The Best of the Best -- Mon/Tues/Wed, Oct 10/11/12, 2016
Sometimes timing is everything. It was a now or never proposition. Laurie and I had been talking about getting together for a hike in the high country area of Hope Valley for a couple of years. Life has kept us from doing that, till now. Neither Jimmy nor I really knew where Hope Valley was, so we studied the California map and discovered it's about twenty miles below South Lake Tahoe. Turns out there's no easy way to get there from our place in Nevada City. We either went around this way or that-a-way. On Monday, we opted to head out "this way" to the east, and then follow Rt 89 south along the Lake Tahoe shore till we bumped into Hwy 88. Easy-peasy, except for road construction, the bane of all travelers, tho it becomes a boon for all travelers when the construction is over! Our two-and-a-half hour trip ended up taking four hours. Well, we stopped to eat our picnic lunch in Sugar Pine St Pk, too.
Hope Valley is quite famous for its Fall Color. Sorensen's Resort is smack dab in the middle and it's the go-to spot to stay. When I called to check on availability, my eyebrows wobbled up and down à la Groucho Marx when she said something like $245/night, or some such amount like that. I checked for other places, and found Woodfords Inn in Woodfords (cool, it reads the same frontwards and backwards) a few miles further east. The Inn is unprepossessing, but comfortable and clean, nice folks behind the counter, and with a fair price I could live with. We'd stay there again, no problem. (Tergel stayed home on this trip.)
Laurie and Odel drove up from their home near Placerville on Tuesday and we met in Sorensen's parking lot. We were happy to see these two friends that we met via blogging years ago! And since then, we've all settled in NorCal, though our towns are roughly 60 miles apart. Not such a big deal, except there are mountains and river canyons in the way and it's a heckuva drive. So, we get together when we can. Many thanx to Laurie for being a superb tour guide!
We passed Red Lake at the base of Red Lake Peak (above) on the way to our hiking trail. These two intrepid fisher-people, alone and preoccupied with catching dinner, didn't even seem to notice us pausing behind them.
This is where our hike began: Carson Pass, elevation 8574 ft above sea level. Whew!
So, what did I forget to bring? My binoculars, my day pack for carrying stuff, and one more thing I've already forgotten what. My purse (mostly emptied for this) became my camera carrying case. Not perfect, but it worked all right. Jimmy hauled our waters and Gatorade, as well as our sandwiches. I guess I need a checklist, but I'd probably forget to look at it before striking out on a trail! This hike to Lake Winnemucca from Carson Pass is a popular one and is somewhere between four and five miles, depending on which site you look at. I calculated it to be 4.5 miles R/T.
The first mile is uphill, according to Laurie, perched on an extinct root system, above. Everyone agreed, the day could NOT have been better -- El sol shone brightly in a wide blue sky, with very kind 64/ish temperatures.
When I saw this mountain, I stopped in my tracks ... and that was before I got this large view. It just took my breath away. No wonder the trail is so popular. In summer, wildflower displays are over-the-top, but in autumn, wildflowers are gone, replaced by the season's mellow colors.
We had a great time!
I could scarcely take my eyes off the dramatic scenery that is Round Top Peak! The contrast of dark rock and the brilliant white of snow held me spellbound. I kept falling behind, ogling and taking pictures and occasionally stumbling over rocks. Laurie, Odel and Jimmy are far ahead of me. Just after we climbed a small ridge, we got our first view of Lake Winnemucca. Oh my!
I didn't know we'd hike to Round Top Peak's base, or that Lake Winnemucca would be a glacial cirque, till we saw it. It's a first-rate example of a high alpine lake, with those cliffs plunging directly into the water. The lake is snow-fed all year and never gets above heart-stopping cold -- I know, I stuck my finger in. I also grabbed a handful of snow. We parked ourselves on a couple of the large rocks along the shore to rest and drink in the beauty and power of this Alp-like setting at 9,000 ft. Wowzers!
The red was a standout.
Haha, are we confused? Nah, everybody was just looking, admiring their surroundings, when I snapped a picture of the signpost. The other side of the post read "Pacific Crest Trail" -- the PCT.
Art and Life imitating each other?
Eventually we left the spectacular alpine Lake Winnemucca and Round Top Peak, heading back down to the Carson Pass trailhead. We stopped at Woods Lake (below) for a look-see on our way to Kirkland Inn.
Out of the photo, we spied two kayakers gliding through pristine Woods Lake. Nice. A paved walking path winds through the trees bordering a section of the lake, making it accessible to all, which is really nice!
Fabulous late lunch at Kirkwood Inn, burgers and sandwiches and fries and slaw. We were hungry and we ate well! Dunno if you can read the back of the menu (below), but the third paragraph caught my attention, so I enlarged it. Enlarge it again so you can read it. Hard to believe. Hard to imagine!
So, timing is critical. As I sit in my den working on this post, our first "Atmospheric River" bringing heavy rain, gusting winds, and snow above 8,000' is forecast to hit tomorrow (Saturday) morning. The beauty of these trees and the fabulous colors they're wearing will be gone, knocked to the ground and/or covered in snow. We were fortunate to be in the right place on the best day, to see the best of the best. Ain't we lucky? And we had a grand time with friends, to boot. Woo-hoo, Laurie, you pegged it -- October 11th -- for an eye-popping knockout day!