Monday, July 27, 2015

detour: mountain lakes

One recent hot week, I just had to get out. Last minute, the mountains were calling. Major was not invited this time, which makes camping a little easier. So all packed, we headed for the mountains…until we were stopped by a wildland grass fire. We detoured about 60 miles out of our way, THEN we were on our way again!

low water at Ice House reservoir

lines of pollen show the water level receding

The big campgrounds at the reservoirs were filled, even the walk-in sites, but we found a lovely quiet spot in ye old Wench Creek campground. One nice thing is even if all campgrounds are filled you can dry camp (but no fires) in most areas of the forest, so you can always find a spot if needed!

great for last-minute camping
Silver creek

But not much time was spent in camp, as there were explorations to be made. This area has access to the Desolation Wilderness, a glorious place where rock and sky meet. But my still-healing ankle wasn't up to very many miles, so lunch packed, water bottles filled, we headed out at the Rockbound trailhead for a shorter day hike. Even a day hiker needs a permit here, as they like to track how trails are used/overused (and to start the search if you are lost, happens ALL the time). But we only saw four other people on trail the whole day.

The trails positively glowed with wildflowers. While there was little rain or snow this year, they have had a few summer storms to refresh them. And the lakes are low, but still lovely and cold. No real destination as a goal, I looked at more wildflowers than rocks, the green soothing and different than my usual drought-stricken views.

the start of the trail

lupine and aster

split rock

Beauty lake and Desolation wilderness

glowing pink

color riot

fading green flowers

only one survived

An easy hike and lunch by an appropriately named Beauty Lake. Then back down to the more populous Wright's lake. I was just about to get in the water when some kids, who'd been playing on a rock and jumping in, started yelling about leeches. I thought they were just recreating an epic scene from the movie Stand by Me, but for sure, they had a few leeches, yuck! I got in anyway, but felt all the sliminess and worried! But I was not as tasty as those little kids, and escaped uneaten.

Wright's lake

Wright's lake meadow area

There was also fire lookout that allowed exploring, and we climbed the steep staircase for an even grander view. This lookout and the entire forest around it burned in the 1992 Cleveland Fire. They rebuilt and this is still an active working fire lookout, and probably spotted the recent Kyburz fire (still burning but better containment, and they were using the lakes we visited to scoop water for the helicopters!). The forest has recovered enough to reveal a bear as he crossed the road, and disappeared into trees on the other side.

Big Hill fire lookout

epic view

reservoir at sunset

A good, cool, quick escape. Sneaking in a few days vacation is as refreshing as the lakes. It is going to be more than 100 degrees again this week, I'll try to remember those green meadows and reflecting blue lakes…

Campfire and best part of the trip: delicious vegetarian marshmallows! My life is complete...

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” 
—John Muir


  1. awesome getaway from the looks of it. Glad you got to recharge your batteries!!
    I just love the pink flower (whatever it might be!)

    Great photos as always!

  2. thanks! The pink flower has the lovely name of Rose Meadowsweet. The bees were loving it!