Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lola Montez Lake Trail

Lola Montez Lake Trail is a hiking and mountain biking trail, which connects its trailhead next to the fire station at the Soda Springs exit of Interstate 80 between Sacramento and Truckee with the Lower and Upper Lola Montez Lakes—and also with the Hole in the Ground trail. Since there are two lakes, both named for the legendary gold-rush actress and dancer Lola Montez, the trail name also occurs in plural form: Lola Montez Lakes Trail, as the trailhead sign on the page Lower Lola Montez Lake, Sierra Nevada, California shows (see paragraph Getting to Lola Montez Lakes Trailhead).

The new signpost shown above is located about half a mile from the trailhead, where the beginning single-track trail meets a gravel road. This road descends to Lower Castle Creek. A short distance past the creek crossing, another single-track section ascends from a marked junction to the next gravel-road section. Following this road, which passes by private property and no-trespassing signs, will take you into Tahoe National Forest territory and therein to a junction, at which the Hole in the Ground Trail branches off to the right, connecting Lola Montez Lakes with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). A short westbound walk from the junction, Lower Lola Montez Lake comes into view. The upper lake can be reached via the single-track trail along the northwest shore, from where one needs to climb and cross the granite landscape seen in the back of the picture.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Out of the Truckee River Canyon to the TRT and Painted Rock area

The Truckee River Canyon between Truckee and Tahoe City features a string of camp grounds and picnic areas. Various biking and hiking trails can be accessed from within the canyon. Other trails, such as the Sawtooth Trail, skirt the canyon and provide scenic vista points. Most prominent, the Western States Trail, which in major sections coincidences with the nation's first non-motorized, coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail (ADT) [1], crosses the canyon.

The Painted Rock area along the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is only a few miles away from where the Western State Trail crosses the Truckee River. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders have the option of a moderate out-and-back trip to the Painted Rock(s) or a longer loop-including round trip, which has recently been described in a detailed, GPS-tracked trailhiker post [2]. Interestingly, it is not clear where, exactly, the Painted Rock is to be found. In my opinion, there are many painted rocks— assuming that the term painted rock refers to a rock with lichen- and erosion-based coloring and shading. The top picture with brain-like rock structures are located next to the TRT junction, while the others are found further to the east along the Watson-Lake-bound TRT.

Getting to the Western States Trail crossing and the TRT
The Western States Trails crosses the Truckee River on a Highway 89 bridge half-way between the Squaw Valley and the Alpine Meadows turnoffs. Driving south, you may find right-side shoulder parking before or after this bridge, overpassing the Truckee river and bike trail. Parking space is very limited. Just before driving onto the bridge, you'll see the Western States Trail signpost to your right. From the south end of the bridge, the Truckee Bike Trail can be accessed. Underpass the bridge on the bike trail and immediately ascend to find yourself on the opposite side of Highway 89. Here, the eastbound Western State Trail starts as a single-track trail. The trail winds out of the canyon for about two miles through pine and fir forest. Turn left at its junction with the TRT. Good luck with the painted rocks!    
References and more to discover
[1] American Discovery Trail: California [www.discoverytrail.org/states/california/ca_info.html].
[2] trailhiker: Western States Trail - Painted Rock loop from CA-89 [trailhiker.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/western-states-trail-painted-rock-loop-from-ca-89/]

Monday, October 15, 2012

From Gregory Creek Trailhead to Tahoe Donner trail network

The Gregory Creek Trailhead (GCTH) is a popular gateway to the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT). This trailhead is located just north of the Donner Lake exit of Interstate 80 between Donner Summit and Truckee, California. From here, Summit Lake is 3.5 miles away. About the same distance applies to the trail that connects the GCTH with its toponymic overlook and the end (or beginning) of Gregory Creek Overlook Trail. The straight distance between GCTH and Gregory Overlook at the steep southern edge of the Donner Ridge is less than a mile. You do not want to climb up directly. Instead, the trail, used by mountain bikers and hikers, follows Gregory Creek northward to the Drifter Hut plateau. It then U-turns southward and continues along the slope below Donner Ridge.

The whole trail is single-track. At the Gregory Creek Trail/DLRT junction (about one mile from GCTH), you will take the right DLRT branch—the direction given as Drifter Hut and Glacier Way on the signpost. On this DLRT section you are going to leave the riparian habitat and climb up the forested slope until you get to the outcrops shown in the picture above. A few more switchbacks and you'll reach a plateau, which belongs to a patch of the Tahoe National Forest next to the area with the Tahoe Donner trail network. Watch out for the DLRT post signaling the almost-180-degree turn. Now comes an easy-going mile with magnificent views. At the vista site (posted as Negro Canyon Overlook), DLRT currently ends; but you are at another Tahoe Donner entry point, connecting with the Glacier Way Trailhead and further ridge, overlook and loop trails—actually, well-marked fire road trails.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gregory Creek Overlook Trail

Gregory Creek Overlook Trail is a short trail connecting the Glacier Way Trailhead with the Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT). The signpost at the end of the overlook trail, where the DLRT starts, still uses the designation Negro Canyon Overlook Trail. This seems to be politically incorrect, since the word Negro here does not present the Spanish adjective for black; but, instead, refers to a person of black ancestry or appearance. There is the possibility that the name refers to Albert Johnson, an African American and resident of Donner Lake around 1878 [1]:
Johnson was well known and respected, and was a cook at the Truckee Hotel and later worked as a cook on a Lake Tahoe steamer. [...]. Eventually, he began renting cabins at Donner Lake near the output of Gregory Creek, which flows from Negro Canyon [sic!]. Unfortunately, his name does not appear on land or property records, making it difficult to establish if he has any official connection to the Negro Canyon name.

Let's stay with the name Gregory Creek for the canyon and, as done above, with the name Gregory Creek Overlook Trail for the Tahoe-Donner fire road trail, which ends at the marker with number 22 (see map). This scenic spot offers views of the western tip of  Donner Lake, Donner Pass Road with Rainbow Bridge, Mt. Judah, Roller.Pass and other features of the Pacific Crest. From this point and during a hike along the adjacent northbound section of the DLRT one gets various views of Gregory Creek. The picture below shows the DLRT section west of the junction, at which the Wendin Way Access Trail (not seen, since at the canyon bottom), also named Gregory Creek Trail (but not Negro Canyon Trail), meets the DLRT. Obviously, the mapping of this area has experienced a history of naming confusion. Fortunately, all its trails are easy to find and also well marked, when it comes to giving directions to destinations such as Summit Lake, Drifter Hut and Glacier Way.

Keywords: (in)correct naming, toponyms, hiking, mountain biking, vista points, Donner Lake, Sierra Nevada.

[1] Truckee Open Space > Negro Canyon (Upper Gregory Creek) [www.tdlandtrust.org/truckee-open-space].

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tahoe Donner Glacier Way Trailhead: walks, views and DLRT access

The Glacier Way Trailhead gives Tahoe Donner visitors access to the trail network of this neighborhood northwest of Central Truckee in California. Most trails are fire roads allowing various non-motorized uses. For your orientation, trailheads and intersections are numbered on the Tahoe Donner Association Trail Map and corresponding trail markers (24 on the Glacier Way post, as the picture shows) are found within the real trail system, which is open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. The starting point of the half-way completed Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT) is about one mile away (marker 22).

Over the last 35 years over 150 fires burned around Tahoe Donner. Not far from the trailhead you will find a sign of the Forestry Department, indicating the implementation of the Tahoe Donner Fuel Break Reforestation Project. Further west of this area of strategic thinning and planting, you will come to an open slope, still showing some burned trees. A downhill trail leads you to grand vista points, from where you may overlook entire Donner Lake. The picture shows the eastern section of the lake and Donner Memorial State Park. Beyond this park, you see parts of the Tahoe National Forest south of Truckee—the Sawtooth Trail landscape —and further east the yellow-brown meadow of the Martis Creek Wildlife Area (see Martis Creek Trail).  

Getting to the Glacier Way Parking & Picnic Area (trail marker 24)
From Central Truckee, drive west on Donner Pass Road and turn right onto Northwoods Boulevard. After about two miles Northwoods Blvd. splits into a loop. Take the left branch of this loop, pass Zermatt Dr. junction, turn left into Skislope Way and follow this road for about three miles. The entry to the Glacier Way Trailhead parking lot is located at the corner of Skislope Way and Glacier Way.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Via Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake northwest of Round Lake

Dardanelles Lake northwest of Round Lake in the Eldorado National Forest in the Sierra Nevada is located about half-way between the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT).  The shortest path to the lake is from the Tahoe Rim Trail parking lot next to Highway 89 between Meyers and Hope Valley (4 miles, one-way; see map). The trail starts at the Big Meadow Trailhead. Take the southbound TRT route via Big Meadow to Round Lake. The latter is three miles south from the trailhead. But to get to Dardanelles Lake, you want to turn right after a little more than two miles—before reaching Round Lake. Head north on a trail that connects the TRT with Meyers Trailhead and Hawley Grade National Recreation Trail (another map). After a quarter-mile you'll reach another trail fork. Turn left: this final, westbound cul-de-sac—unsigned Dardanelles Lake Trail—concludes your hike or ride to the lake by wading through or rock-hopping over two streams, about a mile apart.

With the exception of Big Meadow, the trail leads through forest of Jeffrey pines, lodgepole pines, red firs and a few old sierra junipers. Quaking aspen, manzanita, yellow buttercup, lupine, paintbrush, monkey-flower, corn lily and pond lily (near the first stream crossing) are other wayside plants. Dardanelles Lake is surrounded by natural granite sculptures including tall cliffs, humps (as shown in the picture above), shelves, slabs and slopes. The lake is part of the Upper Truckee River system and considered a fishing gem by anglers. Overnighters will find a pleasant campsite near a quiet cove.   

Outdoor activity tags: hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, swimming, sunbathing, trout fishing, picnicking, backpacking, camping.