Place: South Warner Wilderness, Alturas, California
Coordinates (of where we stayed near Warren Peak): 41.378946, -120.215547
Length: 2.5 miles
The second night of our backpacking trip to the South Warner Wilderness we passed on an isolated rocky spur of Warren Peak, high above Patterson Lake. The lake, which was our planned destination, was like the promised land for Moses: we could see it but we couldn't get to it. Not without putting ourselves in serious risk.
We also couldn't go back the way we came: we had no equipment to cross the snow field that covered our trail and neither of us wished to try and bypass it again on the slope above where we had come so close to harm while passing there the day before.
And so we were, all alone in the wilderness with w wonderful view all around, a fantastic wildflowers display, and a patch of snow as our only source of water.
The wind, which battered our tent most of the night had died down by the morning. It was still very chilly when I emerged from the tent and started melting snow to boil for tea.
|Warren Peak at Sunrise|
Moving around doing our morning routine I took in as much as I could of the place we were. The view was absolutely striking.
|'Brain'. Cushion Buckwheat, Eriogonum ovalifolium|
But there was still the problem of getting back. After a short discussion it was agreed that I'd go ahead and scout for a safer route. I went light, taking only my phone (surprisingly we had reception there), and my camera. I went up the side of Warren Peak where I had started exploring on the previous day.
After more climbing I had a full and clear view of Patterson Lake. I could see a way down to it - a doable way down among the rocks. I filed that in my mind and moved on up the ridge.
I came upon quite a few obstacles - tangles of trees, large boulders, and slippery gravel slopes. I carefully pushed my way through the trees, climbed around the boulders holding on to them with both hands, and transversing the gravel on my bottom.
I could tell that I wasn't the first human to have passed this way this season: faint footprints were visible here and there. I followed them.
I made it all the way to the other side of the ridge where I had a clear view of the slope down to where it met the trail. It was doable. Scary at points, but not as dangerous as going back past the snow field of yesterday.
|View south from the ridge of Warren Peak|
|Lewis' Flax, Linum lewisii|
Actually, there was one: I told them that I believed we could go down to the lake and suggested we should do that and stay another night on its shore, just as we had planned. But the rest of my family were unanimously against the idea - they wanted out and back on safe grounds. My younger chika went even further and suggested we get back all the way to the car and back to town, but the rest of us disagreed.
|Fremont's Groundsel, Senecio fremontii|
Going up with everybody proved to be a challenge. The younger chika was terrified and had to be guided with every step. She chose to stick with me so I held her hand and directed her moves while Pappa Quail carried her backpack as well s his own, and prevented the elder chika from rushing ahead.
It took a long while as we moved very slowly and stopped frequently to regroup and allow the younger chika to calm down her anxiety, but eventually we made it all the way up, safely.
|The view north from the ridge of Warren Peak.|
My family wanted to stop and rest but it wasn't a good place for that and we have already spent a lot of time getting over the ridge, so I urged everybody to move on.
Going down the trail was fast and easy. We now walked quickly, leaving the trail only to bypass the snow piles that blocked it here and there. Still, I could tell that these snow piles had shrunk since yesterday. I wondered had we stayed at Patterson Lake another day would we've been able to get out of there by the trail itself. But I knew we wouldn't have risked it. That much snow would probably not have melted that quickly.
We did stop to rest at the intersection with the Pine Creek Trail but not for long. Now that the big weight of getting back on track was off our chest we all felt lighter and more energized. Besides, we were going downhill.
|A Brook of Cornlilies|
He took the time to find a bird on a nearby tree:
|Mountain Fritillary, Fritillaria atropurpurea|
The sun was bright and the colors vibrant. Although I rarely stopped for individual flowers on my way down, I did try to capture the lovely combination of bloom colors.
Flowers weren't the only colorful beings there. Many butterflies filled the air, hovering over and around the flowers, sometimes coming to a stop.
Looking back, I could see no more snow patches. We left all our snowy adventure behind, now only in memories and photographs. The scenery was as green and summery as could be.
I did stop for another flower, one that I didn't photograph on the way up and I wanted to make up for this omission.
|Nevada Pea, Lathyrus nevadensis|
|Silvery Lupine, Lupinus argenteus|
Somewhat lower, and we were back inside the conifer forest, the trail taking us through thin groves and sunny patches where forest shrubs were blooming too.
|Mountain Snowberry, Symphoricarpos rotundifolius|
The place was not occupied so we happily set our camp there once again, then went exploring a little. I found another trail in the forest, one that was not labeled on my map. I followed it to a little lake in the woods. We've seen that lake from the main trail on our first day's hike and now I got to see it up close. I returned to the campsite and brought the chikas back there with me to enjoy the nice view.
The sun was setting slowly. The chikas got to play by the creek while Pappa Quail and I rested. Then we had a nice, quiet dinner, cleaned up and went into the tent. That night all four of us slept soundly, without any worries.