Key Trail Tips:
Trinity Alps is a backcountry gem. It’s lush, green, wild, full of scenic views, and will give you one more reason to love California!
Hiking in August made for a warm afternoon hike on the first day--lucky for me there is plenty of shade provided by various pine and fir trees. While the snaking glass-like river to the west came in and out of view.
The first notable change from the trees is the meadow at mile 9 where I was lucky enough to see a few deer doing very deerie things! The sun was setting early behind the great granite walls to both the east and west, so I set my hammock up in a dense crop of trees next to the trail--leaving me invisible to those outside. I was exhausted from the hundreds of miles on the moto and the moderate hike that followed, and decided to eat quickly and call it a night.
Sometime in the dark of the night, I was scared witless by something entering the tiny grove of pines where I slept. It started with slow branch-cracking steps, sniffing, and finally snorting that sounded merely feet away. My mind screamed black bear! There is nothing like the rush of adrenaline at 3am as you struggle with your natural instinct of fight or flight. I decided to stay very still other than the twisting of my head in an attempt to see the intruder. This caused an ever so soft “Swee” against my sleeping mat… The thunder of foliage being trompled by its hasty escape was still hopped up on my bodies natural drug for some time, making it hard to return to sleep.
The hike the following morning was mostly shaded by the granite walls--making for a cool ascent to Emerald Lake. Best sight of the morning came when I happened upon two nude women on the lake’s shore. They were facing west on the eastern shore of Emerald lake with the morning light peering over their shoulders. Two beautiful silhouettes with a granite mountain backdrop… Yipee! Not wanting to ruin their moment, I decided to continue on to Sapphire Lake.
Sapphire Lake is two more miles (14 total), but completely worth the early start, as I was the first to arrive. Nothing like a naked swim to wash the trail off you! And the lake’s temperature was perfect for a morning swim followed by an peaceful air dry on the beach… That was until a wasp stung my toe, turning me into a raging, naked ape on the shore as I tried to smash the little bastard! After that, my hopes and dreams of continuing on to Mirror Lake faded, as I watched my toe and hoped my foot wouldn’t turn into a stump!
Once I started to pink-en from the sun, I decided to abandon my scenic stadium for shade, meaning my time here was through, and finding a camp with some shade at Emerald Lake was my next priority.
I camped on Emerald Lake’s north shore, just off the trail to Sapphire. There I put up my hammock for the night, relaxed for a bit, then headed to the lake to watch the sparkling granite vista fade from the sun’s warm glow.
The next morning, I awoke early to be the first one to the shore where the beauties basked the day before. There I too got naked and enjoyed another swim/bath in the cool lake water before my descent into the meadow and the long stretch of western hillside the trail follows.
My last night was spent ~3 miles from the trailhead next to the river, where I took one last dip to clean the dust off and settled in for the evening.
My time in Trinity Alps was invigorating, exciting, scary at times, and full of breathtaking views. What’s more, it was a perfect place to escape from societal congestion and let my mind wander, ponder and put life’s problems into perspective. As my first real solo backpacking adventure, it checked all the boxes and gave me a taste of how therapeutic solo hiking can be.