Saturday, July 19, 2014

From Carson Pass to Meiss Meadows

Iris-lined Pacific Crest Trail over a scenic saddle 
north of Carson Pass
The trail between the Meiss Meadows Trailhead near the Carson Pass Information Center and the Meiss Meadows area makes for only a tiny fraction of the 2,663-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It is one of those sections that does not trace the crest, but stretches or winds over undulated meadows and saddles between diverse mountain peaks and volcanic outcroppings. Hiking northbound to Echo Summit, you will see Red Lake Peak and Stevens Peak to your right.  Once you have passed the grass- and willow-lined pond on the left-side of the PCT, you will enjoy the nearly level walk over the saddle—with views of the Lake Tahoe basin to the north and mountains including Elephants Back, Round Top and Fourth of July Peak to the south. Also, Caples Lake is easily recognized within the forest landscape.

Monument plant 
(Swertia radiata, Gentianaceae)
During the late spring and early summer season, the saddle floor is covered with wildflowers such as mule ears, lupines and paint brush. For a short distance, the path is lined with blue irises on both sides of the PCT (see top picture). And dense iris patches occur all around. Occasionally, a  monument plant, also called deer's tongue, is “towering” over a flower carpet.
Historic Meiss cabin
From the saddle, the PCT continues downhill into Meiss Meadows and the headwaters of the Upper Truckee River. About three miles from the Meiss Meadows Trailhead, you will reach the Meiss Family Cabin—to your left off the PCT. What today looks like an “unspoiled ecosystem” was for some time a cattle grazing ground and a summer residence of a “pioneer family” from Europe.

From the trail junction near the cabins, you may want to venture further north along one of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) branches—either northeast-bound towards Round Lake and Big Meadow or northwest-bound along the PCT/TRT trail section to Showers Lake and Echo Summit.

Keywords: Outdoors, hiking, backpacking, high-elevation meadowland, Meiss Country, Alpine County, Sierra Nevada, California.

Getting to the Meiss Meadows Trailhead and PCT saddle west of Red Lake Peak
The trailhead parking area is located 0.2 mile northwest of the Carson Pass Information Station. Currently (summer 2014), a $5-per-day fee applies to both the Carson Pass and the Meiss Meadows Trailhead parking area. The northbound single-track PCT is well-signed. At its beginning, the trail traverses a conifer forest above Highway 88. Then, a few switchbacks across a hillside lead hikers toward the saddle with many views.

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