Friday, September 4, 2015

From Carson Pass via PCT to upper Forestdale Creek and Blue Lakes

PCT vistas: Forestdale Creek pond with Elephants Back
Forestdale Creek pond with Elephants Back's south side
The hiking distance along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) across the Mokelumne Wilderness between Carson_Pass and Ebbetts Pass is about twenty five miles; one way. For non-backpackers, an out-and-back trip to Blue Lake viewpoints is a great day-hike option. This trip rewards hikers with scenic views of the ancient Elephants Back lava dome and various shallow ponds within an subalpine landscape east of the Sierran crest.
Pacific Crest Trail south of Carson Pass
PCT traversing slopes east of Elephants Back
The trip begins at the Carson_Pass_Information_Center by following the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail (TYT) and the PCT with ascending switchbacks southbound through dense forest that is thinning while approaching shallow Frog Lake. In a short distance from the junction with the short side-path to Frog Lake you will arrive at the next junction where the TYT continues on toward Winnemucca Lake, Round Top Lake and Fourth of July Lake and where the PCT veers left and south around the steep east side of Elephants Back. Soon, the mountains west of Markleeville and ranges of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness are coming into view.

Forestdale Creek and Forestdale Divide Road
From the crest next to Elephants Back, the PCT steeply drops into the basin of Forestdale Creek. The PCT crosses at least three tributary streams of Forestdale Creek—interspersed with rock outcrops—before winding uphill towards a beautiful, lightly forested area with meadows and ponds, backdropped by granite walls and talus slopes. The top picture shows one of the Forestdale ponds and the southeast-facing walls of Elephants Back. After about five miles from Carson Pass, you will reach a trail crossing. A few steps to the left is an unmarked trailhead on Forestdale Divide Road. To the right, a trail leads down into Summit City Canyon.

The trail marker at the crossing gives a distance of eighteen miles to Ebbetts Pass. Continuing southbound toward that direction, the PCT soon intersects Forest Divide Road, from where it traverses open slopes with sweeping canyon views. Then, the PCT enters the conifer forest northeast of the Upper Blue Lake. After about a mile, the lake is shining through the forest trees.  

Upper and Lower Blue Lake


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