By Dave Bartle
Fall is here and the Holidays are upon us and the need to get out is still strong. For the avid hiker and backpacker there are still plenty of opportunities to hit the backcountry or even a choice front, country, campground spot. Depending on this year’s weather pattern you may still be able to access your favorite wilderness lake or enjoy the luxury car camping afforded by some of our premier California State or National Parks. Late fall is the best time to beat the crowds and enjoy your own secluded spot.
Some lower elevations wilderness area trailheads that are accessible include the Canyon Creek Lakes in the Trinity Alps, Ishi Wilderness, Castle Crags Wilderness and various spots along the Pacific Crest Trail. Car Camping spots include Burney Falls State Park and Whiskeytown National Park.
Camping and hiking at this time of the year takes more planning and definitely more gear. A warm sleeping bag is an absolute necessity. My quiver of bags includes a 35, 20 and -10 degree down bags. I have never been cold in my -10 degree North Face bag. A warm jacket either down or fleece will work, when you include fleece pants, thermals, wool or fleece hat, gloves and rain gear you will have everything you need to stay warm and dry. Of course a quality tent is a must.
One great thing about camping this time of year is the snow level is still fairly high allowing you to hike in but carry your skis or snowshoes. One of our most memorable late season trips was at Lassen where we hiked in with our skis and got to a sweet little snow bowl. We setup camp at the bottom (in the snow, oh yeah bring a snow shovel) and spent the rest of the day earning our turns. That night it got to 12 degrees but we were both warm as toast because we brought the right stuff. The next day was spent touring around Manzanita Lake and the Immigrant Trail.
Another great trip was on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Castle Crags Wilderness. This time we brought in our Atlas Snow Shoes. We setup the best 2 person tent we recently bought and headed up to the snow. The backside of the Crags when they are covered in snow is just absolutely gorgeous. The hike to our site was only four miles and passed one of the tallest waterfalls in Northern California, Burstarse Falls.
On both these trips we enjoyed total seclusion and had the camp spots to ourselves and in fact on most of our late season trips, we never see anyone. So if you have been disappointed in the lack of seclusion and privacy on your summer trips try a late fall camping trip. Just a note of caution, check the weather forecast before you go. More than once we have broken camp in a hurry because of a snow storm. What is usually an easy to follow trail can be much more difficult to navigate once it is covered in snow.
So don’t stay home this Fall, get out end enjoy the endless beauty of the area. If you prepare well and bring the right gear you will be just as comfortable as you would be in the summer. Lastly, you can leave the bug spray at home, now that’s a plus.