Little did I know that a solo trip into the very heart of the Trinity Alps many years ago, would turn out to be both the most exhilarating witnessing of Nature's raw power, and potentially the most dangerous situation I have ever put myself into. One of the most dangerous anyways, for in my younger days, I had a knack for these types of things. The invincibility of youth took over for common sense the majority of those times.
A trip to the high country was in order. So what if the weather called for a storm to roll in off the Pacific for the first night of the outing. It was supposed to be gone by morning, and this being early October, it would not be so wet even for the Pacific Northwest standards. Besides, I was a grizzled veteran of these forests now, right? Most of my camping in Northern California had been in the rain. Usually you can time it to be hiking under cloud cover, but have camp set up before the first drop hits the ground. So what could go wrong, right?
The flow of Canyon Creek runs straight as an arrow south from the holy bosom of the high peaks of the Trinity's. These surrounding peaks, although made of mostly granite, shine white like an island of marble surrounded by an emerald sea. Gleaming temples of beauty fit for the Trinity for which they're named. On a grand scale with Zeus' Olympus mountain top. Fitting since for on this night, he would be in attendance projecting his fiery authority for all to obey.
My destination were the Boulder Creek Lakes at 6,000 feet, which spur west off the main canyon, and sit in a hanging valley overlooking Canyon Creek, with a beautiful full view of the jagged Sawtooth Peak and Range in all it's glory. The trail began at 3,000 feet through a majestical oak hardwood forest mixed with conifers.
I had to stop about a mile in, not out of tiredness, but just to bask in this magical woodland. All around was so green with yellowing touches of autumn. The creek down below could barely be seen, but what a wonderful deep woods rest. Reminded me of, although I had never been there, of the woods of old England, or of travelling through some uninhabited shire. A wood spirit wonderland. I let these feelings soak in through my pores for a short while. Immersion is a tonic to be drank in good times.
A little further on I could hear the roar of the creek down below. Here lied the lower falls which I had to see even though it is steep travel to and from the trail. As the clouds began to roll in overhead from the west, I made my way to a good view of the falls. Small walls of water sheeting off into glistening pools in glades of moss and emeralds to delight the souls of weary travelers. Temptings of the sirens' calls of relaxation. But not today fair ladies of the wooden glen. For loftier elevations are in store and the sky is slowly disappearing through the grayness rolling in.
Onward through fern covered meadows, I could hear others camped on their edges. Not a bad idea as the wind had now picked up into small, gradual, bursts of gusts in between the calm. Curious breezes that told of the fresh from the ocean brewing going on overhead. A few light drops here and there in the meadows, but nothing substantial.
At last I had finally reached Boulder Creek dropping in from the west. This was the place of Middle Canyon Creek Falls which sent it's waters tumbling down giant steps in the granite. The steady but very light drops of rain kept me on my hurried path upwards towards the lakes.
As I ascended Boulder Creek, the winds increased, but the air was still warm. I remained in t-shirt and shorts for the duration of the hike. The clouds overhead rolled over the high peaks to the west with increasing speed. The combination of warm air and an oncoming storm smelled of pending doom in the back of my mind.
"I should not be climbing higher," I thought. "Go back to the meadow below where the others were camped. They were the smart ones you jackass who hikes in storms!"
Invincibility was winning out, as common sense was tossed out the window. For the sirens were really calling from the lake filled bowl above! Not the wooden glens and falls of the water spirits below. I was trapped! My mind was caught in their sweet singing and offerings of luxurious pleasures. This was stupid! This is how those sailors of Ancient Greece never returned from their voyages in their Mediterranean paradise. I could not stop until I was fully wrapped in their arms...................or lightening!
I had heard the low rumblings of thunder to the west as I climbed evermore towards the hanging valley of the lakes. Now I had entered the bowl.
As I crossed a small creek which came down from the aptly named Forbidden Lakes up above, I thought to myself, "Being in this bowl will protect me from the lightening. If it was to strike, surely it would strike along the peaks and ridges rising another 2,000 feet above."
The sirens had now wrapped their legs around my head by this point. All reasoning with them was gone. The lakes were within sight now, but just as I crossed that little side creek coming from above, a flash of light and a simultaneous thundering CRACK blasted somewhere above my head! As a sudden downpour immediately followed the blast, I quickly deployed by tent among the boulders about 50 feet from the creek. For up here in the granite bowl was just that. Granite. With a scattering of sparse groves of conifers.
As the down pouring cloudburst quickly subsided, I was nice and dry inside my tent, peering at the shiny aluminum external frame of my backpack.
"You know," I thought, "Metal and lightening sure don't make a good combo for one who doesn't want to get fried! I need to distance myself from this pack! Stat!"
But of course never contemplating distancing myself from the whole present situation as nightfall was now making itself known. I left my tent, took a water bottle and some jerky with me, and laid down on a flat boulder near the creek. So gone was my reasoning now by the sirens' soft musings that a calmness settled in. I was away from that metal pack, so surely I was safe, right?
As I laid there on that rock with the calmness slowly creeping in through the heightened exhilaration of what was now happening, I witnessed one of the most amazing feats of Nature's fury! Raw, I mean just breastplate filleted open, exposed heart pulsating with youth driven angst driving electricity at the core of climactic rawness undulating, gyrating, and spasming in endless ecstasy!
Ghostly energy as if 40,000 wolves in orchestra howling in unison and rhythm to Mother Alpha's driving persistence, with sweat pouring down stern brows, dripping past frown and grimace and snarling teeth as she conducts her song! Rolling. Rolling! Rolling without end! Not in waves like the sea, but a constant river flow of electric clouds tumbling and fighting and grinding their way downstream due East over the jagged toothed ridges!
A fury of black and gray and pinks and oranges with silver streaks bending at sharp angles and running throughout without ever reaching the ground below! 3,000 salmon gathered at the rocky waterfalls of the Earth reaching, heavenly bound! Fighting to jump the falls upstream past the gaping jaws of death by grizzly! Struggling with the incessant drive and fury to reach the holy breeding grounds! The pure essence of Nature's Salmon Energy! John Spivey touches on the Salmon Energy within us all. But that is a different matter completely when compared to Mother Alpha growling and bearing her teeth! Pulsating crackles whipping through! Explosive rumbling reverberating back skyward off Earth's exposed granite peaks, bowls, and bones!
I was not one with nature. I was humbled by it's power. Gave new meanings to many things.
The fiery show went on for hours as I just lay there. All with just a few drops of rain here and there. Eventually I grew tired, and not wanting to sleep out in the open in case it did decide to rain, I filtered some water from the creek, placed my pack away from the tent as if that would protect me, crawled inside, and drifted off to sleep as the rumbling overhead died down. Peace amongst the fury. Zeus had proclaimed his rightful place at the top and was satisfied with his sermon.
The morning greeted me with barely a trace of what went on during the night. I awoke to a near cloudless sky, blue as the Aegean. The whole of the day was spent exploring and relishing in the glory around the Boulder Creek Lakes with their islands and peninsulas and white gleaming granite cliffs that rose towards the deep blue. I had survived the sirens' trappings in this Mediterranean paradise of the mountains.