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.

No comments:

Post a Comment