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California's accessible Alps...the Trinities, rugged and sawtoothed, but easy to get into on foot or horseback, by car or houseboat.

California's accessible Alps . . . the Trinities In their wild seclusion, the Trinity Alps were once little known--almost untraveled except by determined outdoorsmen. Recently, however these mountains in California's northwest corner have seen increased attention: hikers lured by the rugged challenge of their trails, industries by their timber and mineral resources, and conservationists by dreams of protecting this wilderness and wildlife habitat.

All admire the Trinities' undeniable beauty, with their sculpted granite cirques, sawtooth peaks softened by snowy caps, and cobalt lakes scattered like beads from a broken necklace.

Fine weather--days stay in the 70s and 80s well into Septemb er--and proximity to Interstate 5 make the Trinities an excellent spot for a last-minute end-of-summer vacation. The mountains are about 6 hours from the Bay Area, about 11 from Los Angeles.

Hikers can get in high-altitude treks late in the season up to elevations of 9,000 feet. The Trinity River offers rafting and fishing, while camping, houseboating, and swimming abound on Clair Engle (Trinity) Lake. And the gateway town of Weaverville provides motels, restaurants, and remnants of mining-town architecture.

Generally uncrowded, the area should have more visitors this year, so it's wise to reserve lodging or houseboats. After Labor Day, crowds and rates dip sharply. Most campgrounds and some motels stay open year-round; the rest close by the end of October. Houseboat season usually runs through mid- or late October.

This year, conservation news is in the forefront with the designation of the 500,000-acre Trinity Alps Wilderness. Another victory is a $57 million bill to restore fisheries in the Trinity River Basin.

High-country rides, spectacular hikes

Hiking trails lead through foxtail pine and mountain mahogany at middle elevations; higher up, firs predominate, but you'll also see the rare weeping spruce. Many traisl rise steeply to high peaks; the timberline is lower (7,000 feet) than in the Sierra, so you quickly get into rugged alpine terrain up here. In some high meadows, snow lingers into summer, and you may find wildflowers blooming well into August.

An easy way to get into the high country, horseback trips start from two locations. Coffee Creek Ranch offers 2-hour breakfast and picnic rides ($12.50) and all-day rides ($25); call (916) 266-3343. Trinity Alps Resort has 1-hour rides ($7) and breakfast rides ($15); call 286-2205.

Even day-hikes take travelers to some scenic areas. In the northeastern corner of the wilderness, a good 2-1/2-mile trail climbs 1,200 feet to Adams Lake at 6,200 feet. To reach the trailhead, drive about 16 miles up Coffee Creek Road (it's unpaved, but well graded past Coffee Creek Ranch) to the sign for Adams Lake.

At the south edge of the wilderness, just off State Highway 299 out of Junction City, the popular Canyon Creek Lakes Trail begins at the end of Canyon Creek Road. For a brief hike, ascend some 5 miles past year-round falls and lunch under weeping spruce trees by cool Canyon Creek. Much of this steep trail is exposed to the sun, so start early, go slowly, and bring water. Backtrack to return.

Backpackers see this country best. If you have time for just one trip, the Caribou Lakes area is a good choice, though it is well traveled. From Big Flat Campground at the end of Coffee Creek Road, a tough 10-mile hike rises 3,000 feet to the lakes, where you'll be rewarded with smashing views of Mount Shasta to the northeast.

Last winter, the popular Stuart Fork Trail, reached from State Highway 3, was closed by a bridge washout, but it should be hikable by August.

The New River area has been essentially closed to visitors until this season, because of dangers posed by marijuana growers. Two years ago, law enforcement officials cleaned out the site and say it's now safe to hike--good news to fishermen, since there's prime steelhead water here.

Swimming, boating at big Trinity Lake

Trinity Lake has some 150 miles of shoreline and 11 campgrounds; Lewiston Lake has 5 campgrounds. Both offer fishing for large- and smallmouth bass, catfish, kokanee salmon, brown and rainbow trout.

On Trinity Lake, you can launch your own boat from five ramps, or rent fishing boats or a houseboat from four marinas (for prices and details, see page 50). Near the Stuart Fork are two good swimming beaches: at Tannery Campground on the lake, surface water temperature gets up to 75[deg.] in July and August; at Stoney Creek, there's a bracing lagoon with picnic tables and changing rooms nearby.

River fun: fishing and rafting

The Trinity River was once one of the state's prime salmon and steelhead rivers, but in the 1960s damming nearly destroyed the habitat. But there's hope--in 1980, stream flows were more than doubled, and a 12-year program has just been funded to study habitat changes.

On the Trinity River, fishermen will find rainbow and brown trout, king salmon (best months are September and October), and steelhead (best in October and November). A state fishing license is required. A special 1-1/2-mile stretch just below the Lewiston Dam is open from May 24 through September 15, but allows only artificial lures, single barbless hooks, and a three-trout limit.

You can raft the river on your own or join trips out of Lewiston and Big Bar (see listing on page 50). There are tree-shaded picnic stops at Skunk Point, White's Bar, and Cedar Flat.

The Weaverville gateway:

history, lodging, dining

Quiet Weaverville hardly looks like the boom town it was in the 1850s, when gold brought a flood of miners that included some 2,000 Chinese. Still, the brick facades on Main Street seem little changed from early days. Circular stairways grace numerous storefronts, while the Weaverville Drug Store (founded in 1854) has a display of early remedies and potions.

At Joss House State Historic Park, Oregon and Main streets, the Chinese left a lovely legacy--a temple built in 1874. Hourly tours run daily between 10 and 5; admission is 50 cents.

Some dozen motels in town offer lodging for $20 to $60 per night. For restaurants, the old brick Brewery, at 401 S. Main, serves hearty lunches and dinners, and the Mustard Seed, 252 Main, wonderful breakfasts (try the homemade Belgian waffles). The Chamber of Commerce, 317 Main Street, has other lodging and dining information; call (916) 623-6101. For camping or fishing, get supplies in Weaverville; small stores near trailheads at Junction City, Trinity Alps Resort, Trinity Center, and Coffee Creek offer only a limited selection.

If you want more rustic surroundings, the Trinities offer a few resorts. At their northeast edge, off Coffee Creek Road, is Trinity Mountain Meadow Resort; call Fort Jones operator, Sawyer Bar toll station 4677. It's well appointed and comfortable despite its wild setting; rates range from $340 to $435 weekly per person, meals included.

The same operators run small, elegant Josephine Creek Lodge ($70 daily). Nearby, Coffee Creek Dude Ranch is rustic, friendly, and inexpensive (up to $309 weekly, including meals); 266-3343. On Trinity Lake, Trinity Alps Resort is large and family oriented, with cabins starting at $275 per week (without meals); 286-2205.

Before you go: maps, permits, cautions

To obtain the new Forest Service map ($1) to the wilderness and a brochure (free) on the reopened New River area, send a $1 check to Shasta-Trinity National Forests, 2400 Washington Ave., Redding 96001. A good guidebook is The Trinity Alps, by Luther Linkhart (Wilderness Press, Berkeley, 1983; $12.95).

You need a free wilderness permit for hiking (even day-hikes) or backpacking; call the Forest Service in Redding at 246-5222. Before heading out, ask about trail conditions at the ranger station at Weaverville, Big Bar, or Coffee Creek.

The hiker's scourge, Giardia lamblia, is also a problem: no source should be considered safe, and all back-country water should be purified. Trails are rocky, so wear sturdy boots. Since high-country weather can be changeable, carry rain gear and warm clothing (annual rainfall is as much as 80 inches in some parts of the range). Deer-hunting season runs the last week of September, first two weeks of October; check ahead before hiking then. Small black bears are in the wilderness; use caution and hang food at night.

In Redding (50 miles east), the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association has maps and information. Visit the office, 1250 Parkview Avenue (open daily 9 to 5), or call (916) 243-2643.
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Date:Aug 1, 1986
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