Article and Photos By Dave Bartle
Mini-Kat, Mini-Kat — with each plodding footstep my mantra was repeated. We were coming down a steep (is there any other kind?) trail in the Trinity Alps, a rugged, isolated wilderness located 50 miles northwest of Redding, CA. We had spent the night before in blissful solitude at arguably one of the most beautiful lakes in the Alps, Sugar Pine Lake. Mini-Kat, Mini-Kat, I repeated. The pounding of our dusty footsteps along with the gnawing emptiness of our stomachs drove us on. So what is this Mini-Kat you ask? Why it is the most looked forward to of all destinations for backpackers coming down from the Alps? Hang on, I will get there.
We started from Redding on Friday night, our first stop was Mi Casita, a Mexican restaurant in Weaverville. This tiny little place is not much to look at inside but it has one of the cutest little outdoor patios for dining in the area. After Coronas, wine, tacos and a huge tostado bowl we headed to the trailhead 25 miles north on Highway 3. After passing Trinity Center we traveled another eight miles to Coffee Creek Road where we took a left and followed the road past cabins and a resort to the trailhead to our left. Look for the bridge crossing Coffee Creek, it is only about .5 miles after you leave the pavement. We all donned our packs including Rufus the Border Collie, and used the last fleeting bits of twilight to find our spot .3 miles down the trail where we setup the tent by headlight and called it good for the night.
The next day we got an early start to tackle the seven-mile, 3,200 foot elevation gain hike. The trail has a constant steepness to it and follows Sugar Pine Creek all the way to the lake. There is a good spot about 2.5 miles where the trail comes close to the creek for us to re-water, snack and rest.
We finally arrived at the lake and after setting up the tent and having lunch, Tina settled in to her Thermarest chair and a good book and I gave my gold Kastmaster a workout. Fishing is good if you don’t mind catching small brookies. They taste great and fit in the pan well, especially with olive oil and fresh garlic. But on this trip we were cleaning out leftover meals from last season. Big mistake, we boiled water and added it the garlic mashed potatoes and the mystery pasta package that just said in faded green felt pen 11/2 cups water. Yeah… Well, turns out the pasta was not just an add water meal, and so after a 15 minute wait we started eating err… chewing our meal. The potatoes weren’t bad but we finally gave up and cooked the rest of the pasta. There was no flavor salvation in re-cooking it.
We were both pretty hungry by the time morning came. The instant oatmeal was not all that filling and we headed back down the steep trail. At some point on every backpacking trip you start to crave real food and that is when the Mini-Kat chant starts.
We finished the hike, swap-ped out the boots for flip-flops and bee-lined it to the greatest hamburger stand in Northern California! The Mini-Kat in Trinity Center has always been our final stop on all of our Trinity Alps adventures. Cheeseburger for me, chicken strips for Tina and a fresh strawberry shake to share. We always eat it there on the outside picnic tables. It is dog friendly and Rufus, the Border Collie, always makes lots of friends there. For more information on hiking the Trinity Alps and Sugar Pine Lake visit: www.fs.usda.gov/main/stnf/home.