05-Jul-2001 -- 41N - 123W is the essence of the Trinity Alps - cascades, granite slabs, and
Gold is a big part of the story of the Trinity region. From the 1850’s, it
was part of the Northern Diggings. The late 1800’s saw a second gold rush.
That one was more based on heavy machinery. The granite spires did not
interest the miners. That's not where the gold is. But the water from the
high lakes did attract their attention.
I decided to hike in on the Stuart Fork trail. It's one of the classic
Trinity Alps trails. First, I secured my wilderness permit. It was a
"primitive area" when I used to visit the area in the 70’s. In 1984 it
received full "Wilderness" protection. It's very popular, especially with
families and youth groups. So if you want time to yourself, wander away from
the trails and lakes. Near the trailhead is the Trinity Alps Resort. If you
go, make sure to stop by the general store for a milkshake. They make them
to order with your choice of ice cream. None of that extruded stuff.
The sign said 14 miles to Sapphire Lake. The confluence is between Emerald
and Sapphire Lakes. I was backpacking in a lightweight style. Still, It
took all afternoon and into the evening to hike to Emerald Lake. That's because it was so hot. So I took cool down breaks. Even the mosquitoes couldn't get any lift in the hot still air. A group of pleasant teenagers shared the lakeside with me. The only 4th of July fireworks was the "alpenglow" off of Sawtooth ridge.
Getting to the confluence site took some scrambling. I had to try several
different ways. Finally I found the combination of ledges to get pretty
close. But I could not get to "ground zero". It seemed to be right in a
cascade. My GPS unit said that I was 21 meters away. Hope that's close
enough. The views of Emerald Lake and the mountains were wonderful.
There were wildflowers in full blossom all around.
I'd wondered about the remnants of a stone dam on the lake. It turns out
that it was built to supply water to a massive hydraulic mining operation
that was miles away. It was quite a project with long ditches, a pipe bridge
over the river, and a long tunnel. Yet it probably didn't see much use.
Hydraulic mining used giant nozzles called "monitors" to blast away the ore.
All that extra sediment downstream raised the rivers. So the practice was
banned by state law in the late 1890s. The fact that the state capital was
in the Sacramento River floodplain may explain the urgency of the legislation.
Maps: USFS "Trinity Alps Wilderness", 1-63,360; Topozone 1-25,000.
Instruments: Garmin "eTrex"; Trimble "Scoutmaster"