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4TH of July Lake

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

Trip Report

Our three-day backpack trip, in the Mokelumne Wilderness, was really great and we all had a really good time.  On this hike we were accompanied by our two new members: Cristina Lauck, and Laura McKeegan.  On Thursday, August  fifth, Cristina and Laura, driving Laura's SUV, had gotten to Cordelia before me and were making a "run for the border", at Taco Bell.  We soon joined up and began making our way East, on Highways 12, 88, and 49, through Lodi and Lockeford, to Jackson.  We had thought about Jackson as a possible dinner stop but it was much too early for dinner, so we decided to press on and look for dinner at the Caples Lake Lodge, or perhaps The Kirkwood Lodge.  We drove on up the mountain on Hwy. 88 and stopped at Caples Lake, for a look-see.  The camping and boat concession were doing a brisk business but the lodge restaurant was closed.
We continued on up past the lake to the entrance to the CalTrans maintenance station.  Just west of the station buildings there is a place where we have camped in the past.  This spot was discovered by Donn Nibblett ('89), while scouting for bivouac options for the PCT trailheads at Carson Pass.  Several times over the years we've pulled in to find that others know of our spot.  Occasionally we have just been able to move a few hundred feet up the road to another spot.  I thought we should make our claim early, so we unloaded tents only and set up our shelters.  Laura is using her home-made, Ultra-Lite, backpackers hammock and she reviewed tree diameter and spacing while Cristina and I alternately slapped mosquitoes and drove tent stakes.  With our shelter chores done, we jumped into my "boxter" (Her name is Hellin, and I'll refer to her by name from now on.) and hurried back down to the Kirkwood Lodge, to a hearty rib-eye stake dinner.  Cristina had ordered the ribs and there were two huge "planks" of juicy ribs on her plate.  She ate all she could and boxed the rest to have for breakfast.
After dinner we headed back up the mountain, past our bivouac site, and up the last few miles, to Carson Pass.  As we drove through the parking lot, past the "chalet" visitor center, I spotted two likely looking suspects, sitting at the picnic table next to the southbound trailhead to the PCT.  We backed up and parked.  I walked over to the two and asked if they were thru hikers.  They broke out into big grins and answered "yes!".  That's where we met "Walker, Texas Ranger" - from Washington, D.C. - and "Dozer" - from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.    Both of them apologized for being so clean; they had just now returned to the trail, from a two day stop at South Lake Tahoe.  Dozer said no one believed they were thru hikers because they sere so clean.  Dozer said he took about 5 showers a day, for their two day stop.  We talked for quite a while, asking questions back and forth.  They were finishing dinner and packing up, in order to hike North a few miles before stopping for the night.  They had packed five days food for the 120 mile section from Carson Pass, to Sierra City, their next mail drop.  Hiking only 24 miles per day, they expected to be there by Tuesday, August 10.  This allowed them a safety margin of one day, as they thought they could easily do 30 miles per day.  At the 30 mile rate they'd be in Old Station, at the southerly end of the Hat Creek Rim, by about August 17.  I emailed my trail angel friend, Georgi "Firefly" Heitman, to expect them.
Walker and Dozer wanted to get going, and the mosquitoes were thickening so we said our seeyalaters and got back to camp.  We dithered about and then tucked in for the night; lulled to sleep by the generators at the maintenance station.  In the very early morning, there were coyotes calling back and forth, up the canyon.


That got me thinking.  The contiguous length of Pacific Crest Trail, that I have hiked, is from Sonora Pass to Alpine Meadows, a trail distance of about 115 miles.  Two sections of this, 30 miles from Sonora Pass to Ebbits Pass and 31 miles from Ebbits Pass to Meiss Meadow, have each been done, by me, in 5 days.  Average: 6.1 miles per day.  That's probably a good estimated average for the whole 115 miles.  18.5 days to travel 115 miles.  Walker and Dozer might have taken a little less than 4 days.  They're in their 20's.  I'm not!  Never was!  Hike your own hike!


Friday morning we were up at 6 am, and struck camp before hurrying up to Carson Pass.  The wilderness permits for the Carson Pass Management Area are given out on a first-come-first-served basis.   With the wonderful weather in the Sierra I thought we should be at the chalet early to guarantee a permit.  We set up our kitchen on the picnic table and enjoyed the warm morning sun with our oatmeal and coffee.  When the chalet opened, at 8 am, I got our wilderness permit and we cleaned up and hoisted our packs for the first leg of our hike: 5.9 miles from Carson Pass to 4th of July Lake.
We climbed South, along the PCT, to the junction of the Tahoe Yosemite Trail, where we held right and followed the TYT past Lakes Winnemucca and Round Top.  On the trail we passed many day hikers and backpackers heading in or out of the Wilderness.  One group, leaving their Lake Winnemucca campsite and heading back to Carson Pass, consisted of two mothers with a total of four children.  One mother was carrying one of the largest internal frame packs I've ever seen anyone carry.  She mentioned that she'd be glad when the kids got big enough to carry more of their own stuff.
We stopped at Round Top Lake for a pack break and something to eat, then continued West and South, arriving at the head of 4th of July Canyon.  From the top you can't see the Lake, lying 1.6 miles and 1200 feet down.  We started down the steep trail, stopping now and again to take photos.  When we were near the bottom, a group of young men started down from the top.  At the first switchback they left the trail and "cut all the switchbacks", beating us to the bottom by twenty minutes.  All of you CAGTTF members know this is a really big no-no.  Stay on the trail unless there is no trail.  Then, hike responsibly.  Leave No Trace.
For our camp, at 4th of July, we had been assigned campsite 1, which was easy to find.  We set up camp and I pumped water before taking a nap.  Then it was time for dinner.  We had discovered a cooking rock a little closer to the lake and laid out our kit.  While the stoves simmered we notices that the standard, Snow Peak, windscreen, on Cristina's Snow Peak Gigapower, allowed the breeze to blow the flame away from the pot.  Stove efficiency was discussed and it was suggested an MSR windscreen kit would be a simple fix.  Soon we were chowing down, glad that, for the most part, the cool breeze was keeping the mosquitoes at bay.  Within a few minutes of finishing our meal the sun dipped behind 4th of July Peak and it was like both the light, and heater, were turned off at once.  In a blink the temperature dropped and it got quite chilly.  It was only about 7:30 pm and we whined about our situation for a moment before giving up and climbing into our sleeping bags.
About 1:30 in the morning I was awakened by a thumping/dragging sound.  It moved from the direction of  Cristina's tent, past my tent, and on toward the lake.  I called out but got no answer, and the sounds continued with no change, finally fading.  I lay back down and was drifting off when the sound returned, retracing its path and returning toward Christina's tent.  I sat up and fished around, trying to find my flashlight, then unzipping the tent and leaning out into the cool, still night.  My light illuminated a doe, browsing around Cristina's tent.  I couldn't see it clearly, and don't know why it walked so noisily.  Deer are usually very quiet.  I withdrew to my warm sleeping bag and went back to sleep.
Saturday morning we were up at 6 am and fiddled about, in no hurry and happy when the sun finally topped the south col of the Sisters.  It was about 9:30 when we began our descent into Summit City Canyon.  Our route today was East and North, 5.5 miles to the ponds below the Forestdale Divide.  As we began our descent, the trail was steep and rocky, with several switchbacks, but we were on an open hillside and the views up and down the canyon were stunning.  Summit City Canyon is a very distinctly glacial valley.  The sides of the mountains were carved in a gentle curve, from the tops of the surrounding peaks to the bottom of the canyon.  We observed several avalanche paths on the North face of Deadwood Peak,  the chutes having been stripped of all trees some years ago.  Now there were, scattered about the slope, short, stunted trees, and all the same height.
We finally got to the bottom of the canyon and stopped for a short break.  From here one may turn West, down Summit City Creek, on the TYT.  We were headed for the Forestdale Divide and hoisted our packs, turning East, up Summit City Creek, glad for the deep shady woods we hiked in.  There were a few mosquitoes and we kept the DEET handy as we climbed up the North wall of the canyon, finally emerging into the sun again, as the trail rose above the tree line.  Soon were high on the canyon wall.  Now we had the views again.  We stopped often on the steep climb to huff and puff, looking back at the group of trees marking the location of 4th of July Lake.  Gauging our progress up;  were we higher than the lake yet?
Soon we were, and rounding the bend as the canyon curved to the northeast, we could see our immediate goal: Forestdale Divide.  The Forestdale Divide is a saddle between two north-south ridges.  The Pacific Crest runs from the Round Top Peak/Carson Pass side, to the Nipple/Lost Lakes side of what appears to be an old fault line.  We finally topped out on the divide, at an elevation of 8950, having started our climb from 7450.  1500 feet in about 2.6 miles.  We stopped for a pack break and some food putting on jackets to keep warm in the brisk North wind.
After a rest we started switch backing down into Forestdale Canyon, and the ponds at the headwaters of Forestdale Creek, our camp for the night.  We'd gone just a few hundred feet when I remembered I'd left my hat behind.  I told the ladies to go on ahead and I'd catch up with them.  When I got to where I'd left my hat, I was joined by two men who were doing a day-hike of the 16 mile loop that we were doing in three days.  There's that 6.1 mile average again.  The men were from South Lake Tahoe and were very interested in my LuxuryLite trekking poles and backpack.  We talked for awhile before I trotted off to catch up.  Laura and Cristina were waiting for me down the trail, and together we headed the half mile to our camp.
There was some confusion as I was about to point out the site we'd used previously used while passing thru this area.  I realized there was only one tree and that one was a least 4 feet in diameter.  Too big for Laura's hammock rig, and one tree short.  We moved on. finding a very nice spot with sufficient trees and a cooking rock.  I set up the Sublite under a small fir, out away from the woods, where I'd get the first sun in the morning.  I then pumped water and climbed in for a nap.
I awoke about 5 pm and, observing the sky, noticed that there were cumulonimbus clouds forming to our southeast.  We started dinner as the clouds thickened.  Before we all had hot water I called a general retreat and told everyone to make sure their shelters were secure and to get under cover.  We scurried about, battening things down and I inspected tents before getting into my tent, as hail began to fall.  There were a few small leaks in my Tarptent Sublite, Tyvek tent.  I mopped the drips and snuggled down, warm and toasty.  I nibbled on my dinner and enjoyed the distant thunder claps rolling in from the storm cell.  I believe the rain stopped before it was quite dark.  There were coyotes in the night again.  I had interesting, reoccurring dreams.
Sunday morning we were up at 6 am, to a beautiful sunrise and clear blue skies.  Today we would be walking North on the PCT, 4.8 miles, back to Carson Pass.  We hurried through breakfast and shook the water off our shelters and ground cloths, before packing up.  We were on the trail by about 8:30 and followed the PCT around the West side of Forestdale canyon, then beginning the assent of the spur ridge East of Elephant Back.  As we approached the switch backs we could see a small snow drift across the trail.  The snow was soft enough to kick step and, one by one, we crossed.  The sun was warm but there was a gentle breeze that kept us from overheating.  The ladies beat me to the top of the pass and were eating when I pulled up.  I stopped and took off my pack, indicating that it should be a brief stop as the clouds were gathering earlier today.  And the rapidly building cumulous were forming a cloud street, all pointing at Carson Pass.  It was likely to start raining in a little while and I didn't really want to be out in a thunderstorm.
We packed up and hurried down the trail.  Within a quarter mile we arrived at the TYT junction and turned right.  There were scads of hikers, mostly day hikers, but with a fair number of backpackers.  Within an hour we were back at the parking lot and organized our gear for the drive home.  We discussed lunch options and decided to wait until we got to Jackson.  There was a light sprinkle on my windshield as we headed down the mountain.  We'd had such fun and were already talking about food options for the six day, on August 22.



Trip Information

Our second backpack trip of the season will be a three day, two night loop.  We will begin hiking, southbound, on the Pacific Crest Trail, from Carson Pass (Highway 88).  We will cut off the PCT and hike past Lake Winnemucca and Round Top Lake, to 4th of July Lake (5.4 miles).  On Saturday we will continue down to Summit City Creek, heading East, up over the Forestdale Divide, to the PCT, stopping at one of the small, unnamed, lakes just North of the divide (4.9 miles).  On Sunday we will hike North on the PCT back to Carson Pass (4.1 miles).  This hike is rated as easy to moderately strenuous.
We will rendezvous on Thursday, August 5, at the McDonald's in Cordelia.  From I-80 eastbound, in Cordelia, take the Suisun Valley Road exit and turn right from the off-ramp.  Turn left at Central Place.  McDonald's is ahead on your left.  Be there and ready to leave by noon.
From Cordelia we will continue East on I-80 to Fairfield, where we will turn East on Highway 12.  We pass through Rio Vista and Lodi, staying on Hwy 12, to its intersection with Highway 88.  There we turn left onto Hwy 88, through Lockeford, jogging South on Hwy 49/88 to Jackson, where we may stop for dinner.  After dinner we continue East on Hwy 88, past Kirkwood Meadows, to our bivouac, behind the CalTrans maintenance station at Caples Lake.  There is no water at the bivouac so bring enough for Thursday night, Friday breakfast, and water for the hike to 4th of July Lake.  After breakfast on Friday morning we will drive the few miles to Carson Pass and stop at the visitor chalet for a wilderness permit.  The permits are only available on a first-come-first-serve basis so we need to be at the chalet early.
In the event we cannot get a permit we will go to Plan B, which will be a hike North on the PCT to Showers Lake; hiking to Round Lake on Saturday and back to Carson Pass on Sunday.


1.  Your Mokelumne Wilderness Map (to be delivered to Laura and Cristina at McDonald's).  Also, bring your Fallen Leaf Lake, 15 minute quadrangle for Plan B navigation.
2.  Your Compass, Ruler and pencil.
3.  Your tent.
4.  Your sleeping bag and pad.
5.  First-Aid kit.
6.  "Canteen" or bladder and water filter.
7.  Flashlight.
8.  Pot, cup, utensils.
9.  Stove and fuel.
10. Clothing suitable for expected conditions.  You should carry rain gear for this trip.  The current weather forecast at Carson Pass for Friday, August 5, is for sunny days in the low 70s and mostly clear nights in the high 40s.  We may expect windy conditions from Carson Pass to the saddle West of Round Top Lake.  I will keep checking the weather through next week, and will keep you all informed of changing conditions.  You should have a sun-stopping hat and sun glasses.  You should also carry a warm "wooly" hat.


3 Breakfasts.
3 Lunches.
2 Dinners.
Trail Snacks
For this trip you should carry an extra lunch for emergency rations.
If you have questions please call or email me.  707-338-6955.  redleader429@comcast.net



Comments (1)

redleader429@... said

at 8:41 pm on Jul 31, 2010

I really like the layout for the trip report of the Lake Winifred hike. It's super good looking.

Red Leader out

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