Place: Brushy Mountain, Willow Creek, California
Trailhead coordinates: 40.89232, -123.67503
Length: about 4 miles in and out
"What's the point of hiking up a dirt road I can drive my car on?" I wondered aloud when the Six Rivers National Forest ranger at Willow Creek suggested that trail. Normally I wouldn't have asked that question. But it wasn't me who voiced it, but a tired mom who didn't have much sleep because the campsite was way too close to the busy road, and that had struggled all morning with the chikas who didn't have much sleep either and were in no mood for hiking.
"Well," said the ranger gently, "You get to see all these things along the way ... " He had reminded me what hiking was all about and I am grateful, for it was a wonderful hike and we did get to see beauty that we wouldn't have otherwise, had we chosen to drive up the mountain instead.
Brash Mountain is has a fire observation tower at its peak, where observers take shifts looking out for fire. The observer left the visitor center before we did. After deciding on walking this trail after all, we followed suit. When arriving the lower gate, however, we parked the car and started ascending on foot.
|Hypericum formosum St. John's Wort|
|Harvest Brodiaea (Brodiaea elegans)|
But the true prize of this hike I found in the deep shade of the forest undergrowth, about three quarters of a mile up the trail: a phantom orchid!
|Phantom Orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae)|
And we would have missed the pretty butterflies that hovered between the flowers.
|Pale Swallowtail visiting a Snowy Thistle (Cirsium occidentale)|
|California Sister butterfly|
Taking the turn, I got nearly to the top. Seeing the view, I called the rest of the family and they heaved themselves onto their feet and continued all the way.
Exhausted with heat (the climb wasn't that bad, really, but the temperatures were in the high 90's), we collapsed under a tree below the lookout tower. The observer got out and motioned us to come up to the tower, but it was only after a good, long rest and some food that we managed the last lag of the ascend: the stairs of the lookout tower.
|Trinity River, the south fork.|
The view, to all 360 degrees, was wonderful.
|The Trinity Alps. One of these days I'll go back there.|
I had seen this beauty just a day before in Black Sands Beach, but there it was too far up the cliff. This time I could look at it from very close.
|Cardinal Catchfly (Silene laciniata)|
|Whitevein Shinleaf (Pyrola picta) hiding under green poison oak.|
|A spider web in mid-air|