Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Charity Valley Trail crossing Grover Hot Springs State Park

The Charity Valley Trail east of Markleeville in Alpine County, California, connects the meadows and campground around the Grover Hot Springs with the Blue Lakes Road trailhead in the Charity Valley (west-end Charity Valley trailhead). The east-end Charity Valley Trailhead is also named Burnside Lake Trailhead, since a trail that branches off Charity Valley Trail leads to Burnside Lake. The trailhead board gives the following distances: Charity Valley 4.5, west-end Charity Valley trailhead 7.5 and Burnside Lake 6.5 miles. Grover Hot Springs State Park's campground is only a half-mile away from the trailhead. Skirting the campground, you will, after 1.3 miles from start, get to a junction, at which you have the option to leave the Charity Valley Trail and head for a waterfall—1.2 miles southwest from this junction. Continuing uphill on Charity Valley Trail for another 2.2 miles, you'll reach the junction from where you may either continue to Charity Valley (3 miles) and to Blue Lakes Road (4 miles) or, switchbacking further uphill, to Burnside Lake and Burnside Lake Road (2 miles).

The eastern sections of the Charity Valley Trail are mainly going along a south-facing, granite-boulder-studded canyon slope (top picture) and parallel to Hot Springs Creek, which flows downhill through Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest land and Grover Hot Springs State Park towards the Carson River. The western trail sections follow the canyon of Charity Valley Creek. Hot Springs Creek is flanked by forest of pines, firs and cedars. Depending on the season, you will observe interesting plants, mushrooms and animals. The picture above shows a mistletoe hanging down from a vertical branch of a juniper tree. The busy woodpecker, photographed in early November of this year, knew where to peck—and finally was rewarded with a big worm hidden within the bark of the conifer tree.

Getting to the east-end Charity Valley trailhead
The east-end trailhead is located about three miles west of Markleeville. From Highway 89 in Markleeville, drive west on Hot Springs Road. After about one mile, pass the Pleasant Valley Road junction, from where you can get to the Thornburg Canyon trailhead. Continue on Hot Springs Road for another two miles until you approach the well-signed trailhead. Find parking on unpaved ground to the right.