Friday, September 14, 2012

Shealor Lake Trail

The Shealor Lakes wilderness in the Eldorado National Forest embeds four small alpine lakes surrounded by steep granite cliffs, hillsides, canyons and ridges with shrubs and conifers. It is a great summer hang-out to look for wildflowers and insect life such as pretty face and bluet damselflies.

Manzanitas, white and red firs, Jeffrey and lodgepole pines and Sierra junipers are plants that you will see along the trail and on the slopes. After a short gentle climb through mixed forest and rock sections, the steep descend to the first of the lakes follows various switchbacks down the granite slope. Most visitors do not hike past the first lake, where they get ready for a picnic and even a dip into the lake water. If you adventure further and climb the opposite granite slopes, you will find colorful lichens. The vistas are amazing, both from the lakeshores to the granite ridges as well as from the tops into the lake and canyon sides.

Getting to Shealor Lake Trailhead
The trailhead is on the west side of Highway 88 between the north and south end of Silver Lake. An information board at the trailhead lists eleven Highway 88 Corridor Trails. According to this board, the 1.5-mile-long Shealor Lake Trail (one way) is classified as moderate and open for hiking and horse riding. Dogs and mountain bikes are given an OK in Mike White's Afoot & Afield hiking guide (Trip 25 in Kit Carson Country). The elevation of the parking area is about 7440 feet, while the lake levels are 200 to 400 feet lower. Every source highlights this hike and outdoor attraction as an enjoyable experience for kids.

Keywords: trail map, nature, wildlife, outdoors, hiking, swimming, Sierra Nevada, California.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Salmon Lake Trail

Salmon Lake Trail is a short, one-mile-long trail that connects Salmon Lake with the Loch Leven Lakes, which are located in an elevated lake basin in the Sierra Nevada—south of the South Yuba River between Rainbow and Big Bend.

Salmon Lake Trail starts at the trail junction near the shore of Lower Loch Leven Lake, where the Loch Leven Trail continues on to Middle and High Loch Leven Lake.The shown trail sign marks the beginning of your two-miles out-and-back side trip. Or—perhaps—you want to spend a quiet night at one of the few Salmon Lake campsites.

From the lower-loch junction, a short climb through pine forest with small meadows of corn lilies and other plants gets you to a granite plateau, offering southwest views towards the Sawtooth Ridge and North American River Canyon. The trail descends over bare granite sections and then turns west through a lightly forested, rocky landscape. You'll get your first look of Salmon Lake not until reaching its granite rim. Once there, you'll have plenty of granite sculptures, humps and terraces with varying vistas to explore. 

Keywords: hiking, backpacking, nature, outdoors, fishing, camping.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

From Lower to High Loch Leven Lake

The Lower Loch Leven Lake is the first in reach on a hike from the Hampshire Rocks Rd. trailhead out of the South Yuba River Canyon to the Loch Leven Lakes. From the trail junction at the shore of the lower loch, a marked trail branches off to Salmon Lake, while the Loch Leven Trail continues over Little Granite Creek and winds through rocky landscape to Middle Loch Leven Lake.

In summer you will find overnighters at the campsites along the shore of the middle lake. The trail follows the lakeshore to the south tip, where the Cherry Point Trail begins at another junctions. From this junction head east-northeast for about 0.7 miles to get to High Loch Leven Lake after a short climb and walk over bare rock sections. A sign says you are at an elevation of 6920 feet. Take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery of granite cliffs and slopes, which are lined and interspersed by heather, bushes and conifers (picture on top: looking northwest from the south shore). Weather permitting, get ready for a swim or for sunbathing on one of the granite slabs and sprinkled rocks in the clear, blue water of the lake.

Friday, September 7, 2012

From Loch Leven Lakes Trailhead at Hampshire Rocks Road to Lower Loch Leven Lake

The Loch Leven Trail provides hikers and backpackers access to Sierra Nevada's Loch Leven Lakes, nearby Salmon Lake, and the Cherry Point Trail junction, from where one can continue on to the North Fork American River. The map shows the Lower, Middle and High Loch Leven Lakes and Salmon Lake. Many smaller lakes and lochs can be found in this area.

Starting your ascend at the trailhead next to Hampshire Rocks Road, the trail leads you out of the South Yuba River canyon to the lake basin. The trail description posted at the trailhead board explains that—along the first portion—the path of the trail can be difficult to find on the bare rock sections. Often, however, you will find piled rocks and rock lines, as the curved one in the picture above, which guides you over those granite floors.

Half-way between the trailhead and Lower Loch Leven Lake, shortly after crossing an alder-lined Yuba River tributary, the trail intersects with the twin tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad (see quote and picture below). Be careful while crossing! Since these tracks are not frequented by speed trains, you have a good chance to get across easily, even while hiking at a slow pace with your heavy overnight package and camping gear. 

The trailhead board offers some historical background:

The railroad tracks are on the original 1860s route of the Central Pacific railroad, built by hand with Chinese labor. It remains a major freight and passenger route in and out of California.

From the tracks to the ridge top, you have another 800 feet to climb. Then, the trail gradually descends to the Lower Loch.

Getting to the Loch Leven Lakes Trailhead
Driving on I-80 from Sacramento, take the Big Bend exit and follow Hampshire Rocks Road (old Highway U.S. 40) to the Fire Station. You will find the trailhead parking area to your left about one-eight mile east of the Big Bend Fire Station. The trail begins at the wooden “Loch Leven Trail” sign across the road.
Driving on I-80 from Truckee, take the Rainbow Road/Big Bend exit. Following Hampshire Rocks Road for about one mile, you will arrive at the trailhead parking lot and additional shoulder parking on the right side of the road.
According to information given at the trailhead board, the trail is open for hiking from early June to November and it is not marked for winter use.