If you're looking to get away from it all, especially from industrial noises, such as busses, cars, leaf blowers, jets, et cetera, the Caribou Wilderness is the place for you. In fact here you will begin to understand just how quiet the earth really has been from time immemorial.
During the Labor Day weekend, we heard only a few light planes and saw only a few people nicely scattered about the many shallow lakes among this volcanic landscape. This is a place of solitude, with simple stands of lodgepole pine and other hardy trees that thrive in these volcanic soils. The best part of our trip was rising above the labyrinth of trees to a nearly panoramic vista of Lake Almanor basin and Lassen Peak to the west. Had we circled around this brushy, impenetrable chaparral, we could have seen the sunset on Mt. Shasta. Incidentally, be careful not to get lost. To my chagrin, we did get a bit lost on our way back, which tells you something about the repetitious and undifferentiated landscape.
While you are likely to encounter a small lake about every twenty minutes, you are less likely to encounter a swarmed of bugs like we found in the Sierra-Nevada. Both of the times that I have hiked in the Caribou Wilderness (late summer), I found only an occasional mosquito with a few daytime flies to break up the utter stillness of the day. Not that the fish can't find them (or they aren't around earlier in the year), but the lack of bugs is something to consider for the truly easy-going hiker and casual recreationalist. We found numerous lakeside angler at lakes like Hidden Lake, Long Lake, Posey Lake, Eleanor Lake, and Beauty Lake interdigitated throughout the flat, rolling landscape of the Caribou Wilderness.
Among the numerous smaller lakes, I found the larger Posey to have the most campers. I could see why when we stumbled upon it during the beautiful misty morning along with other lakes nearby to explore for the day. Because the trails are fairly level (unlike the Sierra-Nevada Mtns.) this is a great place to bring the beginning backpacker or even the family with smaller children who might be intimidated by steep trails. You may also run into an occasional equestrian on the trail. Most of them are base camped at the vast meadows near the southern trailhead or to the north. In short, the Caribou Wilderness is an easy amble into the woods with plenty of space and lakes for everyone. I like the town of Chester nearby too, with lots of Mayberry store fronts and friendly faces. Be sure to stop by the old Rexall Drug store off Main Street with a classic soda fountain inside. Ask the soda jerk behind the counter to whip you up an old fashion, ice cream cherry soda--my favorite treat after a quiet weekend in the woods.
Best Parts: Solitude, easy hiking, lots of lakes, few bugs
Directions: Get to Chester, CA, which Hwy. 36 runs through about an hour and a half from Red Bluff, CA. (look at a map for short cuts). Once in Chester travel east about another 5 miles until you come to A-13 junction. Instead of turning right toward Lake Almanor, turn left. (Here is where our guide book missed the details.) Go past the county recycling center (on the right) until you reach the old highway at a "T" junction, which is just a ways down the road. Turn left heading back toward Chester until you soon come to Forest Service Road - FS 10. At this point you might even see a Caribou Wilderness sign. Turn right on this narrow paved road for about 10 miles. At the "Hay Meadows trailhead" sign turn left. In just a couple miles you will come to the trailhead with a beautiful meadow in front of you and a small campground along the fringe.
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