Saturday, May 26, 2012

Windy Valley

Memorial Day weekend offered a chance to get out for a spring 3-day hiking extravaganza and I took the chance. The weather in weeks prior had been superb and the visions of hiking under sunny blue skies had been dancing in my head, causing my own little version of Restless Leg Syndrome.  
The drive to Windy Valley was "interesting"

Peak 3349
Idyllic Windy Valley was the chosen destination, to be followed by a day hike from the valley to the top of Snow Camp Mountain. I'd been to the valley several years ago and it remains one of the most beautiful places in the Siskiyous despite a visit from the catastrophic Biscuit Fire of 2002. But, I'd forgotten how remote the valley is and it seemingly took all day to get to the trailhead and the hike started late afternoon under threatening skies.

Fortunately, after a desultory rain shower, the cloud cover broke up as I sallied forth onto the trail. Windy Valley sits on the western edge of the fire-ravaged Kalmiopsis Wilderness and immediately this hike became all about the Biscuit. There weren't a lot of trees here, just a forest of ghostly white snags.

A tree, my kingdom for a tree!

Cedar Creek
The trail had that Kalmiopsis vibe as the rocks were comprised of serpentine and peridotite, all colored orange due to oxidation. The spring flowers were putting on a show what with lavender mats of phlox stuffed into the cracks in the rocks, and waist high azalea bushes sporting clusters of the distinctively ornamental bloom. Cedar Creek trickled through the moonscape, the sight of clear running water clashing with the general aridity of the area.

A flower, to show my love for thee

In another sign of hiking in the Kalmiopsis, there were two darlingtonia bogs growing right on trail. Also known as California pitcher plant or cobra lily, these unique specimens trap insects in their distinctive pitchers and digest them to supplement the nutrient-poor soils of the Kalmiopsis. And they have got to have the strangest flowers ever and they were in their full odd blooming season. It almost seemed sacrilegious to step on them as I crossed the darlingtonia bog on the overgrown trail.

Windy Valley
A short two mile descent dropped me down into Windy Valley where I set up camp.  The trees surrounding the valley were merely singed by the Biscuit and the valley was spared the scorched earth treatment shown the surrounding mountains. The valley floor is a long meadow with Windy Creek running alongside it and I can't think of a more peaceful and tranquil place.

Let's walk around the meadow some more!
Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot to do there after camp was set up so I walked around the meadow. Then I ate dinner and walked around the meadow. Then I walked around the meadow some more. I had some vain notion of taking pictures of the sunset but then some clouds rolled in and just like that, sunset was cancelled. So, I walked around the meadow again.

The next morning dawned wet, foggy, and pretty darn cold. Snow Camp Mountain was hidden and unseen up there in the foggy netherworld. I began to harbor grave doubts about the wisdom of hiking to the top of  a mountain where all views would be occluded by the mist. The deal was cinched when I explored the ford where the trail crossed Windy Creek, as the creek was close to thigh deep.

Are we having fun yet?

Striking camp, I climbed out of the valley in ever thickening fog. This turned out to be a long drive for a short hike, making this Memorial Day somewhat forgettable.  It still was beautiful, though.


1 comment :

  1. Sometimes the "best laid plans of "mice" and men"...etc. LOL