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Day Hike To Deadfall Lake

Ramblings by John Higley, author badge,

arly last week, when I learned that my brother Don was driving up from El Segundo for a visit in-between jobs as an aeronautical engineer, my daughter Meredith voiced the opinion that the three of us needed to go somewhere together. She’d get her mother-in-law to watch her four kids while her husband Robert went to work.

“You pick the spot, Dad,” she said, “and make it a good one.”

I may be wrong, but I think there was the slightest or else threat in her voice. I got busy thinking about places I’ve been and would like to go again. My criteria was that it had to be doable in a day, there should be some fish, and the trail mustn’t be a killer, for my sake anyway.

All smiles, John Higley, Higley's brother Don, and daughter Meredith pose along the trail to Middle Deadfall Lake.
My brother Don, daughter Meredith and I pose along the trail to Middle Deadfall Lake. We’re almost there and still smiling despite the smoke in the air.

I narrowed it down to three places, one of which brought back more pleasant memories than the others. Middle Deadfall Lake was where I chose to go.

A woman stops to read the sign at the trailhead Photo by John Higley
Meredith stops to read the sign at the trailhead where we began our hike.

Actually there are three Deadfall lakes in the chain which lays in the shadow of Mt. Eddy. At roughly 25 acres, the middle lake is the largest by far. It is also the easiest to get to, and it is in a picturesque setting. Upper Deadfall is pretty, but small, and the five acre lower lake, which I’ve visited only once, is off the beaten path.

John Higley look down on Middle Deadfall Lake before finding a place to fish. The haze is smoke from the fires still burning in northern California.
I stop to look down on Middle Deadfall Lake before finding a place to fish. The haze is smoke from the fires still burning in northern California.

These lakes are in what is referred to as the Trinity Divide region.

That region, which I think of as semi-wilderness, if there is such a thing, stretches roughly from La Moine, which is on I-5 above Lake Shasta, to Weed and west to Highway 3.

John Higley holding up lake trout, photo by John Higley
Colorful brook trout like this are, to me, what fishing in mountain lakes is all about.

Middle Deadfall is at the end of a three mile trek at 7,300 feet elevation. The trail, which winds along a steep hillside, is narrow but not hard to traverse. It gains less than 500 feet between the trailhead and the lake. In the early 1990s, I hiked to the Deadfalls a few times, and ten years ago Sharon and I went to the middle lake with our pack llamas, and spent the night there.

Last week my brother, daughter and I left Redding after an early breakfast, drove north past Weed, and turned west on the Stewart Springs/Gazelle road. Before getting to Stewart Springs we turned right on Forest Route 17 (the Parks Creek Road), which is paved, and headed up the mountain to the trailhead, which starts where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the roadway.

Meredith landing a lake brookie, photo by John Higley
Meredith lands another brookie. It was one of several that we caught during our short stay at the lake.

Despite the smoky air, which wasn’t pleasant, but could have been much worse, our hike was actually enjoyable. I admit it was longer and steeper than I remembered, but I suppose that is to be expected as gravity and passing years take their toll. Meredith, who deals with kids all day long, carried her stuff in a backpack, and could easily have out run me on the way out had she chosen to do so. I had the keys to the truck in my pocket, so there was no need for her to hurry.

I was curious about the fishing at Middle Deadfall because some mountain lakes no longer have fish, but I was not disappointed. The brook trout, while not exactly eager, hit just often enough to keep Meredith and me occupied while brother Don, who didn’t have a fishing license, looked on.

We used meal worms and Power Bait to catch our fish, but given more time I’m sure spinners, spoons and a fly-bubble combo would have worked as well. Several fish were released, but we kept a few for Meredith to take home. The brookies were the right size for pan frying, and their colors were striking. In other words, they were just about perfect.

All things considered, our day hike was quite the success and we all agreed that we have to do something similar again in the near future.

Hmmm, I just thought of another ideal place for us to visit. If, and when, that happens you’ll be the first to know.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.

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