12 February 2017

Smith River: High Dome

Six Rivers National Forest

Smith River National Recreation Area




DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

(Day 2 of 3) I am sure it was not very cold and it was not very windy, especially for a ridge top, but I slept cold. The bright moon kept the stars from being particularly numerous, but they sure were sharp. With the morning light, I can see where the river and creeks heaviest by the clouds deep down in the valleys. Wisps of cloud have come in to help decorate the crazy blue skies above. The literature I got from the Visitor Center says it drops 90 inches a year on average around here, so blue from edge to edge during the wet season is quite uncommon.

bright in the east
The view from my shelter as the sun comes up.

After a little bit of breakfast and packing, I am off along the trail again. It was freezing last night and the trail is full of fun frost decoration. Oh, and my camera lens seems to have recovered.

walking on a frosty trail
My footsteps along the trail with its top layer lifted by the frost.

snow on trail among the trees
Some remnants of snow remaining on the trail. The snow on the mountains to the north seems to be vanishing quickly as well.


The ridge line undulates as it drops slowly toward the road again. I cannot help but pop up onto the rocky outcrops next to the trail as it misses the little peaks. The view is quite good along this section, but it that little bit better at the little tops.

along the ridge line
Looking a bit more like a rocky ridge along here.

Siskiyou Wilderness
Those easterly peaks seem to be multiplying.

Cold Spring Mountain
The lump of Cold Spring Mountain rises behind me.

The mining history of the area becomes more obvious as I go. The trail resembles an old road. A quick jaunt up a mysterious spur stops in an odd pit. It is an old prospect. Other prospects are right next to the trail. One rocky outcrop shows digging along its side.

snow and old burn
Open spaces to the north. There is burn here from 1996 and 2002 along with the snow from a few days ago.

North Fork Smith River
Open spaces to the west. The North Fork Smith River churns below with a few good flows coming down into it.

valley full of cloud
A valley full of cloud. There is probably a fair bit of water down there.

A pair of deer are nibbling something down in a saddle below me. The trail starts to look more like a road that has been driven recently. When I get down to the saddle, there are even a few tire tracks. The last mile of the trail could actually be driven except that a couple trees have come down since the tracks were made.

madrones again
Madrones are found scattered all along the way.

The trail ends in a larger mining area. I take a left on the road, but it seems odd from what I am expecting and eventually ends in another prospect. My map has missed a detail. There is actually a spur road to the trail.

ice over a pool in a trench
A trench cut by miners now collects water that is icing over.

Down the spur, there is a road that looks a lot more like what I am expecting to see. Graveled and smooth. I turn left on it and now am moving in the correct direction toward the High Dome Trail. Snow stretches across it in places. Someone has driven up here since the snow fell, but not in the last few days.

Patrick Creek
Looking down Patrick Creek.

gravel road
The route ahead for me seems to be some bumps covered in trees after I climb up along the road.

deer in the brush
There is a third deer along the road.

The trail is easy to find although the sign marking it has decayed quite a bit. There is a bit more snow for my climb this time as I am going up the north side. The snow is untouched. The trail is all mine.

snowy trail between the trees
Climbing up the snowy trail between the trees.

thick snow
Snow decorates a manzanita beside the trail. Only my own prints mark it.

The trail climbs easily, then inches along a steep and rocky section past a peak. Around the south of the bump, there is a sign pointing the way to climb to where a lookout once stood. The spur circles the peak upward and ends in the flattened top.

lookout site
The lookout site at the top of High Dome.

snowy peaks
Those snowy peaks have gotten closer, but they hide behind the trees.

Continuing down, another sign points off the other direction to the High Dome Meadow, so I head off that way. It is a thin trail and comes up with quite a different view. The meadow rolls down the side of the mountain. The grass is currently brown, of course. For some reason a section of trees to the east has been removed like a little clear cut.

odd oak tree
A sign across the trail from an odd looking oak tree informs me I have arrived at the end of the spur.

brown grass
Meadow drops away to the view of Cold Spring Mountain across the creek.

mountain peaks
A window through the trees gets a good look at the snowy peaks.

southerly moutnains
Moving around, I can get a good view out to the south as well.

I continue down. It is a bit steep as it drops to Patrick Creek below. There are very few views as I go. It seems to get decidedly green on the way.

massive madrone against the sky
The madrones here are as massive as the pines.

mushroom in the duff
One of many mushrooms coming up by the trail. These range from red to white with molted pink ones between.

When almost down, there is a sudden open spot. I take it for a late long snack time before continuing on to the bottom.

Patrick Creek
Looking on down Patrick Creek toward Middle Fork Smith River.

At the bottom, the creek flow is in full surge. There is no bridge across the white water. I can see just enough to be pretty sure it will be up to my knees. Do I really want to cross that? I could just go back. It does not seem like simply walking around the entire watershed should not be a viable option for a creek so large, but it really is only a couple miles longer. It is also a few thousand feet more to climb.

crossing for Patrick Creek
The trail crossing of Patrick Creek.

Maybe there is another way. There is a bridge for the road just to the south. I try to work my way that way only to be reminded that this is only the west fork. The east fork is just as large and violent as it runs and sits between me and the bridge. So much for that. There is a bit of spur trail going upward along the creek and even some cut trees, but it fades quickly and I can see nothing that it might be going toward. I head upward. There was a nice spot in the trees by the meadow that seemed a bit warmer than the rest. If I work at it, I might even make it for sunset.

snowy peaks
Working back up to the grander view.

I am only a few minutes late for the sunset, but the sky has filled with cloud and there is not a lot of color. As I reach the junction with the meadow, it looks like some sort of bloody fight has gone on in the snow while I was gone. A long tire track leads to the mess in the snow. Someone seems to have laid down their muddy motorbike in the snow before heading off to the meadow and then returning the way they came. In under the trees, it is a mess of sticks. This seems to be where the shelter with no floor really shines. I can put my thick mat down on just about anything that approximates a flat surface and the shelter does not even really need that.

Unfortunately, I did not grab any water from the creek below and there were no little trickles on the way up. The only water around is snow, which is a source I have never tried to use before. I have enough fuel and there is plenty around that has not had a muddy motorcycle rolling through it, so I gather it up. It is heavy and it only takes a couple pots full to have enough for supper and breakfast. I pull out the chunks of lichen and pine needles and run it through the filter so there is no dirt either. On its own, it is like a weak tea of something one would not want to encounter as a strong tea. It is definitely not the worst water I have ever had, but it does rank high on the list. Happily, the food manages to mask the flavor well and there will be running water for drinking after a couple miles tomorrow. A little thirsty, I tuck in for the night.

Continue reading: day 3




©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 17 February 2017

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