Trinity Alps - 7/5/03

Mark Walker MWalker at
Thu Jul 10 13:39:38 EDT 2003

My son is planning his first solo backpacking trip for later this summer,
and he asked me if I could take him on a training hike in preparation.  I
was slated to head down into Sonora with some bug buddies over the U.S.
holiday weekend, but could not deny my son.  Though there would have been
much hiking involved in Mexico, my wife insisted that we bring our two dogs
along for our road trip.  Smuggling a West Highland White Terrier and an
English Chocolate Labrador back into the U.S. from Mexico was not high on my
thrill seeking list, so I got out the maps and searched for a more
appropriate destination.


I love maps.


Of course, there are a plethora of backpacking destinations right in my
backyard here in Southern California - but with the busyness of the weekend,
I was looking for something a bit more remote and unexplored (at least by
me).  Looking for strange and unfamiliar insects had little to do with the
decision.  Actually, it had LOTS to do with it, but don't share that secret
with my family - to them I was just being a good father, and they accepted
the notion that any good backpacking trip required a 10 hour drive.


So on Thursday, July 3rd, my wife, son, daughter, niece, two dogs, and I
headed north on Interstate 5.  We drove all the way to Trinity County, just
west of Redding, California, and a few hours south of Oregon.  There,
nestled between the coastal ranges of Humboldt County and the 12,000 ft.
ominous volcanic summit of Mt. Shasta, lies an incredible range of jagged,
glaciated peaks known as the Trinity Alps.  Aptly named, the mountains are
still mostly snow covered and stand majestic over the crystal blue waters of
Clair Engle Lake.  The landscape in this part of California is mostly
coniferous, even at very low elevations - and the highest peaks in the
Trinity Alps are only just above 9,000 ft.  Nevertheless, they are an
awesome sight to behold, and they possess some incredible above-timberline,
alpine meadows and lakes that are rarely visited - even on a 4th of July


The daytime temps all weekend were hovering around 90 deg. F, and we saw
nothing but blue sky the entire trip.  Though we spent much of our time
walking (we hiked 16 miles on Saturday alone), there were a few brief
opportunities to rest, swim, eat, and chase butterflies.  Speaking of
swimming, there is a lot of water in this part of California and the
swimming is incredible.  The Stuart Fork creek we spent so many hours beside
is not what us SoCalers know as a "creek".  This is a raging river, by all
SoCal accounts - and the water is strangely transparent.  Clean, I think
they call it.  The water was cold and refreshing.  


Being a true water dog, the lab couldn't resist jumping in the "creek" at
every opportunity.  The fact that he was carrying his own backpack didn't
seem to deter him.  My wife regretted packing the sourdough bread in HIS
backpack, but I say you get what you deserve when you ask someone else to do
your carrying.  Soggy sourdough is just not the "kine" backpacking food.


The dogs were a joy to have as companions, even though they do tend to be
high maintenance.  We were a bit alarmed, though, when they managed to spook
up a gorgeous timber rattler - something I was not expecting to see at
medium elevation.  The snake was gorgeous, unlike any of the southwestern
rattlers I'm more experienced with - with deep contrasting spots and rich
ground color.  My son snapped a few digital photos (which I'll share with
anyone who is interested in helping me id it), and - thankfully, the dogs
didn't push their curiosity too far.


Later that evening while driving to a remote camping spot on the east side
of Clair Engle Lake, we had an awesome encounter with a very large brown
bear (are these black bears up here?).  He/She was trotting along the
roadside and suddenly appeared in our headlights, just inches away from the
front of the car.  It continued to trot just feet in front of our vehicle
for over 5 minutes - enabling some of the most spectacular bear observation
I've ever enjoyed.  Suffice it to say that the kids were enthralled.  So was


And then there were butterflies - lots of them, starting at about 10:30
a.m., and flying well past 6:00 p.m.  I netted them whenever I could, and
managed to identify most of them - but there are still a few Fritillaries
that I will have to examine more closely.  The Coppers were strangely
absent, as were Polygonia, Monarchs, and all but one grass skipper that I
didn't ever identify.  Habrodais grunus was exceedingly common, reliable
wherever Quercus could be found.  Fritillaries were also abundant,
especially Hydaspe (I believe these are purpurescens, with a very purple
sheen on the ventral hindwing).  S. callippe rupestris was also common, and
I think I may also have at least one coronis.  Most of the leps could be
found readily at nectar.  Here's what I saw:


Parnassius clodius (Clodius Parnassian)

Papilio zelicaon (Anise Swallowtail)

Papilio rutulus (Western Tiger Swallowtail)

Papilio eurymedon (Pale Swallowtail)


Neophasia menapia (Pine White)

Pontia protodice (Checkered White)

Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur)


Habrodais grunus (Golden Hairstreak)

Satyrium fuliginosum (Sooty Hairstreak)

Satyrium californica (California Hairstreak)

Satyrium sylvinus (Sylvan Hairstreak)

Satyrium auretorum (Gold-hunter's Hairstreak)

Callphrys nelsoni (Nelson's Hairstreak)


Celastrina ladon (Spring Azure)

Euphilotes enoptes (Pacific Dotted Blue)

Glaucopsyche lygdamus (Silvery Blue)

Lycaeides idas (Northern Blue)

Plebejus saepiolus (Greenish Blue)

Plebejus icarioides (Boisduval's Blue)

Plebejus acmon (Acmon Blue)


Speyeria callippe (Callippe Fritillary)

Speyeria zerene (Zerene Fritillary)

Speyeria hydaspe (Hydaspe Fritillary)


Chlosyne palla (Northern Checkerspot)

Chlosyne hoffmanni (Hoffmann's Checkerspot)

Phyciodes pratensis (Field Crescentspot)

Euphydryas chalcedona (Chalcedon Checkerspot)


Nymphalis californica (California Tortoiseshell)

Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak)


Vanessa cardui (Painted Lady)

Vanessa virginiensis (American Painted Lady)

Junonia coenia (Buckeye)


Limenitis lorquini (Lorquin's Admiral)

Adelpha bredowii (California Sister)


Cercyonis pegala (Common Wood Nymph)


Erynnis propertius (Propertius Duskywing)

Erynnis pacuvius (Pacuvius Duskywing)


Mark Walker

Cross posting like a big dog



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