Halfway across the creek, the nerve endings in my feet began to feel like they were on fire. Direct snowmelt from the whiteclad peaks of the Trinity Alps had swollen these frigid waters, which I needed to pass through in order to reach the trail to lofty Caribou Lake. The cold was excruciating, and even though the shock triggered a rush of adrenaline, I had to subdue the impulse to quicken my pace. As the water level rose above my knees and its force multiplied, it became harder to grip the stones with my stiffened toes and not lose my balance. One fall would have ended the backpacking trip before it had even begun.
Slowly and steadily, I traversed the remaining distance, then threw my backpack down upon the opposite bank and lay back against a log, holding my painfully numbed toes in my hands to bring back normal sensation. My friend Mike had warned me that it was probably too early to visit Northern California’s Trinity Alps, considering how much snowfall had accumulated this past spring and winter. In fact, the San Franciscan drummer had declined to join me on this venture, but stubbornness and curiosity had drawn me to these mountains regardless of the unfavorable conditions.
The last time Mike and I tried to arrange a trip to Caribou Lake, it was the presence of forest fires rather than snow that derailed our plans. Back in 2008, as I was trying to drive into the mountains, a parade of firetrucks were driving out, so I gave up and went off in search of less smoky country. This time, despite the discouraging lack of other vehicles parked at the trailhead, I was determined to reach my destination.