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Wolf Creek Lake 2006

Page history last edited by lmckeega@... 10 years, 10 months ago

Wolf Creek Lake, Thursday, August 3, 2006

Greetings from the Red Leader,

Murphy is alive and well... and, he knows where you hike.


For our second backpack trip we planned to hike the PCT from Sonora Pass to Wolf Creek Lake. We were joined by '06'ers Clara Xue and Dave Skov. We also enjoyed the company of Susan Nelson, Jenine Wilson, Lupe and Carlos Perez. I met Jenine, Lupe, Carlos and Dave at the Pleasant Hill Community Center. Susan and Clara were to join us later at the trailhead. Susan had to work until 2:00 pm and planned to give Clara a ride to Sonora Pass. Jenine was riding with Lupe and Carlos, while Dave rode shotgun with me.

We left Pleasant Hill right on time and headed east to Twain Harte for an early dinner. Afterward we continued east on Highway 108 and stopped at the Stanislaus National Forest Visitor Center in Mi-Wuk, for Campfire Permits and maps. I had been tracking the weather and had noticed that there was a 20% chance of thunder showers. Remembering how we were driven off the mountain by thunder storms last year, I took the precaution of obtaining a wilderness permit for the Hoover Wilderness. If we had to go to plan B, we would be prepared. Back in our cars drove to Sonora Pass to bivouac in the pines above the trail head parking lot. Susan and Carla arrived just at dusk and we set up the tents. As we retired, the night was clear and cool, with a gentle breeze and a sky full of stars.
Friday morning dawned bright and clear. We arose, ate breakfast and struck camp. By 9:30 we were on the trail, stopping to huff and puff often in the thin air. About half way to our lunch break, behind the large rock outcrop I refer to as The Castle, we took a pack break. By then we noticed clouds  

beginning to gather. We hoisted our packs and continued past the 10000 foot elevation and began our west to east traverse of Sonora Peak's south face. As the trail turned into the last deep gully we came upon a patch of snow, blocking the trail.

We depacked and investigated our options. On the low (our) side the snow sloped up-trail to a depth of about 6 feet. The drop on the up-trail side was vertical, with no way down but to jump. The trail was only about 18" wide and there was a steep slope below with nothing to break ones fall except the rocks in the bottom of the gully. Lupe explored a route below the snow but the steep slope was too hard to "kick step" and there were those rocks below. Susan climbed above the trail and found that the rock was rotten and did not provide adequate footing or hand holds. We decided to retreat a few hundred feet, to a place we could get off the trail to eat lunch and ponder our situation. As we ate, the clouds thickened and it was decided to activate Plan B. We would return to our cars and head east, down the mountain. It definitely looked like rain and we decided to get off the mountain. We found dry beds and hot food at the Bodie Victorian Hotel in Bridgeport.

The next morning we ate breakfast and loaded the cars. There was a short delay while we visited a neighborhood yard sale. Then is was off to Leavitt Meadow trailhead, on Highway 108, at the eastern foot of Sonora Pass. The south end of the meadow coincides with the northerly boundary of the Hoover Wilderness. I had day hiked here in 1985 and had always thought it might be a good place for a backpack trip. Now we were about to find out. The backpackers parking lot was nearly full and we took the last two parking places. We did a final equipment check, topped off our water bottles and, visiting the Forest Service's restroom one last time, we hoisted our packs and started south, up the valley. The trail runs along the foot of the ridge at the east side of Leavitt Meadows, paralleling the West Walker River for about 2.5 miles. The trail was a good one, with little elevation change, until we reached the southerly end. At that point we began an undulating climb, 300 feet in the final 1.75 miles, to Roosevelt Lake. As we hiked we had passed, or been passed by two Boy Scout Troops. One finishing their 50 mile hike, and one beginning theirs. There were also numerous day hikers, fishermen and women, and many backpackers heading in and out of the wilderness. A short distance into our climb we passed a trail coming in from the right that led to the Leavitt Meadow Pack Station. From then on we stopped fairly often to let riders and pack trains come and go on their way to and from the northern Yosemite back country.

Roosevelt Lake covers about 12 acres, and is about 3.5 miles from the trail head, at an elevation of 7300 feet. When we arrived we paused to look around and evaluate the camping possibilities. The camping options seemed slender and we decided to hike on, another quarter mile, to Lane Lake. Just then a couple, riding a very handsome pair of mules, rode by. They had passed us an hour or so previously and the paused as we exchanged greetings. I asked them what they knew of camping at Lane Lake. They told us that the southbound Boy Scout Troop had picked a nice spot on a rise overlooking the south side of Lane Lake. We hadn't seen many possibilities at Roosevelt, thanked them and moved on to reconnoiter. Lane Lake is slightly smaller than Roosevelt and is connected by a narrow channel so it is at the same elevation.
The Scouts had taken the spot with the best "cooking rock, but we found a good site just to the east, on gently sloping ground among scattered trees. The afternoon thunder clouds were beginning to gather and we picked our spots and began setting up our tents. Several people pumped water while I wandered over to talk to the Scouts. They were a troop from Carmichael, on the first leg of a 5 day/50 mile backpack. The Scout Masters showed me their new tents they had purchased in quantity, and we discussed various gear options. Soon it began to sprinkle and, as the Scouts hurried to find and rig tent flys, I returned to our camp and we retired to our shelters.

It wasn't long until the lightning and thunder started and it began to dump seriously. I had been particularly pleased with the quite level spot I had chosen to pitch the tent and now watched as water puddled just beyond the tent fly. (Oh, for a little slope.) Soon the puddle became a pool and began to expand under the fly and toward the tent. About then Susan and I were distracted by a light mist coming off the
screened tent body. gear testers, reviewing the design. The seams of the fly were leaking and water dripped onto the screen, lightly spraying us as it fell through. The tent we've been using is a prototype, on loan from the manufacturer while he builds a custom model. I was not sure that the seams had been properly sealed, and, the loaner is about three years old and has been used by several  

I prayed that the brand new ground cloth would keep water from coming in through the floor. We certainly had enough coming through the fly. Then it began to hail. I wrapped my down bag in my rain shell and, trying to forget the flood under the fly while Susan burrowed in her synthetic bag, tried to take a nap. As the storm passed the pool began to soak into the sand and the thread in the fly seams swelled and shut off our shower.

After about two hours the rain stopped and I saw patches of sun on the tent wall. Susan stayed bundled in her bag while I went out to see how everyone had survived. Carlos had abandoned his bivy sack and Lupe allowed him to squeeze into her one woman tent. Clara had experienced some leakage at an exposed seam but, other than that, everyone had stayed warm and dry. Soon we gathered at the "campfire" and began preparing dinner. There was Mountain House Raspberry Crumble to share for dessert.

We spent a peaceful night and awoke to blue skies. The canyon was still in shadow and a thick mist rose off the lake as we gathered for breakfast. While eating we examined the growing pile of sawdust, next to our "cooking log", as a nest of wood ants kept pushing chips out their door. The Boy Scouts were sleeping in and didn't begin to move about until we were half done eating. We began to strike our tents and shook off what water we could before stuffing our packs for the return trip. The Scouts were faster that we and were on the trail a little before we hoisted our packs. We were on the trail by 9:30 and arrived back at Leavitt Meadows by 1:00 pm. Then it was off, west over Sonora pass, to a late lunch in Strawberry. Traffic wasn't too bad and I dropped Dave off about 7:00 pm.

It seems that this area of the Hoover Wilderness is most suitable to our backpacking workshop hiking needs and I'll be investigating the possibilities for next year. There appear to be routes that are suitable for both weekend hikes and, perhaps a loop for the Seven day trip. We'll see what happens.

For the second backpack trip of 2006 we had our failures and triumphs, but everything turned out for the best and we wish more of you could have joined us.

Red Leader out

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