lake water backed by mountains and small snow patches took another hour. We finally said adieu to our first night's site at 9:10am.
We retraced yesterday's descent by climbing upwards for 1000 feet. The newly cut and maintained trail was a challenging but straightforward climb, and when we reached the ridge 50 minutes later we stopped for a snack and a nearly 360 view of the surrounding mountains, including a distant volcano - which are Two Step's favorites.
We then started a 2000 foot descent towards our lunch destination, Long Gulch Lake. The path was again newly maintained and much easier than yesterday's bushwhacking experience. However, we never did find the turnoff that was a supposedly alternate path to our trail yesterday that should have been an easier trail than the one we took.
We walked for 1.5 hours through a pine forest in the cool morning breeze until we came to a new sign pointing to the side trail to Long Gulch Lake. After another 15 minutes we arrived at the lake, and also saw our first hiker. She and her dog were seeking solitude, so we walked further around the lake and settled into our lunch, listening to the lapping of the waves against the shore. Fish playfully burst from the water regularly, presumably eating the flies and mosquitos that dared come too close to the water's surface.
By 12:15 we were again heading downhill on the trail. We heard loud voices ahead of us and soon found that it was a crew of about 15 California Conservation Corp (CCC) workers spread out over 1/3 of a mile of trail. As we passed the first worker and thanked him for his trail maintenance efforts, he bellowed with impressive force "HIKERS COMING". Each three person team was working on one step or a small set of rocks for water diversion. We talked briefly to one woman who said they would be out for a total of five weeks, having already put in three hard weeks of work. Everyone seemed chipper, and one man on the crew was reading a tattered and dirty copy of "A Feast of Crows", one of the five Game of Thrones books. He said he was enjoying it greatly - as had I.
After less than an hour of hiking we reached a dirt road and the Long Gulch trail head. This was our cue to turn right and head down the road. We had an easy uphill climb as we traveled one mile along this pine-lined road, observing one fearless deer and a number of car camper's elaborate setups, obviously enjoying "roughing it in the wilderness". We left the road and took a quarter of a mile steep trail to reach our next milestone - joining the PCT. We would only walk about a mile along the PCT, and were hoping to meet some thru-hikers on their way to Canada. We almost immediately saw a husband/ wife team approaching, but their heavy packs and large boots marked them as short section hikers. A few minutes later a more likely woman appeared down the trail. With a light pack and a steady gate she approached uphill. We stopped to chat and sure enough, she was finishing off her thru-hike, having started at Burney Falls and planning to finish in Canada. She was almost two weeks ahead of the pack, and about a week in front of when we had passed this point. When she found out we had hiked the entire PCT in 2013, she asked if we had stopped in Agua Dolce at Hiker Heaven. We enthusiastically responded yes, remembering the great day we had spent there. She then said "I'm Donna Saufley". We did not recognize her in her hiker attire. Stunned, we took a moment to thank this great friend of the trail who has helped many thousands of hikers by hosting them for a day or two at her large property equipped with washing machines, showers, and cars for giving rides into town to visit restaurants and grocery stores. There are a large number of trail angels that help PCT hikers on there epic journey, but there are only half a dozen or so Arch-Angels that profoundly impact a hiker's journey. Donna (trail name L-Rod) is one of those Arch-Angels, and it was a privilege to be able to tell her this and thank her again. Enjoy your well deserved epic PCT journey, L-Rod!
A few short minutes later we took a hard right and left the PCT behind, smiling at our good fortune of meeting probably the most distinguished hiker this year on the trail. Our path was now steeply uphill on a grade far exceeding anything found on the PCT. However, this was a maintained trail with occasional switch-backs, and we gradually emerged above the forest to some fantastic views of the surrounding hills and distant valleys. It was another 50 minute, 1000 foot climb that crested a small ridge and gave us our fist view of Lower South Fork Lake. Another 15 minutes of slight uphill hiking brought us to a flat large campsite with a view of today's destination, Upper South Fork Lake. It was only 3:30pm, and we soon had our camp setup chores done, had washed ourselves and our clothes in the outlet of the lake, and were standing in the warm afternoon sun at the edge of the lake. We stood drying off while we watched the dragonflies and mayflies play on the surface of the water and the deep reddish-brown newts swim just below the surface of the lake. Soon it will be time for dinner and a hopefully quiet night's sleep, with our challenging trek providing us with solitude from other hikers and perhaps the absence of our deer friends...
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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