Monday, July 30, 2018

Lily Lake to Susie Lake

Susie Lake with snow-covered parts of the Crystal Range in the far back
The trail from Lily Lake to Susie Lake is very popular with day-hikers and backpackers alike. Tourists and day-hikers may just walk to the Glen Alpine Springs Historical Site or continue to Grass Lake—a 2.7-mile-hike from Liky Lake (one-way). Climbing up to Susie Lake, Half Moon Lake or Mt. Tallac also are day options.

To get to Susie Lake, follow Glen Alpine Trail from the trailhead at Lily Lake to its junction with Grass Lake Trail. Proceed on the 1.8-mile-long section of Glen Alpine Trail (Trail 17E08 in the map below) to the junction with the Lake Aloha/Gilmore Lake trail post. Up to this point the route is the same as described for the Half Moon Lake hike.

Pond with lily pads next to Trail 17E32

trail post at 17E32/PCT-TRT junctionVeer left at the Lake Aloha/Gilmore Lake junction to follow the Lake Aloha direction (Trail 17E32 in the map). After passing various lily ponds, you will soon arrive at the 17E32/PCT-TRT junction (trail post shown on the left). Turn left (southwest) and descend to a beautiful meadow, which is densely covered with wildflowers including alpine tiger lilies. The first Susie Lake overlook is coming up soon. The PCT-TRT makes a half-circle around Susie Lake and then continues westward to Heather Lake and Lake Aloha. Susie Lake's shore allows for stunning views of Cracked Crag and Jack's Peak.

Maroon-spotted flowers of alpine tiger lily
Map of Susie Lake and surrounding lakes and trails including Half Moon Lake Trail (17E31)

More to explore about and around Susie Lake

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Half Moon Lake Trail (17E31)

Half Moon Lake backdropped by Dick's Peak
The level, switchback-free path to Half Moon Lake is a single-track trail within the Desolation Wilderness passing granite-based ponds and lakes surrounded by stunning mountain peaks. The beginning section of the two-mile-long Half Moon Lake Trail (17E31) runs parallel—but at lower elevation—to the Tahoe Rim Trail/Pacific Crest Trail (TRT/PCT) between Gilmore Lake and Dick's Pass. Trail 17E31 then loops around the north side of Half Moon Lake and ends at the smaller Alta Morris Lake. These two subalpine lakes lie just below the treeline at the foot of imposing Dick's Peak (9,974 ft, 3040 m) and Jack's Peak (9,856 ft, 3004 m).

Although Half Moon Lake Trail (HMLT) is a pleasant treat, to do this hike you first need to get to the four-way intersection where Glen Alpine Trail meets the TRT/PCT—half a mile south of Gilmore Lake. This is where the HMLT begins.
Glen Alpine Soda Spring at historical site

The shortest way up to the TRT-PCT/Glen Alpine/Half Moon Lake trail intersection is from the Glen Alpine trailhead. After filling out your day-use permit and box-dropping the requested part, start out on the gravel trail via the Glen Alpine Springs Historical Site toward Grass Lake.

At the Grass Lake Trail junction, continue on Glen Alpine Trail (following the Mt. Tallac direction). This trail ascends for 1.8 miles to another junction, from where two short trails connect with the TRT/PCT: the left-side trail leads to Susie Lake and the right-side trail ascends toward Gilmore Lake and Dick's Pass. You want to take the latter.

Lily pond near four-way intersection
After a short climb you will pass a lily pond overlook point and then soon reach the four-way intersection, at which the HMLT begins.   

Four-way intersection
Enjoy the easy hike along 17E31 through a forested area with occasional views of Crystal Range peaks in the south. On July 24 of this year, when I hiked this trail, the air quality was not the best. But the light-gray silhouette of Pyramid Peak and a white band of snow alongside the north-facing wall of Crystal Range did show up at the horizon.

Half Moon Lake Trail (HMLT) through forested area
Just before arriving at the eastern tip of Half Moon Lake, you will see a couple of little lakes (which I can locate on my map, but which I am unable to identify by name).

One of the unnamed little lakes

Half Moon Lake

Map of Half Moon Lake and Alta Morris Lake with nearby Dick's Peak and Jack's Peak
Does anyone know how the trail label 17E31 came about? Is there a deeper meaning to it? I prefer the trail acronym HMLT that I made up for this this post, which may have been used by other writers as well.

Waterfall above Half Moon Lake

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tahoe Meadows to Herlan Peak

Granite cliff rocks on Herlan Peak with views toward the south of Lake Tahoe
About halfway between Tahoe Meadows and Spooner Summit, the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) traverses the forested east-side slopes of Herlan Peak. The Tahoe Meadows-Herlan Peak round trip distance is almost 25 miles (40 km). I hiked this trip in June of this month. Both the scenic Twin Lakes and the Sand Harbor Overlook with its unforgettable vistas of Lake Tahoe and the Sand Harbor Peninsula at the bottom of Herlan Peak are worth the trip.

Being at Tahoe Meadows and not sure about a 25-mile-long hike? You don't have to do that one. Exploring the beautiful Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop Trail with its hidden picnic bench or the Tahoe Meadows Loop Tail System may be a pleasant alternative: strolling alongside clear brooks and around wetlands surrounded by sandy hills and pine forest. 

Back on the TRT. This Carson Range TRT section is very popular with mountain bikers. The 9.5-mile-TRT-stretch between Tahoe Meadows and the TRT/Tunnel Creek Road intersection is open to bikes on EVEN days. This north-south section is a mostly gentle trail through pine and fir forests with openings offering views of Lake Tahoe on the west side and Washoe Lake on the east side.

Washoe Lake seen through an opening near Diamond Peak
You will pass the top of the Diamond Peak Ski lift after about five miles from the Tahoe Meadows trailhead. After continuing southward for another two miles, the trail makes a long, descending switchback through pinemat manzanita and chinquapin. Once you have reached the bottom of the downhill path, you will enjoy a relaxing section along the TRT to its intersection with Tunnel Creek Road.

The shallow grass-lined Twin Lakes are located 0.3 miles south of Tunnel Creek Road. Some years, they are dried up by the end of summer and all that is left are boulder-strewn pond beds. 

Upper Twin Lake
Past the eastern tip of Lower Twin Lake, the TRT switchbacks up onto Herlan Peak for “never-ending” 1.5 miles. I saw a lot of cyclists hoping off their bike and pushing. Once you get the sign saying “Sand Harbor Overlook Loop 0.6 Mile,” leave the TRT (and your bike) and make the final steps to the top of Herlan Peak.

Sand Harbor Overlook Loop trail is also known as Christopher's Loop spur view trail—or simply Christopher's Loop (see map below). This 1.2-mile loop trail leads you to the Herlan granite cliff with its spectacular views of Lake Tahoe—and also of Marlette Lake and Snow Valley Peak. If not yet tired, you may want to test your Pacific Crest knowledge by pointing out and naming the peaks and saddles lining the horizon across Lake Tahoe.

Sand Harbor Overlook trail on Herlan Peak

Marlette Lake with Snow Valley Peak seen from Herlan Peak

Looking down from Herlan Peak: tip of the Sand Harbor Peninsula with recreational boat traffic


Getting to the Tahoe Meadows TRT trailhead

To get to the TRT trailhead at Tahoe Meadows, find the parking and rest area half a mile southwest from the Mt. Rose Summit parking area along State Route 431 (Mt. Rose Highway). The TRT passes right through the parking lot. Start at the interpretive board, where trail-map hand-outs are frequently made available. For a short distance, the TRT almost merges with State Route 431, but then veers off to the left. Very soon you'll reach a bridge over Ophir Creek, where the Lower, Middle and Upper Loop Trails intersect. Once you have reached the saddle above Ophir Creek with the first view of Lake Tahoe, you should not have any problems in following the TRT—with occasional TRT marks fixed on the bark of a tree.

Map section with TRT (green) and Tunnel Creek Road (black) in the Twin Lakes-Herlan Peak area