The crazy warm weather we're having has moved us from the slopes to the creek. Spanish Creek runs through American Valley (the valley that Quincy sits in) and is a perfect location for a quick and easy float in Spring.
Click for a larger map of the route
Some of my friends are big fans of Stand Up Paddle Boarding
(SUPing). I'd only been SUPing once before on a lake last summer and had a good enough time, so when Tom and I got the invite to SUP down Spanish Creek this past Sunday, we dropped our plans (doing taxes) and joined in the fun.
We had a crew of seven adults and a munchkin so we took four SUPs and one canoe. We put in right by the sports fields at Feather River College
. The class five rapids were a flowing on the Creek which caused me to fall in the creek. Just kidding...it was a super mellow float but my paddling ineptitude led me into the banks or willows and eventually in the cold water three different times.
The creek passes by Gansner Park, the airport, through the ranches in the valley to the other side of American Valley. We took out right by the before the small bridge that heads into Oakland Camp. The entire float was just over 4.5 miles and took us a few hours. There are plenty of large banks to stop at along the way. We'd left a few cars at the take out so we were all able to drive back to FRC together.
So here's a crazy story from the day...Not even half a mile into the float I fell off the SUP for the first time when I was trying to avoid some willows. A few minutes after my fall, I realized my wedding ring was missing. It put a giant damper on the fun of the afternoon. When we'd finished up the float a few hours later, my husband and our friend Bryan, who runs Lost Sierra Divers, went back to the site of the spill with wetsuits and goggles. I thought it was a lost cause, but they returned to the house half an hour later with the ring!
Click to enlarge the pictures.
Here's a video I pulled together from the float. I was thinking about a song to go with the video and had just played this one on my radio show last week. It's called "Let's Go Surfing" by The Drums
but it sure as hell sounds like SUPing, doesn't it? As is obvious from the video, I'm an amateur so don't judge too harshly...
It's mid January and I've gotten out to ski in the backcountry three times. It hasn't snowed for an entire month but it's been cold enough here that the snow has stayed pretty good. This weekend was the first Longboards Race so watched the races yesterday and returned today to ski up to Eureka Peak.
Skiing in Plumas County dates back to the mid-1800's. Local legend (or history some might say) has it that regional gold miners might have been some of the first skiers in the western hemisphere, using their ore buckets as ski lifts. I read in the National Geographic article from 1973, Golden Ghosts of the Lost Sierra
, that "The long-boards are what opened up the Lost Sierra year round. The Scandinavians jumping ship in San Francisco to join the gold rush taught the forty-niners to make these 'Norway skates.'"
So the Plumas Ski Club helps to keep the longboard tradition alive by having the "World Championship" Longboard Ski Races
the third Sunday of the month, January through March. They have a male and female competition on 9-16' long wooden, homemade skis with leather bindings. Participants have to wear non-synthetic clothing and boots.
They also must use a special kind of ski wax, called dope, that I think must be all natural, too. Apparently creating dope in the past was a fine science. To the left is a recipe I found in the Nat Geo article
Anyhow, the races are fun and festive. Some people participate but I think most people go for the good times - socializing, music, boozing, and playing in the snow - sledding, snowshoeing, and skiing.
We ran into some friends who had skied up to Eureka Peak and said the snow was still great, so eight of us headed back up to Plumas Eureka again today to ski. We parked at the parking lot by the Plumas Eureka Ski Bowl (same place as for the races) and left a shuttle car at the parking lot by the museum in Johnsville.
Eureka Peak is 7,447 feet and I believe the total climb up was about 2,000 feet. Today was only my third day on backcountry skis and some parts of the hike up were steep but not unmanageable. I don't know much about skiing or ski jargon so I'll keep this part of the post short. It took us about two hours to climb up and thirty minutes or so to ski down. There was nice powder at the top and corn toward the bottom. I thought I was in shape but my legs felt like lead when I was trying to make turns. All of us took some pretty impressive wipe outs...I think I ate snow at least a half dozen times. It's a ton of fun getting out there with friends and great exercise, too.
I tried to mark our trail on a google map. Below are some pics from the day...my phone had run out of memory so unfortunately I didn't take any video. We stopped at the Mohawk Tavern
for a beer on the way home. It's a place I'd always wanted to check out but never had, and I'm glad we did. Great beer on tap. A good juke box, pool table, and a wood stove. Plus fresh squeezed orange juice for their screwdrivers. Definitely worth checking out...
We had several days of heavy rains that hit Quincy the last few days in November and first few days in December. I've never seen it rain like that in my 4+ years in the area. I read in the paper that our seven day rain total for Quincy was 9.34 inches (and I think it only rained 4 or 5 of those days).
When the skies cleared briefly on Sunday the 2nd, we headed over to the Cascades Trail just a few miles North of town to check out Spanish Creek. You access the Cascades Trail off Highway 70 at Old Highway Road off to the right about four miles outside of town. After about a quarter/half of a mile it turns into a dirt road. The dirt road splits and you curve to the right. When the road is in good condition, you can drive almost to the trailhead.
The trail is an easy hike along mostly level ground and walking the Cascades are about a mile or so down the trail.
Click to access Google Map with Trailhead.
I've never seen the Creek rushing like it was on Sunday. I read on a friend's blog
that Spanish Creek was up to 9,000 cfs the day we were out there and I think normally around this time of year it's a few hundred. The power was incredible - you could almost feel the water rumbling in the ground. My camera's battery was dead but I took some pics and videos with my phone...it doesn't nearly do it justice. I also found an older picture and video to compare water levels.
I think this is close to the same spot along the trail. The image on the left was after the storm while the one on the right is from sometime in August. Click on the images to enlarge.
The left video is from Sunday and the one on the right I found on YouTube and is taken during the month of October.
This picture is of American Valley from Chandler Road. The road was closed because of the flooding.
"Mountains shootin' up to the sky. Good air, good health, good everything. I wouldn't live in any other kind of country." - Pat O'Kean describing the Lost Sierra region in 1973
I'm on the marketing committee for KQNY 91.9
, the local community radio station, and we were recently tasked with picking a new tagline. We'd spent months going through dozens of possibilities and finally thought we'd settled on one: "The sound of the lost sierra"
Map of the Lost Sierra region in the National Geographic article.
However, there'd been some discussion as to whether or not Quincy really was located in the Lost Sierra. So my husband (also on the KQNY marketing committee) ordered the September, 1973 National Geographic
issue with the article, Golden Ghosts of the Lost Sierra
by Robert Laxalt. And whadya know, according to the map in the article, Quincy is on the North Central edge of the region.
Written six years before I was born, the description of life in the Lost Sierra in 1973 somehow feels like it was many decades before my lifetime...or maybe I'm just getting old. The article focuses mostly on tales of gold mining, surviving winter, and longboard skiing (Laxalt even includes a recipe for ski dope), interviewing many old timers from the area who I imagine are long since gone. (I googled Robert Laxalt
and found that he is no longer living, either.)
Elizabeth Merian, an 80-year-old woman who had lived in Gibsonville, recalled, "In the winter the houses were often buried under mountains of snow, fifteen to twenty feet deep. When the storms began, we had to lengthen our chimneys to let smoke escape, and we dug slanting access tunnels down to the attic windows, the snow was that deep. But winter wasn't a sad time at all. The grownups had sewing circles, card parties and dancing to the fiddles. Us kids skied all day long - but we called it 'snow-shoeing' then."
As a storm blows in tonight and brings cooler weather, the article helps appease my desire that the warmer days remain a little longer and gets me a little more excited for the adventures that lie ahead this winter.
Written 39 years ago, the article is something of a relic. I'm pretty sure anyone who lives here or has ever spent time in the area would be interested in reading it so I scanned the article into a PDF (sorry for the poor scanning job) which you can download here. If you know any of the people in the article, please post a comment on the blog. Enjoy!
Click image to download Golden Ghosts of the Lost Sierra.
Spanish Peak in Buck's Lake Wilderness is one of my favorite hikes. It's just under 10 miles, only a short drive from Quincy, and there's never more than a handful of people on the trail (if that). There are several ways to hike to the Peak and each way is nice in its own respect.
Click on the map to enlarge.
Spanish Peak is part of what defines Quincy to me. To locals it's the Peak, and at nearly 7,000 feet, it's a local landmark. When I drive down the hill into town from East Quincy on Highway 70, the site of Spanish Peak means I'm home from a long trip. I watch as it changes with the seasons and when it's snowed, I picture my friends making fresh turns up by the Peak.
So when I realized that it was already October and I hadn't made one hike up to Spanish Peak yet this year, I decided to set out last Saturday to hike the Peak from Buck's Summit. It's about a 15 minute drive to the Summit from Quincy. (You can also hike to Spanish Peak from Silver Lake but that's a longer drive - maybe 30-40 minutes - up a dirt road from Meadow Valley.)
The trail leaves from the Southwest side of the Buck's Summit parking lot. The majority of the hike is actually along the Pacific Crest Trail
. For the first two miles or so, the trail makes switchbacks through manzanita and dry brush. Even in October it can be hot but the views are quite nice. The only flowers I saw left on the trail were Checker Blooms and Paintbrushes.
I'm not sure but this hike to Spanish Peak, compared with going up from Silver Lake, seems like a more gradual climb. The hike from Silver Lake goes through a rather steep section of boulders called Granite Gap that can be more challenging.
A view from the first part of the trail looking South/Southeast (I think).
After about two miles you enter into a beautiful grove of Red Firs and the trail completely transforms. For the next two-ish miles you hike through mostly forested areas. At mile 4.3 the trail splits. If you head straight, you'll continue on the PCT and head toward Gold, Silver and a smattering of other beautiful lakes. Take a right to get to the Peak.
The last part of the hike is nice and easy, almost flat. The views from the top of Spanish Peak on a clear day stretch what seems like hundreds of miles: Mt Lassen to the North, Quincy to the East, and the Sierra Buttes to the Southeast.
The battery on my phone died and I wasn't able to save my hike to Map My Run so I don't have exact numbers for distance and elevation gain for this hike. I found somewhere online that it's +/- 1,500 feet but I'm not sure if it's correct. Here are some pictures from the hike.
The first major storm moved into the area last night and it hasn't stopped raining for nearly 24 hours. Maybe my next post will involve snow!
For my husband's birthday the other week I surprised him with a "discovery" flight from local pilot, Johnny Moore (it was one of those gifts for your partner that's also secretly for you, too). Johnny owns Sugar Pine Aviators
and has lived in the region for many decades. He knows so much the area that the in-flight narrative was super informative.
We flew out of the Quincy Airport in Gansner Field, headed Southeast to the Sierra Buttes, West toward Little Grass Valley Reservoir, then North to Quincy passing over Buck's Lake and Spanish Peak. It was so amazing - I highly recommend splurging on a flight if you haven't already flown over the area (it's actually not that expensive for an hour of entertainment if you split it three way). The flight helped us realize how much more we have to explore in the area.
Here are some pictures from the flight. Click on them to enlarge.
Grass and Goose Lakes in Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Sierra Valley in the distance.
The Sierra Buttes. While you can see them from so many locations in Plumas County, they're actually located in Sierra County.
The glorious Middle Fork of the Feather River.
Just a 20 minute drive outside of Quincy is a local's favorite summer hangout, Buck's Lake.
Spanish Peak overlooks one of my favorites, Gold Lake. Meadow Valley and Quincy are in the distance.
Quincy from the air.
This hike along the North side of Buck's Lake is a nice hike for a hot summer day. It's almost entirely in the shade and is flat for most of the trail. You're never too far from the lake so you can take a dip whenever you want and go as far as you'd like on the trail..
Map of Mill Creek Trail hike
Last Sunday we wanted to get outside and enjoy one of the last few weekends of the summer but because of the heat, we didn't feel like doing anything too strenuous. Buck's Lake is only 15 miles from Quincy and is a favorite spot for locals. To get to the Mill Creek Trailhead, take Upper Buck's Lake Road and park in a small parking area just to the right (North side) of the road.
There's not too much to write about the hike. It's relaxing, easy and you're never too far from the water. We went out about 3.5 miles on the trail which got us to a spot directly across from the Sandy Point Day Use Area (which is a great spot for a large group of people). We passed by a few awesome camp sites along the way.
The trail splits and can take you to the Mill Creek Campground
(5.3 miles) or to the PCT
and Spanish Peak (5.5 miles). One of our friends told us they leave bikes at Buck's Summit, park at the Mill Creek Trailhead and hike up to Spanish Peak, down to the Summit and then ride their bikes back to the car. Sounds like a fun option for a longer day (I think that's about 13 miles of hiking).Here's a link to the hike we did on MapMyRun.
And here are a few pictures from the hike - click to enlarge.
Lots of sandy spots along the lake to get to by hiking in or via boat.
| |Tubing is perfect for a hot day in Plumas County. We spent a few hours on the Middle Fork of the Feather River, tubing from Fells Flat to Red Bridge. All you need are inner tubes, two vehicles with decent clearance, and beer.
We had friends visiting from San Francisco and thought tubing would be a fun activity to get the city folk out into "nature." Turns out tubing was not such a great idea for our friend who is six months pregnant, but she was a trooper and luckily didn't go into early labor on the river.
Inner tubes are better for the river because they're a lot stronger and less likely to puncture than cheap rafts. You can purchase inner tubes at the Les Schwab
in Quincy if you don't have any. The used ones run you about $20 and new ones about $40.
We took two trucks and headed east out of Quincy to La Porte Road. 5.8 miles down La Porte there is an unmarked Forest Service road off to the left that Google maps says is called Old Spring Garden Road. We took that dirt road for about two and a half miles to a small road that cuts off to the right. You'll take that about half a mile to a spot right by the river, just after a dried up creek bed. We parked here, beside a great camping spot - complete with a small table, a fire pit, and a grill. Two people shuttled one of the trucks to the take out (the camping area by Red Bridge) which took about 30 minutes.
The Middle Fork was never moving very fast and the water level was low enough at some points that we had to walk. It took a few hours to float down this section and it was a ton of fun - I highly recommend it! Here's a video and some pictures from the trip.
This hike starts in Plumas-Eureka State Park but the majority of it is in Plumas National Forest so camping is allowed. If you’re looking for a mellow hike, you might not want to pick this one because there are some long, steady climbs uphill, though Rock Lake is so beautiful you should definitely do it at some point.
Length: 8.61 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,171 feet
Number of People on Trail: 8
Aerial map of trail
On our way out of Quincy on Sunday, we stopped at the co-op
to stock up on goodies for the road. One of the clerks recommended the hike to Rock Lake so we set out for Plumas-Eureka State Park
just outside of Johnsville. The state park borders Lakes Basin Rec Area
but is a shorter drive from Quincy (because you don’t have to go through Graeagle and up Gold Lake Highway) and provides a good excuse to grab dinner at Cuccia’s
From Graeagle, take Johnsville Road a few miles and take a left onto Jamison Mine Road which ends up in a parking lot at the trailhead. The hike starts at Jamison Mine which, according to the Plumas Eureka State Park’s website
, was a gold mine that started in 1887 and prospered through 1919. The hike begins with a 400 foot climb that has nice views of Mt. Washington (7,369 feet) along the way. About a mile into the hike off to your right, are the Jamison Creek falls, a 60 foot cascade that is a nice photo opp. The hike levels out once your reach Grass Lake and the trail follows along the north side of the lake. At the Northeast side of the lake there is a spot for camping, probably the most crowded of all the camping spots since it’s the first.
An open meadow provides impressive views of the south side of Mt. Elwell (7,818 feet). The meadow also has a lot of aspen trees so we made a mental note to do this hike again in the fall to check out the fall colors. About a mile after Grass Lake you come to a fork in the trail. We headed to the left toward Rock and Jamison Lakes (the other goes toward Wades Lake and the PCT) and checked out Jamison first. A bunch (there’s probably an official birding term for this) of swallows were playing over the lake and it’s a beautiful setting but since we couldn’t find a comfortable spot to chill we moved on to Rock Lake.
Rock Lake in Plumas National Forest
You cross a creek to get to Rock Lake but there were enough large stones that we didn’t get our feet wet crossing it. Just before reaching the lake there’s a nice spot for camping with a fire pit. Since it’s somewhat unsheltered it might get windy and cold at night. The color of Rock Lake sets it apart from other lakes in the region. The hues range from a Mediterranean turquoise shade to a deep, rich blue while the water is crystal clear in the shallow sections. You can climb up rocks that provide a great viewpoint and also look like perfect jumping rocks (the water underneath looks deep enough to jump in, too). We spooked a mountain beaver hanging out on the rocks; he scurried away into the manzanita. The distinguishable feature between it and the beaver is its shorter, nearly inconspicuous, tail. Our field guide said the mountain beaver is rarely seen but this little guy was not very shy and gave us plenty of chances to check him out.
We moved on to Wades Lake which is a bit of a climb. It’s only a 300ish feet gain in elevation but for some reason it felt like more than that. There’s another nice campground right by Wades Lake that’s more sheltered but Wades has a muddy bottom and isn’t as easily accessible for swimming, so I’d choose to camp at Rock Lake.
We downloaded the MapMyRun app
to our phones and it is awesome! Check out the map of this trail online
– it tracks elevation gain and mileage and there is a 3D flyover which is SUPER cool. During the hike the app has an alienesque voice read out each mile you hit along with your pace (which you can turn off). We increased our pace considerably on the hike back from Wades Lake to Jamison Mine because it’s downhill…and we were getting hungry for dinner. We stopped at Cuccia’s for an Italian pasta and pizza. I was hungry enough to order their warm apple pie with ice cream for dessert which was delicious.
We’ve been talking about some tubing trips so maybe my next post will be about that. Until then, I’ll be out enjoying the awesome weather!
Lakes Basin Recreation Area offers a ton of awesome trails and lakes but we’d forgotten how crowded it can get some weekends. We visited Frazier Falls and Gold/Squaw Lake. Key takeaway: avoid shorter hikes on holiday weekends if you don’t want to run into more than a handful of people.
Frazier Falls drops 176 feet.
Lakes Basin Rec Area
is home to some of my favorite hikes (Mt. Elwell Loop
and the Lakes Basin Rim Loop are at the top of my list). Since we didn't get out the door until after noon, we wanted to hike for only a few hours. We decided to check out Frazier Falls and a shorter hike somewhere else up Gold Lake Highway
Graeagle was swarmed with tourists when we drove through so we knew a visit to Frazier Falls might not be the best idea. It’s a quarter-mile-long paved trail and we guessed that it would be as packed as anything can get around here. But we hadn't yet visited the falls since moving here four years ago, and while spring is quickly vanishing into summer (and the waterfall along with it), we decided to check the falls out anyways.
We were correct that it was crowded but it serves as a good reminder as to how lucky we have it here in Plumas County; when we lived in D.C., we would drive over an hour for trails that were as half as good and had that many people on them all the time.
Frazier Creek flows out of Gold Lake and travels five miles, dropping nearly 2,000 feet in elevation, and eventually ends up in the Middle Fork of the Feather River. The paved path goes to an overlook directly across from the falls which is a pretty cool view of the waterfall. Frazier Falls drops 176 feet and is one the tallest waterfalls in California. Its steps were formed as a glacier melted 170,000 - 190,000 years ago. The trail was pretty crowded but after we checked out the falls from the overlook, we ventured off the trail to the top of the falls which gives a cool vantage point and allows you to feel the power of the falls.
Short video from the top of Frazier Falls.
Little Gold Lake.
We picked our second hike from Feather River Country Adventure Trails
(a great resource that can be found locally at Epilog Books
). The hike to Gold Lake Mine and Squaw Lake (GL10) is 9.1 miles up Gold Lake Highway at a turnoff marked “Gold Lake Boat Ramp ½.” I left the book in the car (shocker) so we never made it to Gold Lake Mine and missed the turnoff for Squaw Lake. We ended up at Little Gold Lake first.
The majority of the trail to Little Gold Lake is along a rocky road that only four wheel drives with decent clearance can drive up – kind of makes for a crappy hike. The road goes beside Gold Lake and passes along a campground which has some pretty nice camping spots right on the lake. Since OHV’s and ATV’s are permitted, camping there might not be a very peaceful experience. Little Gold Lake is a nice lake but nothing to write home about. Due to a lack of spectacular scenery we busted out the field guide and started trying to ID different trees. My tree of the day was the Lodgepole Pine
which I (re)learned is the only two needle pine in the Sierra.
On our way back we saw the sign for Squaw Lake. It’s less than ten minutes from the parking lot and a poorly marked sign. We took that trail which was still rocky but not a jeep road at least. The lake itself was peaceful and more idyllic than Little Gold Lake. We saw a pair of Bufflehead ducks
that we were able to identify (because we actually remembered both the field guide and the binoculars this time). I read that Buffleheads are monogamous and the female returns to the same breeding site every year. They rival the Green-winged Teal as the smallest American duck and are one of the world’s “most punctual migrants” according to Wikipedia. The hike back provides nice views of Gold Lake.
Once back to the car, we learned from Feather River County Adventure Trails
book that the turnoff for Gold Lake Mine was even closer to the start of the hike than the turnoff for the Squaw Lake Trail. Author Tom Demund calls the mine one of the best examples of a Feather River mining operation. Oh well, maybe we’ll catch it another time. If we hadn’t found Squaw Lake I would have been disappointed by our first hike of the season. The book says to visit the mine, and Squaw Lake is 3.5 miles round trip but with our detour, we hiked 4.61 miles total.
We’ve had the Trails GPS Tracker
app for years but used it for the first time on this hike. Even though the app records distance, speed, ascent, etc., it doesn’t store the hike info online in an easily searchable index. This would be great for visitors to easily search and access trail info online. So I think I’ll download the MapMyRun
app that Joni uses for her blog (13.1 or less, please
) as it’s not just limited to hiking and stores all trails in a searchable online database.
I spy cerveza
Another good reason to head over to Lakes Basin for a hike is the margaritas at the Coyote Bar and Grill
in Graeagle. They have a darn good variety of tequilas to choose from and have one of the best margarita mixes I’ve had in a restaurant. We now also have a brewery in the area (woohoo!) that has music on Sundays, so instead of margaritas, we stopped off for a pint and to fill up growlers at UnderCover Ale Works
We headed back to Quincy in time to make it to our friend’s sushi party. Check out the ying yang roll Michael, kick ass chef at Pangaea,
made for us. A perfect end to a great spring day.
Below are some more pics from the day...click on them (and all pics in this blog) to enlarge.