by Nik Schulz

Natalie outside the Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake. Photo: Nik Schulz

The trail starts in Upper Lake, just north of Clear Lake, a town that still has its share of mid-century buildings from the mid 19th century, that is. If you’re ever there, the Blue Wing Saloon is a good place to have lunch. The place looks like its been mildly updated but still retains its original charm.


The Blue Wing Saloon and Cafe. Photo: Nik Schulz

We didn’t have time for lunch though. Time was getting on and we wanted to be at camp before dark.


Greg and me in front of the town clock. Photo: Natalie Menacho

alt Stopping to air down the tires on Elk Mountain Road (Forest Road M1). Photo: Natalie Menacho

After about 30 miles we turned along the grass-strip runway at Lake Pilsbury in Potter Valley. (Yes, you could actually land a plane there.) The water level at the lake was way down but we drove to the end of the road and spotted a herd of rutting elk along the shore.

alt Natalie checks out the elk with the carnoculars (the binoculars we keep in the truck). Photo: Nik Schulz alt Here’s what she saw. Photo: Natalie Menacho

We pulled out the camp chairs to watch the elk for a while and contemplated where to pitch our tents when a forest ranger drove up. After some friendly chit-chat he asked if we knew that we weren’t allowed to camp where we were.

The campgrounds were all crowded and full so we decided to keep following the trail into the hills up Boardman Ridge.


Out came the map to find a new spot. Photo: Natalie Menacho

We found a nice spot just off the M1, pitched the tents, and Natalie made a delicious dinner of risotto, home-grown tomatoes, and smoked trout. She opened the cans of trout, tossed them into the risotto, and was about to pour the fishy oil on the ground when Greg and I jumped to the edge of our seats, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! We’ll take that.”

With two cans of fish oil on the ground outside of our tents, I’m sure we would have had every animal on the mountain coming into our camp linking their chops and looking for leftovers. For all we knew they were hanging out half a mile away, where we ended up emptying the cans.

After a while we went to bed. It was the opening of deer season the next day. Still we were surprised to hear traffic was rumbling up the M1 until well after midnight.


Our camp on Boardman Ridge. Photo: Gregory McDonald

CBDT Notes:

Upper Lake to Boardman Ridge: 35 miles
Travel time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Trail difficulty: 2 of 10

CBDT, Part 1: Lake Pillsbury
CBDT, Part 2: Dead Deer, Live Deer, Eel River Work Station
CBDT, Part 3: What’s up Watts Lake?
CBDT, Part 4: Ruth Lake, Jewel of the Middle of Nowhere
CBDT, Part 5: Bear Den, Coyote Tracks, Camp Site
CBDT, Part 6: Best Campsite Ever
CBDT, Part 7: Obviously Not Bigfoot


California Backcountry Discovery Trail, Part 1

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About the Author: Nik Schulz