Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 85: Bear Creek to Spanish Peak Ridge

Ahead lay a nine mile climb, regaining the elevation lost when we descended down to the Feather River at 2,900 feet yesterday. Reputed to be hot, dry, and exposed, we dreaded the long climb ahead.

The sun had not yet reached our cool, shaded canyon, and the initial climb was pleasant. But as we hiked into the sun, we felt the temperatures rising around us. Although the first five miles of the climb were shaded, the shade provided scant relief from the heat. Instead the surrounding trees with their lush green undergrowth of ferns and poison oak seemed to hold in the heat and humidity like a greenhouse. But the tiniest hint of a breeze rustled the leaves and provided welcome relief from the growing heat. Although the climb was mostly dry, early on we crossed a creek on moss covered stones, the water cascading over the mossy rocks in a beautiful blur of falling water.

We eventually climbed out of the trees and poison oak to a sunny saddle covered with mule's ears and a colorful tapestry of wildflowers. Following the ridge we reached a large rock outcropping: Lookout Rock (5,955 ft). With distant views and increasingly rare cell coverage, we stopped for a break.

Continuing down the ridge, we entered a forest of tiny, infant fir trees with soft, green branches. A few taller trees hovered protectively around the fledgling fir nursery.

Approaching Big Creek Road to Buck's Lake, we crossed a small swampy stream. Wildflowers lined the trail and stream, including bright orange and black tiger lilies. Reaching the road, we once again wondered at the lack of signage. There are so many places where we find multiple signs although the trail is obvious. But several times we have reached a trailhead or junction only to find no indication of where the trail continues or which direction to turn.

After consulting the map, we eventually located the trail.  We hiked on to Buck's Summit, then continued down the trail. Finding a sandy granite balcony overlooking a green valley, we decided to make an early camp.

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