Day 12: Packers Peak and Steep Downs

Saturday July 4, 18.7mi/30.1kmLady Gulch trail jct (211.8/6150ft) to Stuart Fork River (230.5/4920ft) (CA)It was a cold night up at this higher elevation, and I was glad for the 1700ft climb to the summit of Packer Peak. Halfway up the climb, I passed an old ranger cabin.It used to be housing for the firetower watchperson. The summit was warm by 9am, with views in all directions from the 7822ft (2384m) peak.Looking back north to where I’d just come from:The summit benchmark.Mt Shasta in the distance to the east.The trail down was very steep, dropping 3000ft in 3 miles, but it was nicely maintained and easy to follow.At the bottom, I had a one mile dirt roadwalk to the next trailhead. It passed thru some meadows along the way.The was one house on the road, and it had the best mailbox holder…an old tree stump!I got to the Big Flat trailhead and campground and had lunch, taking advantage of the picnic tables and trash cans. I was a little worried when I almost ran out of hot sauce for my wrap, but a nice car camper had extra Frank’s. Reenergized, I began the 2000ft climb up to the Caribou Lakes. I entered the wilderness again, and the river crossing was easy.The trail was insanely good, it was graded for easy climbing, and before I knew it, I was up 1500feet.The next section of trail traversed a blindingly white section of rock. So bright!Then it wrapped around the ridge, and I got to see Packers Peak that I had climbed this morning.The views just kept coming, as the trail turned south, I could see the snowy mountain I had been eyeing for days.The trail was a feat of engineering, as it was cut into the side of a cliff here.I was dropping down to pass these two lakes, Snowslide Lake and Lower Caribou Lake.I stopped for a swim in Snowslide lake, it was cold.The view of the same two lakes from Upper Caribou Lake.I walked past Upper Caribou Lake. You can see the pass I was about to climb in the center of the photo.The climb up the pass still had snow!The view down into the Stuart Fork River Valley was amazing, looking 2500 feet down.Amazingly, there was a trail that went down the steep hillside. Impressive engineering again. After 85 switchbacks, I was down at the river. I hiked a quarter mile to a good camping spot, and gave my feet a rest for the day. So much steep descending!

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