Wednesday, September, 26After hiking the Maple Pass Trail on Monday, we took Tuesday off. My knees, which rarely hurt, were feeling it this day. It also gave me a chance to write-up the blog, review hundreds of images and process them. The legs were still feeling it on Wednesday, but we were up for another walk – albeit a shorter one. We’d talked to a ranger about possible hikes, and one she recommended was a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Meadows Campground to Grasshopper Pass – a distance of about 4.5 miles out-and-back. Even that is probably more than we want to do, but we can turn around at any point.
To get to the trail, we drove up a 15 mile pot-holed, rough and narrow Forest Service road to get to Meadows Campground. The PCT trailhead is actually another mile past the campground with it’s own parking area. The first thing I noticed once we got up the road a little, was how much smoke was wafting around the valley we’d just left. We’ve had incredibly great clear weather and I thought the previous week of rain had pretty much put them all out. Not quite. Fortunately for our hiking pleasure, the light breeze was keeping out of this valley for now.Further on up the road, we saw our first turning patch of aspen. There aren’t a lot of them around here and this was a small group, but they were nice to see. On the hills above us, was the main attraction – more larch (aka tamarack trees). The real draw of today’s walk is that we don’t have to hike up 1000’ to get to them. The trail leaves right about where the trees begin. There is still elevation gain, but we will be in the trees most of the way.Photographing from the forest road itself proved to be pretty interesting on it’s own. Once we got out of the lowlands, we could see we were in a huge old burn area. Looks like most everything burned here at one time and only low growth flora has returned so far. As we wound closer to the trailhead, much the undergrowth became back-lit and began to glow. I enjoyed the way it interacted with the burned trees.
Once on the trail, we were immediately walking through groves of larch. It was a brilliantly bright day, making it a big contrast challenge, but walking this trail was a pleasure. Extremely well maintained with views all along, we stopped constantly for pictures.Huckleberry, turning autumn red, carpeted the valley and set-off the both pines and larch. There are breaks in the trail where it crosses vast talus slopes. These can often be treacherous to navigate. But here, while the path is narrow, it is also nicely cobbled for flatness, so easy to walk. As is usual, it took us about 2 hours to go about a mile and a half. As the trail wound around the shoulder of the mountain, we were treated to a new valley view. The fire had swept this one as well. Still an impressive view. We stopped for lunch and to take it all in. Each time we stopped we would decide to go up to the next bend, then decide whether to go on. Once we got around this one and saw that all the trees were burned, we decided to turn around. It was still interesting, and I wanted to see what was up ahead, but it was looking like a long decent to Grasshopper Pass and the knees were not up to it today. The walk back was just as enjoyable as the walk in. It was still early afternoon, but the lower sun angle of autumn meant everything was even more back-lit than on the way in. I would have preferred a more overcast sky to provide more even light, but this was still a pretty awesome walk. Driving back down the mountain, we stopped again at an overview. From here we could see the path and remains of the fires that came through. There is much more here to photograph and experience, but it will have to wait for another time.
Tomorrow, we hike another favorite trail – Blue Lake.