Mile: 1284.4 to 1303.0
up/down: 6300/2050 feet
New trip birds yesterday evening in the valley and today: Bullock's Oriole, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Chat, Northern Goshawk, Sandhill Crane.
We talked to several hikers (all of us having come the whole way from Mexico) at the spring we ended up stopping at for the day and all agreed - That. Was. Hard.
Trail angel Brenda Braaten gave us a ride the mile to the trail so we wouldn't have to walk again on the dangerous highway. The trail started off gentle then curved around to Chips Creek canyon. Up we went, relentlessly. The bottom was a mixed oak riparian that transitioned to cedar and Doug fir. The first couple miles was so thick with brush that it was perfect habitat for Yellow-breasted Chat. We had five. Susan spotted a fledgling Northern Pygmy-Owl sitting calmly on an old snag just feet off the trail. And then its sibling just a short distance away. Very cool. Later we were warned by hikers coming the opposite way that there was a "falcon" dive bombing hikers. Well, we want to see that! We continued a short distance when Susan spotted a bird perched above the trail. She no more got her binoculars on it when it dive bombed at her head. It was a Sharp-shinned Hawk protecting a nest. We moved on quickly.
Higher up we found sugar and Jeffery pine with the firs. When we finally started to gain the crest we found meadows with spectacular flowers. And at the top, there was Lassen Peak now only a few days hike away.
Once over the crest the soil changed noticeably with volcanic rock far more common. We finished up walking through a fir and pine forest with occasional meadows. We are camped next to Cold Spring. As we were eating dinner we heard the unmistakable call of Sandhills Cranes flying over. Amazing! We were in Butte County for part of the afternoon where Susan got the 13 or so birds she needed to get to the magical 100 in the county.
Tomorrow we get a break from the days of huge climbs and descents. Not that it is flat, just more reasonable. And, 1300 today!!