A late August/early September trip to Hope Valley and Carson Pass. I drove up on a Wednesday, excited about finally reserving a room at the wonderful Sorensen’s Resort on Highway 88 in Hope Valley, California. This valley, which lies about a 30 minute drive south of Lake Tahoe is where I come each autumn to photograph the changing colors of the abundant aspen trees. For this trip though, my main focus is a relaxing evening at the resort, free from television, internet, even cell phone service, followed by a Thursday morning hike near Carson Pass where I hope to catch wildflowers still in bloom.
At sunset on Wednesday, I walked along the river bed of the Carson River and then out along the road to take some photos.
Once the sun set behind the mountain to the west, I put the camera away and walked along the West Fork of the Carson River where I watched a family of ducks out for a swim and then sat on a hillock along the shore where I watched the river flow slowly past, with the occasional trout breaching the surface, feeding on insects.
In the morning, I checked out of my room and made the 20 minute drive to the ranger station at Carson Pass. Because of blasting just east of the past, the trip ended up being a bit longer than 20 minutes, but I was soon on the trail towards Frog & Winnemuca Lakes and Round Top.
My planned hike is a relatively easy 6 mile loop that starts at an elevation of just below 8600′. I’ve done this hike in early and mid-August in past years and the wildflowers and terrain were an eye feast. Since I was hiking on September 1st, a bit later in the season, I wasn’t sure how many wildflowers I’d see. But although the rest of the country has seemingly been broiling, here in Northern California, summer was late to arrive. Because of this, I was indeed treated to more wildflowers than I’d ever seen.
Early on the hike though, less than a quarter mile up the trail, I did experience a rare, somewhat chilling encounter with a wolverine. I spotted it coming down the trail. Wolverines have a reputation for being ill-tempered (just like in the X-men movies!) We both froze in our tracks and stared at each other from about 30 yards away like two gunslingers. I tried scaring it off by banging my hiking poles together, but it just got more pissed, crouched down as if getting ready to attack and hissed at me. When I backed up a few feet, it finally waddled off the trail into the underbrush. Sorry, no pictures of the encounter. I was more concerned with not provoking a vicious attack.
After the encounter, since I didn’t have any Valium and I no longer drink alcohol, I took several large swigs of electrolytes and ate a few bites of an energy bar until my heart rate normalized. With my wits collected, I proceeded towards Frog Lake.
Past Frog Lake, about a mile up the trail, the terrain opens into a large valley and a meadow in full bloom with wildflowers, mainly Indian Paintbrush, various lupines, wandering daisies, columbines and various others.
Another easy mile or so up the trail, I arrive at Winnemuca Lake, ringed on two sides by trails and more wildflowers, and hemmed in to the south by a ridge with waterfalls spilling into the lake. After more photos, I stopped for a lunch break along the shore where I sat on a boulder and spent 30 minutes eating fruit and snacks while again seeing and hearing numerous trout jumping out of the water, feasting on bugs. Before continuing my hike, I took my hiking shoes and socks off and dipped my feet in the cold water. If I’d thought to bring a towel, I would’ve been tempted to go for a swim.
This final image is along the creek & waterfall that leads from the area around Winnemuca Lake down to Woods Lake. an amazing hike that made me feel as though I were in the Alps and I almost expected to see Julie Andrews singing “… the hills are alive with the Sound of Music…” Almost.