Friday, August 16, 2013

Showers Lake, Eldorado National Forest (via Meiss trailhead)

August 15th - 16th, 2013

For once, this is NOT the same as my post in Hammockforums. Neener, neener.

Another solo overnight. I knew this would challenge me, being a longer hike with more elevation change then I've done yet.

I started at the Meiss trailhead, near Carson Pass on Highway 88. I drove from El Dorado County, to the trailhead in Alpine County, then hiked back into El Dorado. Funny!

I got to the trailhead about 10am, and reached my campsite at Showers Lake, 5 miles away, around 1:30pm.

This hike starts around 8560, climbs over a high point of just under 8800 feet, then to a low of 8320, then back up (steep!) to 8647 feet. Unlike my last hike, to Shealor Lakes, this one is not UP followed by DOWN, then turn around and do it again; but up, then across a saddle, then down the other side, then through a very long meadow, then up up up to the lake.

The trail I used is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada. So it is very well marked, with no moments at all of, "Hrm, which way....". I don't know if I saw any thruhikers (folks doing the whole trail) but I did see a lot of dayhikers, most with dogs. And one set of mountain bikers (on the Tahoe Rim Trail, where bikes are allowed.)

There were two possible thru-hiking or long-distance pairs - two men - skinny, dusty, and tanned; and two older women (older than me, anyway) and their dogs, also skinny, dusty, and tanned. Well, the dogs were hairy and dusty so I couldn't tell if they were skinny (or tanned) or not.
I'm too fat, too clean, and too slow to be mistaken for a long distance hiker.

Everybody passed me. I am super slow, averaging a 45 minute mile. The only people I passed were a group doing much-needed trail maintaince at one of the places where the PCT crosses the Truckee River. The trail-folk camped at Showers also. I met two more, from the Tahoe Rim Trail Assoc., the next day, hiking in to help out.

Thank you, trail-maintainers!

It was windy and probably around 70 degrees, getting to 50.2 at night (on my cheap digital remember-the-highs-and-lows thermometer).

The views are amazing from practically everywhere on this hike.
I admired the views near the beginning of the trail, looking across Highway 88.

I geeked out over every trickling watercourse and flower I saw.

I took a wobbly panorama from the top of the saddle.

I poked around the Meiss cabin and barn, near the junction of the PCT and the TRT.

I gazed back down the slope I was painfully climbing to reach Showers Lake.

I've put together a YouTube video, as well as a gallery (public) on Google+. Go there for more photos (some dupes of the ones here.)

I have one blister, as the ball of my left foot wore through my oldest pair of Injinji socks (fortunately, on the last day). And the muscles that walk me downhill (different from the climbing/bike-riding ones) are pretty sore. Epsom salts to the rescue!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hammock forums' demise?

This is not directly hiking related, but I am mad mad mad.

There is some difference of opinion between the (former) Hammock Forums moderators (who all resigned enmasse today) and the owner of the Hammock Forums site.

This is what I get now when trying to access the site.

This seems to me to be an extreme case of "I'll take my toys and run away."
I hope I'm wrong and the forum is not down for good.

I have no idea how to contact anyone who was planning to come to the Boggs Mountain Hang this October. I take that back. I have a business card from one person. What about the other dozen or so? Wait, I might have an email for one other.

This is the problem with relying on the private message system - no other way to communicate except through the forum.

Well, I'll post a link to my blog on the Facebook page (unofficial but still up) in hopes that local Northern California people can find me.

Boo hoo.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shealor Lakes, Eldorado National Forest

6 August, 2013

I usually hike by myself, because you never know what kind of whacko might join your group. It might be someone who talks incessantly, hikes very slowly, and has lots of strange gear.

Oh wait. That's me.

And one of me on a hike is plenty.

This hike grew out of a discussion in a yoga class, and our party of four were the three yoginis and one friend of the instigator. The instigator had gotten a new Osprey hydration day pack from REI and loved it, which incited another in the yoga class to get the same pack (I think this was her first hike). So that's how this trip began. This was not my trip idea, I just tagged along (and provided the destination suggestion).

We met up in Placerville and divided up the riders into two cars (I get really really car sick unless I'm driving) and drove up to the trailhead, arriving about 8:30. An hour of hiking and breathing at elevation we were at the first Shealor lake, where I loafed in my hammock and the other three went wading.

While on our way to the lake, we took an inadvertent detour and found this large grinding rock.

We also admired the great views from the top of our climb.

We snacked some more at the lake, I refilled my water bottle using my filter, and we hiked back, taking a few unintentional shortcuts up steep sections, and a deliberate detour to a 7681ft (I think) high knob of rock at the north end of the saddle you climb up and down on your way to and from the lake.

That knob had great views! And many more grinding rocks. We made temporary trail markers on our way to the knob, dutifully knocking them down as we hiked back to the trail.

This is a hike that is UP then DOWN then undo that back to the car. A good first hike. The trailhead is right off 88 near Silver Lake. Plenty of paved parking. No portajohn (we drove into Silver Lake campground before we parked at the trailhead - 4 women 50 years or older = mandatory bathroom breaks).

No fee, no permit for day hikers. Don't know about overnights.

I just traced the line over on the 1993 topo map image. Seems about what we did.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Round Lake and Crooked Lakes Trails to Penner Lake: Grouse Ridge Area, Tahoe National Forest

July 9th

This is an abbreviated version of my longer trip report on Hammock Forums.

My overnight turned into a 6 1/2 mile day hike. That's OK, it was lovely anyway!

View from the climb to Penner
 I started at Carr/Feely trailhead again, taking the same initial route as my last excursion, to Island Lake. I took a break for snacks and water at the campsite I used on that trip. Look at the previous blog post for details of the Island Lake trip.

Lovely Island Lake
The trail from Island Lake to Penner has nice variety: shaded areas, some granite slab areas, and a whole lot of annoying scree used as trail surface.

It is usually easy to find the trail, and when it gets a little unclear, there is probably a stomped down section within eyeshot.

Some of the obscure areas have been delineated by rock edgings on the trail. Also, head for the downed trees that have been sawed apart. Basic stuff.

There is a climb to get to the ridge above Penner. I stopped at every shade-producing tree or rock and looked around. Yeah, that's why I stopped. Totally. Nothing to do with gasping like a fish.

The trail in this section is mostly the horrid scree This is a boot's-eye view of the scree. It averages deck of cards size.

The lake is shrinking!
Really the trail. It is a steep and angled as it looks here.
Do I LOOK like a mountain goat?!
no, no, no, not more scree!
Another shot from under a shady tree
 Anyway, when you've gotten to the top of the annoying climb and can finally see Penner,

don't get sucked into the false trail to the left (nice lunch spot if you don't need water right away), but head straight to the Crooked Lakes Trail sign and down the gully.

Eventually the trail runs right next to Penner's eastern shore.

It came time to set up camp, which I did (later, I tore it down and headed back to the car.) For those of you who don't hammock, this setup's pretty typical.

The brown thing under the tarp is my underquilt, to keep my underside toasty warm.
Random swampy lake on Crooked Lakes Trail

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Round Lake Trail to Island Lake: Grouse Ridge/Bowman Lake Area, Tahoe National Forest

7-8 June, 2013

This is an abbreviated version of my trip report on HammockForums

The trailhead, where I arrived at 8am on Friday morning, is called Carr/Feeley or Carr Lake or Feeley Lake. Pick one.
Take I-80 east from Sacramento, then Highway 20, then Bowman Lake Road, then the access road to Carr/Feely.
The last 2.7 miles of the drive is a 'graded' dirt road which nearly bounced my arms out of my sockets.

Parked the car, donned my pack, and hit the Round Lake Trail. 

I've done this stretch before, several years ago, as a day hike to Penner Lake. This time I went for an overnight to Island Lake, an even shorter trip.

I'll confess, it is a very nice and short and easy hike, about a mile and a half one way. Island Lake is VERY popular, so that's why I left so darn early, to make sure I'd have plenty of time to grab a spot I could use with my camping hammock setup (two trees required). Was it worth backpacking to? Yes, since this is a great distance for a shakedown trip for me.

The trail starts after a closed gate that leads to the Carr Lake campsites ($15 / night, walk in only), where there are a pair of conveniently located pit toilets a few hundred yards in. The trail then crosses the outflow of the Feeley Lake dam.

Entrance to campground and trailhead

One of the Carr Lake campsites

Feeley Dam outflow

You can walk on the top of the dam, if you want, and I know some folks have bypassed the sometimes deep outflow by finding their way to the north end of the dam, then walking south to catch the official trail.

Feeley Dam

The trail follows the shore for a while, with Fall Creek Mountain making nice reflections in Feeley lake.

Then you eventually head up away from the lake and over a ridge to meander between some small lakes and marshes.

Yes, that's snow back there. In early June 2009 there was snow on the trail.

 The trail is well signed at intersections, and the dozens of feet pounding the trail each day has beaten down the dirt section quite nicely.

After you reach the intersection with Crooked Lakes Trail, you can stay on Round Lake Trail and look for a way to get down to the southern shore of Island Lake. I had originally planned to hang there (I hammock camp, for those who don't know), but could not find a way to get close to the water without scrambling.
I do not scramble.
So I backtracked.

Going back to the Crooked Lakes Trail intersection, I turned north, seeking the western shore of Island Lake. I've gotten misplaced out here before. So I wandered aimlessly (not really true) on the narrow strip of land between a small pond and beautiful Island Lake, reciting landmarks to myself as I strolled along. Big rock, bent tree, streamlet-with-log, head due east, 'nother big rock, rock, rock, big rock. Bother.

Island Lake

There may be plenty of places that are not campsites where one can hang out by the lake, but I was not looking for those so I can't speak for the day trippers.

Sometime before the big peninsula that sticks out into the lake, I spied a fire ring just off the trail. at the sign of the twin tree.

Now, Tahoe Nat'l Forest has already put fire restrictions in place - so no campfire for me. But, an established fire ring meant it should be possible to get down to the shore fairly easily for water. And it was!

I set my hammock up and proceeded to loaf the rest of the day. I watched a lot of what I like to call "TV" - with three channels, the Natural History channel, the Lake channel, and the Trail channel.

"Sweat bees" (Halictidae, as far as I know) made up most of the Natural History channel, swarming and investigating every scrap of my stuff. I do wish they'd tune up a bit - when two or three were buzzing in place about 2 feet away from me, they sounded like tiny twin engine bombers. All day long.

The Lake channel mostly featured a family at the south end swimming from island to rock to island and having a great time.

The Trail channel was everybody who walked by my camp. Dozens of people - families, singletons, pairs, medium size groups. Did I say this is an extremely popular hike?

 I wandered around my little campsite, glad that I had skipped the 5 mile group trip to Rock Lake (farther on Crooked Lakes trail) since my recently recovered (I thought recovered HA!) Achilles's tendon had not yet fully recovered. All these flowers were in my campsite! Cool!

Pretty Face

I packed up camp, staggering around half blind in the pre-dawn light, further dimmed by my bug head net, then hiked back, still in the bug net, retracing my path of just the day before.

Island Lake before sunrise

The landmark recitation paid off and I was not even slightly puzzled. Well, OK. Once. But I got over it.

The parking lot was very full at 6:30 on a Saturday morning, with some people parked on the side of the access road.

I heartily recommend this trail. It is nice and Island Lake is gorgeous. BUT there are lots of bugs in the early part of summer, the lake is crowded on weekends, and the road into the trailhead (off of Bowman Lake Road) is 2.7 miles of some of the worst "road" I've driven on. I used the 4WD, just to smooth the handling out a little. A high clearance 2WD could make it, but you need to take your time and choose your route.