13 February 2017

Smith River: Elk Camp Ridge Trail

Six Rivers National Forest

Smith River National Recreation Area

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

(Day 3 of 3) There were some hours of clear skies with bright stars and moon in the night, but the cloud cover has returned now. Sunrise is a brief and savage red glow before fading into a general light that could be coming from anywhere. Breakfast on a stump seat is quiet. I did hear birds among the greener lower elevations. Perhaps that is one advantage to having hiked those six miles that got me closer to neither a destination nor my return. Those are were the hardest miles on this whole route. The return from here is a very moderate hike.

good morning starshine
A brief and fiery glow.

The smear in the snow from the motorbike makes me grumble as I return to the trail. Being so close again, I head up to the lookout site again. The bike also went up this spur, right to the top, which does mean a couple small trees have been cleared. The view from the top is still clear. The clouds are all quite high.

avalanche chutes
Avalanche chutes and fog over the river really stand out in this light.

west from below the peak
The view west from the trail below the peak. The mining is even visible from here. The scar of Holiday Mine is on the bottom left and Toujours Gal Mine where Elk Camp Ridge Trail starts is in the center.

The sign at the trailhead actually does allow for motorbikes on the trail so long as they are under 40 inches in width. My grumbling about one that actually did is apparently unfair. The bike seems to have been the only other traveler on the road in the last few days, too. The snow patches would clearly show if there was anyone else. I add my return footsteps to them.

Patrick Creek
Looking down the watershed of West Fork Patrick Creek.

northerly snow
The snow on the northerly mountains is almost gone.

I set off with only one last sip of tannin laced snow melt, but soon before the mine is the flowing stream I was expecting to see. The water is beautiful, but picks up those tannins left in the filter. Yum, pine needles. At least it is about as subtle as such flavors can be. On I go, retracing my route to the mine and the trail.

storage bin
One last structure remains at the mine. Perhaps it is a storage bin of some sort.

Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is still out there, but also still as much imagined as seen.

Siskiyou Wilderness
The peaks to the east. The bald spot on High Dome on the left is the meadow.

stretching across all those peaks
Panorama of the peaks.

Bike tracks begin to show up after the first three miles. The bike was up here, too. The signs at the old, blocked road do indicate motorbikes are allowed on this one too. The quarter mile of flowing, rocky trail do not seem to have bothered the rider too much. Although the tires look the same, this one does seem to be a lighter bike as it jumps a few trees and even manages not to sink into all the snow. There is actually a bruised old sign I missed on the way down marking a "Cold Spring Camp" ahead. The arrow is hard to distinguish, but just points upward rather than to one side.

section corner
A section corner referenced to the Humboldt Meridian and Baseline.

budding branches
Early signs of spring.

The rhododendron is showing signs of spring too.

trail near Cold Spring
Water flowing down the trail. My waterproof boots are performing very well.

still trail
Still splashing down the trail.

Cold Spring Camp
As near as I can tell, this is Cold Spring Camp. It is probably more attractive when not quite so soggy.

It is a little more climbing to the peak and it still feels like this must be the spot that is the top, so I might as well visit it again. It has some fun details.  And it is right there.  And I have been recently told I should value grabbing peaks from other routes, although when I went down via that other route, it is a little hard to see it as something new.

succulents in a crack
One rock has quite a collection of succulents including the ones along this crack.

top of Cold Spring Mountain
A few cairns to sort of mark the top of Cold Spring Mountain.

From here, it is nearly all downhill. First it is quite flat, then it gradually steepens. The smaller spring on the south side of the mountain is another nice source of water, but still the filter adds in a delightful hint of pine needles. It will need some extensive cleaning later.

pools from the spring
Pools draining down across the trail.

middle fork canyon
South across the Middle Fork Smith River canyon.

trail along the ridge line
Dropping down the short steep spot on Elk Camp Ridge.

Smith River
The Smith River winds its way to the ocean.

Since I did not drive the full way up to the lot at the end of the road, I have I still have almost a mile to go under skies finally showing just a little bit of blue after finishing the trail. Such is the fate of those with changing plans.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 20 February 2017

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