Friday, August 23, 2013

Yellow, red-splotched monkeyflowers along the shore of Gold Lake, Plumas County, California

Yellow, red-spotted corolla of a Monkeyflower, probably primrose monkeyflower

Gold Lake's shoreline (elevation of 6,400 feet) in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, Plumas County, California, is populated with monkey-flowers this year (middle of August), apparently unnoticed by most of the recreationally driven visitors. 

Monkeyflowers of the genus Mimulus (lopseed family, Phrymaceae), embracing perhaps 150 species, are known for their “chaotic taxonomic history” [1]. Laird R. Blackwell's month-by-month guide of Tahoe wildflowers describes three yellow-flowered species: yellow-or-purple monkeyflower, Mimulus densus (March), common yellow monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus (May) and primrose monkeyflower, Mimulus primuloides (July) [2]. These species are native to western North America and grow at elevations above 4,000 feet. All have been described to display reddish-brown spots in the corolla mouth.

Mimulus densus is associated with Nevada: Blackwell shows a beautiful Carson City flower pair [2]. Other sources refer to the Toiyabe Range in the Great Basin [3]. Further, what sometimes are treated as distinct species, may be treated as varieties as well [3]:
Holmgreen noted that “so close are the members of this complex [M. coccineus, M. densus, and M. mephiticus] that they are probably best treated as varieties under the oldest name M. mephiticus.” This whole group of plants need further study.

Elsewhere, the name M. densus has been labeled as unresolved [4]. Let's look at some details of the Gold Lake plants first, before further debating identification.

The flower and leaves shown in this post belong to plants seen on August 17 of this year at the shore of Gold Lake. The red splotches, typical for said Mimulus species, can clearly be seen in the top picture—most of them on the corolla's lowest of the five yellow sepals, where the flower opening is hairy. Each flower—having bilateral symmetry—arises above the basel leaves on a short, erect, leafless and purplish stalk. The green leaves vary in size and shape, and have long hairs. Older leaves are turning brownish purple (right-side picture above). The wet, partially shaded corners between low bushes and granite boulders seem to be the monkeyflower's favorite habitat, in which the low-growing plants often form small mats. There were plenty of plants around Gold Lake, but I couldn't find any at the shore of nearby Squaw Lake, which is situated at a somewhat higher elevation. 

The heart shape of each of the yellow petals is another striking characteristic of the seen monkeyflowers. The petals of M. guttatus do not show such a pronounced heart shape and their flowers are born on a raceme. Therefore, and due to the ambiguous status of M. densus, I am leaning towards recognizing the Gold Lake flowers as M. primuloides: primrose monkeyflower, also called yellow creeping monkey-flower and monkey moss. But, how can one be sure within a large and complex genus with many look-alikes and a given history of renaming and sub-grouping?

Not only is the complexity of the Mimulus genus overwhelming, but its reorganization within the order Lamiales from the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae) to the lopseed family (Phrymaceae) complicates literature search and database querying. 

Keywords: botany, biodiversity, classification, taxonomy, ambiguity, disambiguation.

References and more to explore
[1] Charles L. Argue: Pollen Morphology in the Genus Mimulus (Scrophulariaceae) and its Taxonomic Significance. Amer. J. Bot. 1980, 67 (1), 68-87 [].
[2] Laird R. Blackwell: Tahoe Wildflowers. Morris Book Publishing, LLC, 2007; pages 28, 54 and 93. 
[3] Guy L. Nesom: Three Varieties raised to Specific Rank in Diplacus (Phrymaceae). Phytoneuron 2012, 47, 1-6 [].
[4] The Plant List. A working list of all plant species: Mimulus densus A. L. Grant is an unresolved name [].

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Squaw Lake in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Squaw Lake is a serene tarn terraced on granite southwest of popular Gold Lake in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, north of the Plumas County line. Squaw Lake is beautifully surrounded by forest and rocks. In summer, the lake offers opportunities for refreshing dips and swimming—once you will have managed the small, slippery rocks and somewhat muddy ground at the water's edge.

Squaw Lake, in my judgement, shows structures of a cirque lake; formed at the head of a glacier—maybe an eventually separated branch of the great glacier that carved Gold Lake. The top photo captures a northeast view across the lake towards its lip with a narrow line of conifers, beyond of which the landscape opens to the lower basin of Gold Lake. The right-side picture shows north-east-sloping walls and cliffs that may have supported firn and head of a slowly downward moving glacier during ice-age times.

Getting to Squaw Lake
Get to Gold Lake west of the Gold Lake Highway (County Road 519) between Bassetts Station and Graeagle in Plumas County, California. There is a huge parking area and the Gold Lake Campground is next to it, touching the southeast lake shore. A gravel road between the shore and campsites leads southwest toward the boat ramp and to the end of the campground, where a rocky dirt road continues uphill.  A dated area map is posted nearby. A sign—with a yellow “No Fireworks” square underneath—gives distances: Squaw Lake 1 mile, Gold Lake 4X4 1 1/2 mile, Little Gold Lake 2 miles and Summit Lake 3 1/2 miles. Hike the four-wheeling track for about a quarter mile and find the single-track shortcut that takes you to the junction of the jeep trail with the half-mile Squaw Lake Trail (sign below). Ascend this gravel-road trail, switchbacking over granite and through open forest with occassional views of Gold Lake. The road ends in the Squaw Lake bowl next to its west-side cliff slopes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gold Lake in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Surrounded by the Plumas National Forest and Plumas-Eureka State Park, the Lakes Basin Recreation Area is a sub-alpine landscape with glacier-carved lakes east of the Pacific Crest. Gold Lake is the largest of these lakes. A network of hiking trails (including mountain biking and horse riding trails) is connecting the Basin lakes and other scenic places within this North Sierra terrain—at elevations between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. Unfortunately, Gold Lake has not been integrated into this system of hiking trails. The forest-covered lake surroundings feature a campgrounds [1], some private property and rocky roads for four-wheeling adventures. Occasional hikers and mountain bikers are traveling these roads as well.

For many visitors, Gold Lake means fun along its shores and on the water. A boat ramp is found near the campsites [2]. Canoeing, kayaking, motorized boating and waterskiing are common summer activities on the lake. Along the lake shore, fishing, picknicking, sunbathing and swimming are popular. A lakeshore stroll away from the boat launch will take you to the boulder tongue with views of rocky lake islands (top picture).
For pioneers and explorers of the past, Gold Lake meant wealth and/or disaster. Gold rush immigrant Thomas Stoddard and a partner are said to have been stumbled upon large gold nuggets gleaming in the moss at the water's edge, while the next day they were surprised by attacking Indians [3]:

Stoddard was injured, and his companion was never heard from again. Stoddard worked his way through the mountains until he at last reached the North Fork of the Yuba River and the gold camps in the Downieville-Nevada City region. Stoddard told his tale to the miners and the search was on for Gold Lake. A multitude of anxious miners swarmed into the mountains seeking Gold Lake, in what would become Plumas and Sierra Counties.

Is the legendary Gold Lake identical with today's Gold Lake? Last weekend, I searched the shores of Gold Lake for something gleaming in the moss at the water's edge. What I found was yellow-gold blooming primrose monkeyflowers, holding morning dew and hugging the ground. The present Gold Lake is at least worth its name and worth to visit!

Getting there
Gold Lake is located on the west side of Gold Lake Highway (County Road 519), about half-way between the old mill town of Graeagle and Bassetts Station at the junction where a dirt road (County Road S501) is leading north into the Frazier Creek valley and to the Frazier Falls trailhead

[1] USDA Forest Service: Gold Lake Campground [].
[2] California State Parks, Division of Boating and Waterways: Gold Lake Ramp [].
[3] A Brief History of Plumas County [].

Monday, August 19, 2013

Frazier Falls Trail: a stroll to a canyon and waterfall overlook

Top section of Frazier Falls, Plumas County, California

Frazier Falls Trail is a short, paved, foot-travel-only way—open to hikers and wheelchairs—leading from a picnic area through open, bedrock-exposing forest across upper Frazier Creek to two small railing-enclosed viewing platforms. Half-way, a beautifully situated bridge crosses the creek, just south of where its water plunges over the rocky edge, step-falling down the Frazier Creek canyon cliffs for 176 feet. You are not going to see the waterfall until you are getting close to the viewing areas at the trail dead-end. From there, you can enjoy views into the canyon and a complete overlook of the falls. At the top the water is streaming downward over the terraced rockscape (top picture) and then rushes down along more vertically extent stretches into the bottom debris and pool (below picture).

Bottom part of Frazier Falls, Plumas County, California

Along Frazier Falls Trail, interpretive panels inform visitors about Frazier Creek's natural history. The ice-age past is described as follows:

Glaciers were formed when more snow fell during the winter than melted in the summer. The snow compressed and crystallized into ice. As the glacier moved over land, it removed all vegetation, soil and loosened rock in its path. This  process took tens of thousands of years.

Today, there is much less snowfall—although the Lake Basin Recreation Area still turns into a snow-white wonderland in winter. The lakes in this area were carved and formed by glacial activity. Gold Lake, for example, which is feeding Frazier Creek. At this lake and the ridges around it, the snow can be over ten feet deep in winter. When this snow cover melts in spring, Gold Lake fills with the snowmelt and the water flows out at its northeast corner (next to the campground) creating Frazier Creek. A panel description is tracing the downcreek path of the lake water:

As the water tumbles down Frazier Creek, trees and other plants absorb some of the water into their roots. When the snowmelt starts in April, the creek rushes down the canyon and you might find these plants standing in the middle of high water. Frazier Creek travels almost five miles and drops nearly 2,000 feet in elevation. It meets the Middle Fork of the Feather River by the town of Graeagle. After the spring snowmelt ends, the water at Frazier Falls becomes a thinner stream of water and rarely reaches the Middle Fork.    

Location keywords: Plumas County, North Sierra, Sierra Nevada, Gold Lake Highway between Bassetts Station and Graegle.

Getting there
See the section “Getting there, getting around, staying safe” in my previous Frazier Creek post.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lakes Basin's Frazier Creek south of Graeagle, Plumas County, California

Both prehistoric volcanic activity and glacier movement during the ice ages have shaped the northern Sierra Nevada, including the landscape of today's Plumas National Forest and the Lake Basin Recreation Area near the resort town of Graeagle in Plumas County, northern California. There, the upper Frazier Creek is an easily accessible terrain to explore geologically interesting features.

Most visitors come to see the Frazier Waterfalls. These falls are part of the five-mile-long path of water flowing from Gold Lake, carved out by a glacier, to the Middle Fork of the Feather River near Graeagle. According to an on-site interpretive panel, Frazier creek drops nearly 2,000 feet on its way. The top picture shows the water near the edge where it falls down a steep, stepped canyon wall (a 176-foot drop)—the stepped Frazier Falls. People have slipped and fallen off there, too! The above picture shows a nearby rock terrace structure with edges sharper than typically found in a naturally formed environment.     

Some geologists believe that the sandstone and andesite formations seen next to the falls are the result of a massive volcanic eruption that was tilted on its side during California's volcanic past [1]. During the ice ages glaciers passed over the rocks and loosened them by frost wedging—a process during which water enters rock cracks, freezes and then forces the sides apart. During warming periods glacier melting produced the step-like landscape. A panel tells us that the great steps were formed 170,000 to 190,000 years ago and asks us what we think the Frazier Falls will look like in another 170,000 years.

Scenarios: if warming continues, Gold Lake and Frazier Falls will be gone; if another ice age happens, frost wedging as well as step and terrace formation could resume; if nothing changes...well, that has never been the case in the past: a 170,000-year-long standstill is very unlikely. Scenario or not scenario isn't a theme; which scenario is the question and story to map out.

Getting there, getting around, staying safe

The Frazier Falls trailhead and picnic area is found next to County Road S501, which roughly parallels the Gold Lake Highway (County Road 519) between Graeagle and Gold Lake.

From Graeagle, drive southeast on Highway 89 and turn onto the Gold Lake Highway, which you want to follow for 1.6 miles until you arrive at the signed left-side turnoff for Frazier Falls. A four mile drive along this narrow, paved road gets you to the trailhead.

Driving north on the Gold Lake Highway from its junction with Highway 49 at Bassetts Station, you will first arrive at the S501 junction next to Gold Lake and its campground. Between this S501/519 junction and the Frazier Falls trailhead parking lot, Road S501 is not paved—it is a rough and dusty road, alright for some cars [2].   

Along the Frazier Falls Trail, pay attention to the Beckwourth Ranger District's Stay On Trail sign: “Dangerous Cliffs Ahead - Potential for Serious or Fatal Injury.”

Keywords: natural history, geology, ice age, Pleistocene.

References and more to explore
[1]Sherpa Guides: Plumas National Forest [].
[2] LOVES FALLS, FRAZIER FALLS August 9, 2011 [].

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tamarack Lakes via Sardine Overlook

Tamarack Lakes Trail takes you to small lakes north of the Sierra Buttes in the Tahoe National Forest in Sierra County. The first half of this trail ascends through mostly open forest and along a manzanita-covered moraine slope with great vistas of the two fjord-like Sardine Lakes (reservoirs) far down to your left. Straight ahead you view the pinnacled Sierra Buttes. You are looking towards the northeast-facing walls and scree slopes of this mountain massif, on which you may spot several snow fields—even during summer months.

Lower Sardine Lake (partly seen in picture above, hikers returning to trailhead) is typically alive with fishing and kayaking activity, while Upper Sardine Lake at the Sierra Buttes bottom appears more remote. Leaving the scenic vista points behind, your climb continues over a forested ridge, from where the single-track trail switchbacks downhill into the Tamarack and Packer Lake Basin. After leaving the forest, the trail merges with a rocky road. It passes some seasonal streams and ponds, until it meets the T-junction with the route to Packer Lake. You'll find the first Tamarack Lake—shallow, brownish, conifer-rimmed (top picture)—to the south of this junction. Trails continue to the second Tamarack Lake, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Sierra Buttes Lookout. Note that while you were hiking downhill the ridge, you certainly spotted Packer Lake in the north. But you were not able to see the Tamarack Lakes prior to your arrival at the lake shores.

Getting to the Tamarack Lake/Sardine Overlook Trailhead
The trailhead is located near the Sardine Lake Resort (990 Sardine Lake Rd., Sierra City, CA 96125), just west of the Gold Lake Highway in the northern Sierra Nevada, California. Turn onto this highway from Highway 49 near Bassetts. Drive uphill for a little more than a mile and turn left onto County Road S621 at the sign directing to the Sardine and Packer Lakes. Proceed on S621 and take Sardine Lakes Road at the next junction. Locate the trailhead sign reading “Tamarack Connection Trail 12E30” on the right side of this road and find parking space—most likely on the left-hand shoulder after turning around. A few steps away from the first trailhead sign you'll see the shown sign at a tree to your left, indicating hiking distances of two miles to the Sardine Overlook, three and a half miles to Tamarack Lake and four miles to Packer Lake.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kingsbury trail system: from Kingsbury South (KB/S) to Castle Rock

Once, the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) ended at a cleared ski slope in Kingsbury South and continued “somewhere” north of Daggett Pass/Kingsbury Grade Hwy 207. Over the last years, combined efforts resulted into a trail system that connects the resort community of Kingsbury and Heavenly with Stateline and scenic landmarks of the Carson Range. A seven-mile-long hike (one way) through varyingly open forest from Kingsbury South (KB/S) to Castle Rock is an excellent way to explore the “wilderness around Kingsbury” and to enjoy the vistas of Lake Tahoe on a sunny and clear day. Although there are shorter hiking options to get to Castle Rock, I like this route since it offers multiple views of the targeted rock structure while approaching it.

This hike starts at the Kingsbury South trailhead kiosk with an easy 0.5-mile ascend to the TRT. Turning right at the post with the “flipped TRT letters,” a graded, 0.7-mile stretch takes you to the TRT/Van Sickle Trail  junction, from where a 2.9 descend—also enjoyed by mountain bikers—leads to the Kingsbury Grade Hwy 207 crossing.  Along this downhill path, with a short side-trip option to a vista point, you will follow several switchbacks. Further downhill you will step over a stream before continuing on a dirt road for a short time and then veer right onto the single-track TRT path to cross the highway pretty soon.

On the other side of Hwy 207, the TRT leads you uphill—for more than a mile—to the rock (shown on the left side above), near a residential area. Continuing north, you will get to two Castle Rock Trail junctions. Pass the first, right-turn junction and turn left at the second one to climb up to Castle Rock. The west-facing slope of the upper rock setting provides views over pine cone tips to Lake Tahoe and beyond. From the south side of the Castle Rock ridge, the open-space views of East Peak and the Van Sickle Bi-State Park are amazing. Some of the slightly slanted walls invite to a rock climbing exercise, assuming you brought the skills and equipment you need—and perhaps a magnifying glass to inspect the lichen cover.

Getting to the new Kingsbury South (KB/S) trailhead kiosk
See the descriptions in my Kingsbury South and East Lake Reservoir posts on how to get to the spacy KB/S parking area and the TRT-TH kiosk.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The new Kingsbury South Trailhead and TRT connector trail

A half-mile-long, single-track trail now connects the parking lot at the base of the Stagecoach Express ski lift in Kingsbury South (KB/S) with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). In the past, you had to climb a cleared ski slope next to towering condominiums. Tim Hauserman had this to say [1]:

Amidst high-rise condominiums and a huge parking lot, the trailhead is located underneath a ski lift. Are we talking a wilderness experience here or what? Don't worry, it gets better. You start with a 0.3-mile, very steep climb to a saddle, where you cross under the Stagecoach ski lift. Up here you go 80 yards south on a road to the trail's [TRT's] resumption, which immediately turns east.

The resumption has become a smooth TRT continuation. Today you can turn west as well—towards the “lucky number post” and the junction with the Van Sickle Trail; and the TRT section that skirts Kingsbury, crosses Kingsbury Grade Hwy 207 and connects with the Castle Rock Trail.

To get to what once was the “TRT's resumption,” start out from the KB/S trailhead kiosk south of the parking lot. The kiosk (a part of which seen in the top picture) displays a current trail map and has tidbids of local folklore and history, telling you about Tahoe's summer splendor in the 19th century and about mailman “Snowshoe” Thompson's duties on skis. Follow an easy climb up the trail until you see the post with the mirror image of the TRT letters (shown on the left side), indicating—in my interpretation—that you are still not on, but about to step onto the TRT. Turn right, and you will reach the “resumption” point in a minute. Turn left, if you want to explore Heavenly's East Lake Reservoir and continue to Cold Creek, Star Lake or Freel Peak. Enjoy the well-marked trail system around Kingsbury and the scenery that has changed somewhat since the days of “Snowshoe” Thompson, but is as magnificent as ever.

Getting to the KB/S trailhead
This trailhead is located 1.5 miles south of Highway 207 between Carson Valley and Stateline in Nevada. For details, see the “Getting there” section in the description for the East Peak Lake hike, while ignoring the now obsolete Stagecoach Express ski lift part: handouts are now provided at the new kiosk a few steps to the left of the ski lift base .

Location keywords: Kingsbury Grade, Daggett Pass, Douglas County, Carson Range, northwest Nevada.

[1] Tim Hauserman: The Tahoe Rim Trail. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, Fifth printing March 2004; page 145

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TRT crossing Kingsbury Grade Hwy 207

The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) crosses the Kingsbury Grade Hwy 207 between Daggett Pass and Stateline in Douglas County, Nevada. This relatively new TRT section in the Carson Range connects the upper end of the Van Sickle Trail and the Kingsbury South (KB/S) trailhead with the Kingsbury North (KB/N) trailhead [1]. Like almost any stretch of the TRT, this one is marked well. On both sides of the highway, ready-to-cross hikers and bikers are informed that the motorized traffic does not stop: CROSS ALERTLY!

On the south side, a short stairway connects the roadside with the single-track TRT (see top picture). At the wall next to the stairs, a sign—proudly decorated with the Tahoe-Rim-Trail shield—points to a stair bypass: Left on Buchanan Rd. - Left through USFS Gate.

[1] Tahoe Rim Trail: Kingsbury North to South, 6.2 miles [].

Monday, August 5, 2013

ELEV. 7777 ft. ±

Elevation post (777 feet, plus minus) at the TRT/Van Sickle Trail junction in the Carson Range
People expect their lucky number to show up with the reels of their favorite slot machine—not along a hiking trail. Along the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) it does anyway. It's the elevation at the junction of the Van Sickle Trail with the TRT southwest of the mountain resort Kingsbury, Douglas County, Nevada. A wooden sign-post states the elevation of 7,777 feet. To be on the safe side, a plus-minus sign has been carved in as well. Does it stand for ± 7.7 feet? This uncertainty hopefully is conservative enough to give a reliable estimate for the altitude of this rim location.

For most of us, elevation exactitude is less interesting than the relative height of peaks, points and passes we climb atop and hike around. The highest point along the entire TRT circuit is 10,338 feet [1], on top of Relay Peak southwest of Mount Rose. Mt. Rose is somewhat higher, but off and outside the TRT circle. The lowest point of the TRT circuit must be the elevation of the Lake Tahoe lake-level above sea level, since the TRT crosses the Truckee River in “Tahoe City at the Lake.” The USGS  “Lake Tahoe Basin” data page gives an average lake-surface elevation (above sea level) of 6,225 feet (1,897 meter) [2]. That website also provides some further Sierra Nevada/Carson Range landmarks for reference: Freel Peak (10,891 ft), Monument Peak (10,067 ft), Pyramid Peak (9,983 ft) and everybody's favorite Mt. Tallac (9,735 ft).  

Note that the TRT bypasses the peak of Freel Peak on its northwest side, leaving Relay Peak the “tallest guy of the circuit.” Whenever you are wondering how high you are at a certain point along the TRT, “7,777 ft” may always be a rough guess to start with. Then fine-tune by taking or adding an approximate difference in feet while browsing the scenery around you—or revert to your beloved GPS-controlled mobile gadget in your pocket to get pinpointed. Good luck!

Keywords: guesstimating (guestimating), topography, geography, Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe surroundings.

References and more to explore
[1] REI > Nevada > Relay Peak Trail [].
[2] USGS: Facts About Lake Tahoe [].

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sand Ridge Lake, a quarter mile off the Hole-In-The-Ground (HITG) trail in the northern Sierra Nevada

Sand Ridge Lake is a small, shallow, serene lake hiding between granite humps and forest trees. In fact, some maps show a cluster of lakes: here and there you will read the plural form Sand Ridge Lakes. The main lake is a nice and refreshing natural pool for dipping, floating and swimming. With its shallow body of water, you probably will touch the ground as well as various underwater plants. Be prepared for the few deep spots or holes in the lake. The surrounding lakes—let's call them puddles and ponds—are integral parts of wet meadows. And some are hiding between conifers and boulders. 

To get to this little paradise of ponds northwest of Andesite Peak and Castle Peak, take Sand Ridge Lake Trail, which shares parts of its route with sections of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Hole-In-The-Ground (HITG) Trail. The most popular hiking option is the route from Donner Summit over Castle Pass to the Sierra Club's Peter Grubb Hut, a currently closed cabin in Round Valley. Just north of this hut, a trail through mixed forest, less than a mile long, connects the PCT with the HITG Trail by switchbacking downhill (see map avove). Once on the popular mountain biking trail, your trip continues for about one mile over seasonal streams and through forest groves to the junction with the 1/4 mile sign (shown above). This quarter-mile-long dead-end trail leads uphill. You may start wondering if it really heads towards a lake. But—using Mike White's phrasing [1]—“as you climb up the hillside through a diminishing cover of forest, to the top of a ridge peppered with granite slabs and boulders, the sparkling waters of Sand Ridge Lake spring into view as the grade eases.” 

Trailheads with Sand Ridge Lake access
Sand Ridge Lake is located roughly midway along the Hole-In-The-Ground (HITG) Trail. One HITG trailhead is located in Castle Valley, about one mile north of the short, paved Castle Valley Road next to the Interstate 80 PCT exit. At this HITG trailhead you are facing the choice of taking the HITG route over Andesite Peak or over Castle Pass via PCT and the Peter Grubb cabin—as described above. What about planning a semi-round trip to Sand Ridge Lake?

The other HITG trailhead coincidences with the trailhead for the Lola Montez Lakes next to the fire station north of the Soda Springs exit of Interstate 80. Near the Lower Lola Montez Lake a signed Y-junction marks the actual beginning of the HITG Trail.

Although the Donner Summit area is a popular summer outdoor destination among hikers and mountain bikers, the Sand Ridge Lake is said to be the least-visited spots in this area northwest of Truckee [2].

References and more to explore
[1] Mike White: Afoot & Afield. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing 2008; pp. 76-77.
[2] REI > California Hiking > Sand Ridge Lake Trail [].

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Peter Grubb Hut along PCT three miles north of Donner Summit

Peter Grubb Hut along the Pacific Crest Trail north of Donner Summit, California

The Peter Grubb Hut is just off the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), on the southwest side of a large meadow at the floor of Round Valley. You can see this expansive forest opening by looking northwest and down from the Castle Peak Trail. The hut is reached by hiking about one mile north from the Castle Pass trail intersection, where trails to Andesite Peak and Castle Peak branch off the PCT. The PCT section from Castle Pass to the hut starts out as a graded trail through forest and then descends toward Round Valley via switchbacks. You'll find the Peter Grubb Hut to your left—surrounded by trees. A short distance further north, the Sand Ridge Trail leaves the PCT westwards, while the latter leads north through mixed forest, providing access to Basin Peak, Paradise Valley, Paradise Lake, Warren Lake and Devils Oven Lake.

Currently, the Peter Grubb Hut is closed and in need of urgent repairs. A notice posted over the hut entrance says:

Unfortunately, the Peter Grubb Hut is in need of urgent repairs and the Sierra Club has decided to close the hut until these repairs can be made.
We apologize for this inconvenience but assure you that it is for everyone's safety. We look forward to making the repairs in a timely manner so the Peter Grubb Hut can be enjoyed again soon.
Clair Tappaan Lodge - 800-679-6775

When the Sierra Club hut reopens, you will find an upgraded, more robust cabin serving its previous function by accomodating a maximum of 15 overnighters in a sleeping loft on top of a main room with a wood-burning stove, tables, and a kitchen area [1,2].

References and more to explore
[1] Sierra Club: Lodges and Huts - Peter Grubb Hut [].
[2] Sierra Club:  Lodges and Huts - Summary Proposal for Expansion of Peter Grubb Hut to Reallocate Existing Space and Provide New Features to Improve the Visitor Experience [].