Cliff Lake in the Marble Wilderness – July 2010
July 7, 2010 – Leaving from the assembly point (our house in Ashland) at crack of 9:30am, two cars head south: Tysen leading in the Honda Civic and Terry just behind in the lovely plum colored Scion Xb. Five seasoned hikers: Tysen M., Mary E., Alan P., Chiyemi D. and Terry D.
South on I5 to Yreka and then west on California 3 through Greenville to the euphonious Mugginsville and onto Quartz Valley Road and then 6 miles of very dusty, somewhat bumpy and narrow dirt. We arrive only 70 miles or so from the starting point about 1.5 hours from our start. The day is clear, beautiful and warm promising to be much warmer during the hike in.
The five seasoned hikers are ready to hit the trail at 11:30am a long 5 miles from our destination and 1500 feet below it: Cliff Lake on the Shackleford trail. Shackleford Creek is on our left for most of the first couple hours, quite a busy little river at lower elevations and as we cross stream after stream on the trail slanting in from the sides of the steep Marble Mountains. Some of these side streams are a challenge to cross – no bridges but logs, rocks to hop across or get your feet wet. We see very few hikers going in or out even though the parking lot was nearly full. We worry about what kind of campsite we might find and who our neighbors will be.
Five miles in four hours and we beat our One Mile Per Hour Club name and this on a trail that is very flat to start pitching upward abruptly at 2.25 miles in and again after a one mile respite at 4 miles in: the slope I come to think of as “the killer”. It really is completely unnecessary to punish us after a hard hike with another half mile of up and up and up. We pass Campbell Lake and continue on to Cliff Lake, a granite cirque with the northeastern bowl still covered in sloping snowfields, looking like glaciers in the bright July sun. Mary and Tysen go off to pick a campsite, a task the other three are happy to have done for them.
We just have time to set up our tents, catch our breathes when the skies cloud up and rain, a sprinkle or two at first and then a steady patter drives the 5 hikers into their tents for an hour’s welcome nap. Thunder and lighting roll across the lake but in the distant clouds above.
One hour later, exactly, we re-emerge from our cocoons into a gray but warm evening. Eventually the Jetboil’s get going and dinner, tasting oh-so-good is on. We read or talk or just sit and look at the gorgeous lake as the sun sets and the cliff rim reddens: to bed by 9:45. Life is good.
July 8, 2010. Couple rockfalls in the night but no bears as far as anyone can tell. In the warm sunlight spider webs drift across the deep blue-green lake, pollen from the pine trees coats the water on the windward shore: another beautiful day in the neighborhood. The bear canister, bear sack and hung food bags are intact and we will be able to eat – at least today.
After breakfast at 7:30am, coffee and some stretching out tired muscles we head for Summit Lake at around 10:30, which means descending almost to Campbell Lake and taking the uphill western trail over a small saddle. In the snow fields of the shaded Summit Lake the mosquitoes, annoying yesterday become ridiculous. More spray, lotion and swatting ensue.
At Summit Lake, we break into two parties: the relaxed three (Tysen, Alan and Chiyemi) go back the same 2 miles to Cliff for reading or relaxing. Mary and I go off in search of Log Lake and the long way round to get back to Cliff, estimated at 3pm. We find a nice large, photogenic frog, redwood orchids!, and the aptly named Log Lake. Mary and I return to camp around 3pm and the weather is still fine.
Another thunderstorm threatens in the late afternoon but does no more than grumble a bit. We fire up the Jetboil’s again after pumping more water from the lake. Dinner is as yummy as yesterday, everyone having hiked 4 to 6miles that day.
Tysen has brought his deck of cards and we play faux-poker using the top of the bear canister for a table. We let him win in spite of the mosquitoes and a second trudge up “the killer”.
Chiyemi and I sit at lake’s edge and sip cognac before bedtime around 9:30pm. Life is still good.
July 9, 2010. Everyone sleeps well and wakes at 7am for breakfast, coffee and packing up to leave. We decide to walk to the far end of the lake to see where the smudgy fire came from the first evening as well as see what the other campsites look like in case (or when) we return. Nice 20-30 minute walk brings us close to the cirque and all of the snow. We could hear the rush of water even half a mile away in our campsites. I had visions of a grand waterfall but it is just a nice stream crashing into the lake, next to the final campsite. We decide that Mary and Tysen have done a fine job picking our campsite even though, as usual, I miss the turnoff to retrieve our packs when going back to pick up our packs.
We completely break all records for walking nearly 6 miles in 2.5 hours. Downhill all the way with a reduced load? Piece of cake! Drive back to Greenview and on to Etna for the Etna Brewery’s fine grub and a bit of brew. I get my usual veggie burger, Chiyemi has the Asian salad and we pick up a couple six packs of the excellent, old-fashioned brewery’s own root beer. Packs a walloping, good taste!
Back on the road and home to Ashland in under a couple hours, ready for the next trip but (for me) somewhat sore. Life is still very, very good.
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