Friday, October 23, 2009

Echo Lakes to Tamarack Lake

I couldn't resist another trip to Echo Lakes on my day off from work today. The Desolation Wilderness experience has been calling me for a few weeks, and the planets aligned enough for me to take off and go outside for the day.

Weather: perfect--sunny, little wind, low-60s warming up to mid-60's--t-shirt weather and wonderful. As you can see above, the lake was mirror-lake when I arrived. Beautiful sight.

  • Two hours drive up the hill along 50 to Echo Lakes.
  • Echo Lakes to Tamarak Lake is about 3.8 miles each way out and back. Total mileage today 7.6 miles.
  • Time (including taking pictures and enjoying the view): 3.5 hours. I hiked from 10:55-2:30. Remember that time includes pix and scenery admiration.

It was a weekday hike, and I had wondered how the trails would be in terms of company. There was a steady stream of people on the trail, and I felt completely safe--I passed a hiker/backpacker pair or so about every 30 mins, which was perfect. I felt 'away' but not isolated--the perfect type of feeling and great for escaping the rigors of work for a while.

Below: Here are some pics of the trail; as you can see, the trail varies from hard-packed dirt/rock to clamboring over moderate rocks to uneven large scree. It's always interesting, but it's also a good place to wear some ankle-supporting boots. You can hike at normal speed for half the hike; you're at slower speeds for the uneven sections, of which there are plenty, which makes for an interesting hike.

The trail and rocks were mostly dry, despite the recent storm, but there were tiny streams of water crossing the trail here and there, which made the trail satisfyingly crunchy in a new way.

Gear Comments: Plus, not so fun as the crunchy trail, I discovered that my boots are not that sticky on wet slick granite. Perhaps no boots are that sticky on that type of rock, but I slipped twice, saved from a painful tailbone incident only by my hiking poles. I'll have to remember to tread carefully when it gets to slippery hiking season. Thank goodness for poles!

Also, I've discovered that I'm not yet that used to my larger sized feet (in boots a size larger than normal because that's how hiking boots are). With the additional 1/2 inch in length, I haven't yet learned to pick my feet up in ways to accomodate the extra length, so there was an inordinate amount of tripping here and there. Again, I was grateful for the additional stability of hiking poles. Other than that, the boots are great. The additional length is just something I have to learn, I think.

Final Gear Comment: I'm probably the last person in the hiking world to have discovered Luna Bars, but so be it. Suffice to say that the banana nut bar can carry me through an entire 7 mile hike. Not bad and definitely tasty.

Below: The trail offers you some marvelous views of Upper and Lower Echo Lake on your way to Tamarack Lake.

Below: not a bad view for lunch! I sat on the bench on the boat taxi pier and watched the lake for a while. Pretty amazing that it's real, that it's not a screen-saver, that I live near enough to come places like this fairly regularly:

: I didn't actually find Tamarack Lake; there's a sign but no trail among some rock-scrambling. Since I was solo, although navigation was simple, I didn't want to venture too far off trail to find Tamarack because I wasn't too sure exactly where it was and whenever I looked back to find the trail, it turns out that all the rocks and trees look essentially the same off trail. I'll have to explore that part next time I'm up. No worries.

Below: Google Earth view of Lower Echo Lake; the trail goes around the top of the lake and then continues Northwest from here.

Mileage Stats from Echo Lakes Trailhead:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake Oct 10 09

On this hike, I went with the group once again to yet another stunning glacial lake, well, two really: Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake. I realize now that I didn't get a glimpse of Spooner Lake, but I'll have to do that next time. Marlette Lake, however, was, as usual, unbelievably beautiful.

Weather: beautiful--low 60's at start to mid-70's and bright sunshine, minmum wind, no clouds. You can't design a more perfect weather day for a Tahoe hike.

Hike: Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake is 9.6 miles; I went on to the slightly further Marlette Overlook, which added on perhaps two more miles. Probably the entire hike was around 11.5 miles. Spooner Lake trailhead is at junction of Hwy 50/28, just before Glenbrook; we went via 80, so it was about 9 miles past Incline Village (80-267-28)--probably about two hours from Roseville.

Below: As usual, the trail was well signed. It was a popular trail too, with plenty of hikers, on weekends at least, to keep you company if you're a solo hiker.

Below: For the mileage to Marlette Lake, below, add on 0.8 mile to move you from the parking lot to the actual trail head.

The trail starts out with a pretty flat dusty fire road, shared with mountain bikers, for the first 0.8 mile to the trailhead. At the trailhead, hikers can choose to use the single-track hiking/horse trail off to the left of the biker fire-road. I recommend using the single-track hiker option; it's inherently more interesting and includes several historical items with interpretive signs. Plus you meet only occasional horses and no bikers.

Below: Fairly quickly, you come to your first historical marker--Spencer's House--a mid 18th century house that belonged to a rancher in charge of the land-owner's cattle. In these pictures, you can get an idea of the purpose of the hike to this area--the magnificent turning colors of the alpine aspens.

Opposite Spencer's House is a strangely large carved chair. Intriguing in a puzzling kind of way--no interpretive sign to explain its presence.

Below: Here you see more of the wonder of the aspen's fall colors:

Below: A view from the single-track hiker trail through a wonderland of chrorophyll and fresh air:

Below: The trail leads also through glacial meadows (or at least clearings):

Below: There were several patches of snow on the side--remnants of last week's early storm:

Below: And some intriguing little bridges over small creeks; I imagine they're pretty strong streams with the spring snow-melt:

Below: Our first glimpses of Marlette Lake--what a beauty!

Below: More aspens turning colors:

Below: Finally at the lake, with a wonderful, stunning, National Geographic lunch spot:

Below: A view of Marlette Lake, with Lake Tahoe in the distance, from Marlette Overview. It's a view you earn with some stiff uphill, but it's only a mile or so, and it's a beautiful walk:

The rest of the group stayed on the lunch rock, but I wanted to do some 'sploring, so I went further up and found the overview. I knew that I'd have some quick hiking to do to catch up with the group with this additional hike, so I applied what I'd learned about hiking strides (long steps, use your poles), and booked it back along the trail, past the lunch rock, and up onto the trail toward Spooner Lake.

I learned that I can hike really quickly with this method, but I learned also that speed-hiking means that you miss much of the scenery, that you miss much of the serenity, and that you pass many other hikers. It's not a method I plan to adopt full-time anytime soon, but it's good to know that that's how you do it.

Below: The sign back to Spooner Lake:

Below: Pix of my stuff and some tired dogs--that speed-hiking was quite the three mile workout:

Overall, a great hike as always.

More info:


Want to see birds:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Merrell Chameleon Arc Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots

My new boots: I love them. They're great straight out of the box (see the Castle Peak hike); since that hike, however, I've gone up a size (same boots) because a) I wear socks and liners and b) my exact size is too small; in the last pair, my toes banged against the toe box.

These boots, however? Sigh. I hope they're great. I'll go for a short test hike today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Castle Peak, Donner Pass CA

I recently went up to Castle Peak, over by Donner Pass, up at Tahoe. (Does that last sentence have enough prepositional phrases for you? :)) It was a beautiful hike with the hiking group again, and this time, it was a more relaxed pace, which was good.

Weather: Stunning--mid-high 70s to low 80s most of the day; we hiked from 9:30 to about 2 or so. No wind or clouds; just a beautiful day.

Hike: about 5 miles each way, with some significant elevation gain in the last few miles. A great trail, however--well signed. A safe single hiker trail--plenty (but not too many) of people around, it seemed. Steep in places with a little bit of tiny bouldering here and there--clamboring really. Avoid the cut offs for the switchbacks to avoid furthering erosion.

Below:We started out at Castle Peak Trailhead, and we wandered up a floury-dusty fire road, on the PCT. The dust came over your boots in places, but the path also crossed two teeny tiny creeks, determinedly chuckling over the trail:

Below:This dusty path, crossing those two tiny streams,gradually ascended and transformed into hard-packed dirt:

Below: The trail then finally metamorphosed into an even more rocky path at this point: Castle Pass junction where you can go straight across, continuing on the PCT (and to the Peter Grubb Hut---which I'm dying to see). Or you can go left and explore another trail. Or go right, as we did, and leave the PCT as we joined the Castle Peak trail up, up, and away up toward the peak:

Below: We could see the three turretted peaks of Castle Peak getting closer as we ascended the Castle Peak Trail:

Below: Looking up the trail as we left the PCT/Castle Pass junction, we could see this view:

Below: We had some pretty steep and rocky trails along the way, but it was well-signed, and the path was evident from top to bottom:

Below: The peak kept getting closer and closer and became the more impressive the closer it became:

Below: More pix of the trail as we wound our way up:

Below: You can get an idea of how steep parts of the trail was:

Below: Someone had made a cairn/shelter of sorts underneath an overhang under the first turret; it would have offered some shelter from wind perhaps, had it been a different type of weather day:

Below: Finally, we see this wonderful view from the top of the middle turret:

Below: And not a bad spot for lunch:

Below: My faithful poles enjoying the rest and the view:

Plans for future hikes in this area:

  • combine this hike with a hike to nearby Baisin Peak for around 14 miles or so; I heard the trail from Baisin Peak back to Peter Grubb is a little hard to follow, so perhaps do an out and back to Baisin from Castle?
  • at Castle Pass trail junction, go to Peter Grubb Hut and beyond to explore the PCT further.
  • Highly recommended vigorous (but not killer) hike. Pretty high altitude--over 10K, so be prepared for that. Layers as always to accommodate wacky mountain weather.

Gear Comment: hiking poles are strongly recommended for stability and help in climbing: I would have had a hard time without mine on this hike.

Boots: This was my first hike in my new Merrill boots; they performed splendidly although I'll need to get one size bigger to protect by toenails on the downhill. I'll be surprised if I don't lose at least one the way my toes were banging up against the toe of the boot. Other than that, the boots were so comfortable and so grippy and so great, I completely forgot I had them on. Not bad for a hike straight out of the box. I took my Salomon in my backpack, but I didn't need them at all. Cool.