Ok so it’s actually called the Ishi Wilderness but with Poison Oak being the dominate ground cover it might as well be called “Itchy” because if you get poison oak that’s exactly what you’ll be doing for days after leaving this wilderness area. The Ishi Wilderness is a 41,339 acre wilderness area located on the Lassen National Forest in the Shasta Cascade foothills. To get there from Chico drive 30 miles to the northeast on Cohasset Road until the paved road turns to dirt and becomes Ponderosa Way. You will need a truck or SUV to continue on the dirt road (four wheel drive is a plus). Ponderosa way winds through the foothills and provides spectacular views of basalt outcroppings, pillar lava formations, river canyons, and other preserves of nature that exemplify wildness.
Rob and I invited Eric Percel, an engineering student from Ohio State University, to join us on our first expedition to Ishi. Eric has been staying in Chico for a month carrying out an experiment for Dr. Reed Johnson that tests the effects of the fungicide Pristine on queen development. I was a little worried how Eric would fare in the wilderness but we gave him the toilet paper test when he showed up at our apartment Saturday morning to load up his gear. Toilet paper test? Yes the toilet paper test. You can tell how much time a person has spent in the woods by what that person packs for a trip. If the person packs toilet paper you can bet that they have spent some time in the woods and probably won’t be complaining about the poison oak during the day and the mosquitoes at dusk. Eric had everything he needed including toilet paper. He also brought some very nice handmade carving tools and made me the spoon pictured in the gallery.
I spent most of my day fishing Deer Creek. The water comes from way up in the mountains and is some of the clearest and coldest I have ever seen. Deer Creek is strewn with large boulders and undercut rock that provides excellent trout habitat. Rainbow trout are native to west coast and in mountain streams like Deer Creek they seem to thrive. While I fished Eric and Rob explored the Deer Creek Canyon finding more than enough to hold their interests until the sun went down behind the foothills. When it was no longer light enough to fish or explore we put our head lamps on, made dinner, and set up camp. The next morning we got up fished and hiked for a few hours then broke down camp and cautiously made our way back to Chico. It was a good trip and I plan on returning to Ishi this weekend to do some more exploring!