Tucked in the northwest corner of California, the Trinity Alps are a small but spectacular mountain range. The Trinities have been on my list of places to visit for a few years now, so I was excited for an opportunity to explore them. I joined a group planning to snowshoe up the Canyon Creek Trail to the Canyon Creek Lakes, an eight mile hike with 3,500 feet of elevation gain. The goal was to get as far as possible up the trail, given the storm forecast for the weekend.
We drove up I-5 to Redding, then turned west to Weaverwille, the gateway to the Trinity Alps. Turning on to Canyon Creek Road, we found that the Forest Service had recently stopped plowing the road all the way to the trailhead. The road was covered in several feet of snow for the last two miles. We made camp and parked our cars as close to the trailhead as we could get.
The promised storm moved in the next morning. We awoke to an intermittent fine drizzle that coated the snow in a frozen crust. Packing up our food and gear, we strapped on snowshoes and began hiking up the road towards the trailhead. As we hiked, we gained elevation and the rain gave way to sleet, which turned into wet snow by the time we finally reached the trailhead.
For the first half mile or so of the trail, we traversed the side of a small canyon with a creek at its bottom. Our progress was slow, largely because several downed trees blocked the trail. With snowshoes on, climbing over them was no easy task.
Eventually, the trail wound its way down to the creek, where we made an easy crossing above a small waterfall. We stopped for lunch on the far side. By this point, the wet snow was taking its toll. Most of us were soaked despite our waterproof gear. We kept hiking another third of a mile or so, up the canyon wall to a plateau above it. There we made camp, setting up our tents and rigging a tarp to make a sheltered kitchen.
After setting up camp, we ditched our soaked backpacks and hiked further up the trail. We stopped on a spur overlooking Canyon Creek and enjoyed the beautiful view for a few minutes. Then, after a brief (and very wet) snowball fight, we returned to camp.
Under the shelter of our tarp kitchen, we made a dinner of pita pizzas and shared an excellent pudding for dessert. We set up a bear hang and then dove gratefully into our sleeping bags as the snow continued to fall outside.
When we awoke the next morning, the snow had turned to rain. We ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal and broke camp. Reluctantly putting on our wet gear and clothes, we hiked back to the river crossing and continued to the trailhead. The rain continued intermittently for most of the morning, but by the time we were nearing the cars, it had almost stopped. We threw our packs into our cars and drove to Weaverville, where we changed and ate lunch. After lunch we drove home, ending a fun, but cold and wet, weekend in the wilderness.