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Alpine scenery and solitude early in the season ... Yolla Bolly.

Alpine scenery and solitude early in the season . . . Yolla Bolly

It's almost summer, you're itching tostretch out winter kinks on a mountain hike, but high Sierra passes are still covered with snow. Don't despair. Rugged scenery, sweeping views, and easily traveled routes await early-summer visitors in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, west of Red Bluff. The only other hikers on the trail this month are likely to be Sunset readers.

That solitude exacts its price, however: adrive of 5-plus hours from San Francisco or 4 from Sacramento, including a long stretch of bumpy dirt road.

Daytime temperatures in Yolla Bolly arein the 60s and 70s this time of year, and streams that run dry by August are still flowing freely. Meadows and stream banks should soon be adorned with lupines, shooting stars, and other wildflowers. Animals you might spot include blacktail deer and black bear. (As in any area where there are bears, backpackers should remember to suspend food from a tree limb at night.)

With recent additions, the wilderness nowincludes 230 square miles of road-free mountains in three national forests. Trails wind through most sections, though hikers face a long trudge from boundary trailheads to some of the best campsites.

Fortunately, many of Yolla Bolly's mostattractive features are conveniently located near a loop trail readily accessible to weekend day-hikers and backpackers.

Finding and hiking the Ides Cove loop

In the language of the Wintun Indiansthat once inhabited this region, yo-la bo-li meant "high snow-covered peak.' The South Yolla Bolly Mountains now define the southeast corner of the wilderness, crowned by Mount Linn.

On its north flank, the Ides Cove LoopNational Recreational Trail makes a leisurely 11-mile circuit ranging from 6,200 to 7,400 feet in elevation. Sweeping views and two of the wilderness's few lakes grace the upper leg, while the lower leg threads through relatively dense forest and lush vegetation.

Best access to the Ides Cove trailhead isfrom the Corning exit on I-5. Heading west 1/4 mile on County Road A-9, you'll come to a Mendocino National Forest district ranger station (open 8 to 4:30 weekdays). Stop here to get a campfire permit and a wilderness map. For the rest of the drive, follow the directions printed on the map.

You'll be on paved road for the first 38miles, and then dirt Forest Service roads for another 17 slow miles. Signs mark the Ides Cove trailhead. There are picnic tables here but no water; bring your own if you plan to spend a night here before hiking.

Soon after you set out on the trial, viewsopen up north to Mount Shasta and over the Sacramento Valley to Mount Lassen. As you turn west, the North Yolla Bolly Mountains come into view. Square Lake is just a little farther along, in a cozy basin. There's a good campsite in the trees above the lake to the left; another is hidden behind a hillock on the right. A steep 1-hour off-trail scramble to Mount Linn's summit starts on the lake's east side.

Both Square Lake and Long Lake (lessthan a mile west) offer surprisingly good fishing for such small bodies of water. Each year, the state Department of Fish and Game stocks Long with rainbow trout, Square with smaller brookies.

A stream just past the short spur to LongLake is the last source of water along the trail for a few miles, so be sure water bottles are full before continuing. From here you climb through wide-spaced pines and possibly some lingering patches of snow to the west shoulder of Mount Linn, where you'll have a panoramic outlook over a procession of tree-cloaked ridges and valleys.

Lizards scurry for cover as you hike alonga dusty narrow ridge toward Harvey Peak and the descent on switchbacks to the loop's return leg. Circles of towering cedars in otherwise open meadows make excellent campsites.

Another fine spot to pitch a tent is BurntCamp, an old sheepherders' camp in the lush meadow watered by Slides Creek. An optional cutoff that climbs from here to the upper leg of the trail is better suited to mountain goats than backpackers; the 1/2 mile it saves your return to the trailhead is hard earned.

USFS map and more information

So far, no one has published a good trailguide to Yolla Bolly. The wilderness map ($1) prepared by the Forest Service has all the information included on the USGS topographic maps for this area and shows the wilderness boundaries as well.

For hiking route suggestions and up-to-dateconditions, rangers in the various national forest districts that make up the wilderness are good sources of information. If you plan to enter from the southeast, as we did, write or call Corning Ranger District, 22000 Corning Rd., Box 1019, Corning 96021; (916) 824-5196. From the southwest: Covelo Ranger District, 78150 Covelo Rd., Covelo 95428; (707) 983-6118. From the west: Mad River Ranger District, Star Route, Box 300, Bridgeville 95526; (707) 574-6233. From the north: Yolla Bolly Ranger District, Platina 96076; (916) 352-4211.

Photo: Rocky thrones near Ides Cove trail provide Olympian perspective on wilderness ridges, including North Yolla Bolly Mountains on horizon

Photo: Only one accessroad is paved all the way to the wilderness boundary; the rest require travel over dirt Forest Service roads (indicated by dashed lines)

Photo: Corn lilies grow tall on the margin of LongLake, one of only four lakes in the wilderness that measure more than an acre
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 1, 1987
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