We picked the first weekend of October, 1987 as the time and Caribou Lake as the place. It took a couple or more years to come up with the date, but we did it. October is the traditional month for "first backpack of the school year," and the Klamath Mountains are the traditional place. We tended to do Caribou Lake and Canyon Creek on alternate years. We will probably do Canyon Creek in 1990 just to keep up the pattern.
Twenty two people went on the hike. Angela traveled from Montana to Susanville and came over with Norm and Kristie. Michael came up from Walnut Creek as did Ken, Cathy, Christie (11), and Matt (7). Joe and I drove up together from the San Francisco Bay area. Kathy and Don came down from Bend. Chuck was originally too busy with his animals to make the trip. I called him and got nowhere, Steve called him and got no farther, and the last anybody heard, he was staying in Deadwood, Oregon to build an equipment shed before winter hit. That was before Janet called and said something to the effect of "I'll be right over to pick you up" (Janet is living in Corvallis going to graduate school). Jay drove up to Chester where he ride-pooled over with Rick. Dan might not have made it at all. He had been fighting fires (of which there were plenty in California and Oregon that summer) and happily was back in time. Jean drove to Lewiston from Stockton and ride-pooled the rest of the way Saturday morning with Dan. The Arcata contingency was, of course, the largest. It consisted of Vern (who was president of B'nB when I went on my first-ever Boot 'n Blister outing in 1965 to ...Caribou Lake), Ron, Steve, and Jerry.
We kept Big Flat campground awake until well after midnight. It seemed that every time our little group at the trailhead was about to try to get some sleep, another car full of people would drive in and the stories would be started all over again. Despite a late night Friday driving and talking until all hours, we seemed to get up and get going by ...perhaps 9:00 am. The trail drops off a bluff into Coffee Creek right away, and the trip started out right; there was a foot-worn log across the creek on which to cross. About 100 yards up the other side, Christie started the geology class. She said she noticed that the stones in the creek bed seemed to be of roughly three different types and and wanted to know what their stories were. Well, sure enough, she had one sample from each of the three categories into which rocks are classified, one from each of the major time periods in the Phanerozoic (the last 570 million years) and one from each of the major rock-forming events that formed the eastern Klamath Mountains: a Paleozoic schist, a Mesozoic granitic rock, and a Tertiary sedimentary rock. I'm afraid I failed to keep my explanation simple.
There are two routes into Caribou Lake: an older trail that climbs over a ridge (8 miles) and a newer trail that goes around the ridge (10 miles). The choice has to be made about the same time people want their first (or third?) snack, Caribou Meadows. The most popular plan was to go in on the high trail and return Sunday on the low one. The age range of hikers was 7 to 47 years. Those of us merely in our 30's were still able to keep up with those in their 40's (good thing, I turned 40 since I got home). Lunch on top of the ridge gave us a nice view of the near distance, but smoke from half the State burning for the last month kept us from seeing Mounts Shasta and Lassen. It's always a toss-up as to which is better, climbing up a hill at the expense of sore legs or pounding down at the expense of sore knees. Steve and I have always voted that up is better.
Twenty of the 22 of us got to the lake with plenty of daylight left. The place was as beautiful as ever, nice flat white rocks, wonderful swimming, nice warm water (OK, I lied), and a nice series of little clearings among the rocks and trees for camp sites. Michael Altabet reminded me to point out the highlight of the trip: the Orangina can sunken in about 6 feet of that cold water was still unopened (until, that is, we got hold of it). The usual wide variety of meals began to simmer on the usual collection of mostly old and dented Svea stoves. Get your tea from Kathy, your chocolate from Norm, and your ancient relic of a picture of Chuck from Vern. A long time after dark, Dan and Jeanie came in. The next morning when she could actually see the lake, Jean was convinced it was worth the climb in.
A few energetic folks jumped out of their bags early and made a quick trip up to the ridge on the far side of the lake to look down into Emerald Lake and the Stuart Fork, Trinity River drainage. There have been trips when people would go home that way by coordinating with people coming in that way. The lower trail back to Big Flat is mostly forested with a nice soft dark dirt tread and lots of shade. Its a pleasant contrast to the rocky, open route over the top, but the vistas are less grand. Most of us gathered at Caribou Meadows again to check out one another's lunches. No point hauling any food out. It wasn't as though that was the last time we all gathered. Another stop was at the log across Coffee Creek for a last splash in water and a beer served by Jerry. Further gatherings hung around the roadhead for long fairwells to those who drove out to the north past Calihan. Most of us gathered still another time in Weaverville for dinner, and my final group parting didn't take place until the filling station in Redding. Its hard to break up a group like this one, in fact, it will never happen. We're probably going to have a larger turnout in 1989 at Canyon Creek Lake out of Junction City because all of you folks will want better pictures than those [I mailed out after the hike in a proof sheet].
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Date created: 05/30/2002
Last modified: 9/16/2005