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Alamere Falls

In 2008 I spent 6 months abroad studying in Lausanne, Switzerland. Clair, one of my friends from my time in Switzerland, was in town last weekend. This was his second time in the Bay Area, and, like the last time he was here, we went on a hike. Last year we went to Berry Falls in Big Basin and this year we continued the waterfall theme, but added in some ocean and beach.

Like our previous trip, we picked up our lunch along the way. (This time at Shervin's favorite deli in San Bruno.) After an intense parking experience at the crowded parking lot, we started off along the trail and passed a pair of lakes before arriving at the junction with the Alamere Falls trail. Although the sign indicated that the trail was not actively maintained, we saw signs of recent pruning and later decided that the unmaintained status was all about the descent to the beach rather than the trail to that point.

Overlooking the falls

Instead of eating lunch at the trailhead when we arrived, we decided to eat somewhere along the trail. Unfortunately, we didn't find any lunch spots until we were near the beach. Around 3:30 p.m., we lunched midway down the descending trail to the beach in the plateau just above the falls. At this height we were flanked by waterfalls. The quintessential Alamere Falls is right along the beach, but there are quaint upper falls that is slightly higher than our lunch spot.

After our late lunch we made our way down to sea level where we could properly enjoy the falls. The second descent into the falls is easily the sketchiest part of the trip. On the way down we took it as slowly as we could, but on the return trip the wind blew sand into our eyes greatly increasing the difficulty of the scramble. That said; Alamere Falls is definitely worth doing the scramble!

Shervin, Clair's friend, found what we first thought might be bits of plastic bottles if it weren't for the sheer quantity and constancy of them. After some examination we decided they might be jellyfish; however, as we didn't see any tentacles, we weren't sure if they truly were or even if they were still alive. Unwilling to risk a sting but still curious, we gently pushed one into the surf, but there was no change. A quick internet search at home revealed that what we saw were velella velella, which are closely related to jellyfish. Recent currents have brought swarms of them to the California coastline.

The saturation attempt

After admiring the massive quantities of velella velella along the coastline and walking a decent length of the beach, we started our return trip. We again passed the lakes and walked along the coastline. Once we got into the forest of Eucalyptus trees near the parking lot, Bryan and Shervin found a small, black and yellow snake when it crossed the trail.

Stats:

Distance: 9.06 mi
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2140 ft
GPS Elevation Profile

Thoughts:

Lovely hike! There's some ocean, some lakes, and, of course, some water falls. What's not to like? Well, other than needing to wear long pants to avoid poison oak exposure, nothing that we could find.

This was our first time to the southern part of Point Reyes, and it was just as beautiful as Tomales Point in the north.

As one can imagine, we are looking forward to Clair's next visit and the hike we'll do!

Food:

Lunch:
+ Deluxe Takeout Sandwiches

Snacks:
+ Trail Mix

Pawnee Pass

During a recent trip to visit family in Colorado we climbed up to Pawnee Pass in the Rockies. Pawnee Pass is part of the Continental Divide. For Bryan, Amy, and Zach this was their first visit to the Continental Divide while my dad and I visited it for the second time. The first was about 20 years ago with my brother. My dad and I were especially happy that this second trip didn't end with an emergency room visit! In the final flat section along Long Lake, I got excited to be done when I was younger and ran ahead, tripped, and fell down. (I got a cut on my forehead, which required a few stitches.)

This time around, we arrived at the trailhead bright and early (8:06 am); however, we missed the opportunity to park at the trailhead parking lot by a mere 15 minutes. Bryan and my dad dropped Amy, Zach, and me off with the packs while they left in search of parking further away.

Pawnee Pass
View from our parking spot

Once the car party returned we stopped for a quick trailhead photo and then got on our way. After passing Long Lake we began the climb to Lake Isabelle. On the way to Lake Isabelle, Amy and Zach had their first summer snow encounter as we passed it on the trail and climbed over it. They posed with their first snowfield; however, the novelty eventually wore off as there were at least five of them on the hike to the pass (about ten snowfield encounters round-trip).

Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass

About 2 miles in we arrived at Lake Isabelle. Shortly after, the trail began the pattern it followed for the rest of the trip: periods of rapid climbing followed by periods of relative flatness.

Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass

After we climbed above the tree line, we decided to stop for a quick snack of mixed nuts and catch our breath. Below the tree line we crossed some streams; however above it we mostly encountered snow.

Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass

Once we entered the large alpine meadow near the top the end was in sight! In the long meadow we met people who had already reached the pass, were taking a break, and eating lunch. At the end of the meadow we began climbing through the rocks and eventually across a long (~200 ft) snowfield.

Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass

After the snowfield and a light scramble we entered another alpine meadow, which made up the pass.

Pawnee Pass

Once we made it to the pass we ate lunch and enjoyed the views. Bryan, who recently caught the peak-bagging bug, decided the nearby Pawnee Peak needed to be climbed and headed off with Zach to do that. Meanwhile the rest of us, Amy, Dad, and I, ate a leisurely lunch and enjoyed the view.

Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass

After Bryan and Zach returned, we left the pass and headed for lower altitudes with less wind! We retraced our steps crossing the long snowfield, the alpine meadows, and more snowfields than we remembered on the trip up. On of the lower ones caught Amy and I by surprise: I fell into a rock, and Amy ended up post-holing in the same spot.

Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass
Pawnee Pass

We saw many varieties of flowers on this hike. We didn't get photos of all of them, but Bryan sure tried to catch the prettiest ones. The flora above tree line was much smaller than those at lower altitudes; however, we did find some varieties at both.

Flora near Pawnee Pass
Alpine Flora
Flora in Indian Peaks Wilderness
Flora Below the Tree Line

Stats:

Distance: 11 mi
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3351 ft
Trailhead Elevation: 10509 ft
Pass Elevation: 12550 ft
Pawnee Peak Elevation: 12947 ft
GPS Elevation Profile

Thoughts:

Long Lake Trailhead is one you want to get to early! We arrived at 8:05 am and were told the last parking spot was taken just 15 minutes earlier. The ranger suggested arriving by 7:30 am for trailhead parking.

The hike isn't the longest we've ever done; however, the last 2 miles of this one just dragged on and on.

Food:

Lunch:
+ Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
+ Grapes
+ Celery

Snacks:
+ Mixed Nuts
+ Peppermint Patties

Grouse Lake

Hope you had a happy Fourth of July weekend! (We sure did!) We decided on a relaxed backpacking trip in one of the few wildernesses in the Northern Sierras we hadn't yet visited, Mokelumne Wilderness. On the first and third day of our backpacking trip we hiked to and from Grouse Lake, and during the second day we climbed the nearby Deadwood Peak and enjoyed the beauty of the lake.

Day 1: Trailhead to Grouse Lake (6 mi)

Upper Blue Lake

After picking up our permit at the Amador Ranger Station, we made our way to the trailhead. Like all good destinations, the road wasn't paved the whole way; however, this road was relatively tame compared to others we've been on. Once we arrived at the trailhead at Upper Blue Lake, we had a leisurely lunch before getting on our way.

Grouse Lake

About a mile in, we reached the edge of the wilderness (no snowmobiles allowed!) and soon after we passed a striking unnamed lake. Two miles in we reached Granite Lake. At Granite Lake we saw people wading in the lake, friendly dogs, and, of course, granite.

Mokelumne Wilderness
The unnamed lake along the way
Granite Lake
View behind Granite Lake
Granite Lake
Enjoying Granite Lake
Grouse Lake

The first part of the trail feels like a typical forest with a soft trail and a shaded path; however, after we passed Granite Lake, our surroundings started to change. The forest gave way to granite boulders and gravel. The granite and gravel eventually mixed with the alpine meadow below Deadwood Peak as we got close to Grouse Lake.

Grouse Lake
Grouse Lake
Grouse Lake
Grouse Lake
Grouse Lake

About five miles in, we finished crossing the alpine meadow and made our way down the valley to Grouse Lake.

Grouse Lake
Grouse Lake
Grouse Lake

Day 2: Grouse Lake to Deadwood Peak (2.9 mi)

Grouse Lake

Since we had planned the middle day of the trip to be a day of leisure by the lake, we slept in and took our time with breakfast. After eating we decided to climb Deadwood Peak. To get to Deadwood Peak from Grouse Lake, we began climbing back up to the alpine meadow we had crossed the day before. Once we arrived at the alpine meadow, we left the trail and began hiking cross-country towards the peak. Once we arrived at the saddle we continued towards the right as the peak on the left is slightly lower and unnamed. (We named it "Fake Deadwood.") Past the saddle there is a false summit and then the final climb up to the peak. There is no survey marker or register to sign; however, there is a nice rock pile you can sit on.

Deadwood Peak
Deadwood Peak
Deadwood Peak
Final push to the summit, view of Round Top and the Twin Sisters
Deadwood Peak
Deadwood Peak

On our way back to camp we stopped by the spring in the alpine meadow closest to Grouse Lake. After filling up on water, we made our way back to the lake chatting with a ranger near the lake.

Deadwood Peak
Grouse Lake
View near our alpine spring

After returning to Grouse Lake we prepared lunch and began to play cards. (We like Rummy 500.) Mid-afternoon we decided it was time to soak in the lake. While climbing the peak I had tossed around the idea of using my inflatable pillow as a kickboard. As Bryan pointed out, it was part of the infamous "pack raft" purchase and was designed for water usage, so I went ahead with the plan. While Bryan relaxed on the edge of the lake, I completed what I dubbed my "Tour de Lac." The water was quite refreshing, and the tour was a rousing success. Grouse Lake is nice for swimming since you can get in and out via rocks and the water is pretty clear. We didn't see many mosquitos in the middle of the day; however, there were many electric blue dragonflies mating.

Swimming in the Lake

After an early dinner, Bryan decided to go explore the nearby creek while I relaxed at camp. After he returned we enjoyed our pudding at the far end of the lake which had a great view of both "Fake Deadwood" and Deadwood Peak.

Grouse Lake
Grouse Lake

Day 3: Grouse Lake to Trailhead (6 mi)

Grouse Lake

We enjoyed our lakeside oatmeal before making an early (7:30 a.m.) start. It was significantly cloudier out and we didn't need sunglasses until we were in the alpine meadow below Deadwood Peak.

Returning from Grouse Lake
Mokelumne Wilderness

In the meadow below Deadwood Peak we found geological interests like the long thin pink line running through the granite, water to filter, and more. Along the way back to Granite Lake we found more that we had forgotten (deliberately or otherwise) including what we think must have been a sign in the past, the seemingly never-ending down on gravel over granite, and a few non-descript meadows close to Granite Lake.

Mokelumne Wilderness
Admiring the view beyond the "Pink Line"
Mokelumne Wilderness
Filtering Spring Water
Returning from Grouse Lake

When we arrived at Granite Lake we saw a large group leaving and stopped for a snack, but the mosquito population forced us to cut it shorter than we'd have liked.

Granite Lake
Granite Lake
Unnamed Lake
Everyone's favorite unnamed lake!

When we returned to Upper Blue Lake we found it to be much less crowded than it was at the beginning of the holiday weekend.

Upper Blue Lake

While enjoying the wilderness we saw many many varieties of flowers. We enjoyed seeing some standards like the paintbrush; however, we saw some flowers we'd never noticed before. Water was plentiful enough for us to spot them both along the trail and in it. The prettiest flora we saw was in the valley near Grouse Lake; however, flowers were everywhere.

Flora in Mokelumne Wilderness
Returning from Grouse Lake

Stats:

Day 1 (& 3):

Distance: 6 mi
Trailhead Elevation: 8182 ft
Elevation Gain: 1764 ft
Elevation Loss: 1370 ft
GPS Elevation Profile

Day 2:

Distance: 2.9 mi
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1487 ft
Starting Elevation: 8182 ft
Peak Elevation: 9857 ft
GPS Elevation Profile

Trip:

Distance: 14.9 mi
Elevation Gain/Loss: 4750 ft
Starting Elevation: 8182 ft
Camping Elevation: 8570 ft
Maximum Elevation: 9857 ft
GPS Elevation Profile

Thoughts:

Grouse Lake was great! It seemed to be a pretty popular destination: on our second night there were at least 10 people camping around the lake. I really enjoyed using my inflatable pillow as a makeshift kickboard but was quite envious of the man we saw swimming laps who brought goggles. The next time we plan to backpack to a lake those will definitely be on the packing list!

On a good day Deadwood Peak has some great views! Compared to other peaks we've done where summiting involves going off-trail, this peak was much less sketchy to climb and descend. There is some scree near the top, but overall it was a great climb. You can also do Deadwood Peak as a long day hike from the Grouse Lake Trailhead. If you do that, there are lots of campgrounds nearby you can camp at.

This is a good destination for drier years like this one. Water is less of a concern as there are three springs in the alpine meadow near Deadwood Peak and the destination is a lake.

Food:

Day 1:
+ Asian Chicken Slaw Wraps
+ Pizza Couscous

Day 2:
+ Oatmeal
+ Southwest Chicken Corn Wraps
+ Cheesy Bacon Pasta with Chai Ginger Pudding

Day 3:
+ Oatmeal
+ Beef Jerky and Cheese

Snacks:
+ Dried Pineapple

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