Ted's Hiking World Loch Leven Lakes Trail
Big Bend, Tahoe NF

May 14, 2007

Over the years, I have made a pilgrimage to Loch Leven Lakes at least a dozen times.  Knowing that it might be a bit early in the season for this hike, I seem determined to check it out anyway.  On my group's previous visit here in the month of May, we did not make it to the lakes; instead, we ended up sliding down much of the hill on the snow.  Although the lakes themselves and their environs invariably are snow-free by this time, this trail is on a north-facing slope where the snow lingers.  Mine is the only car in the parking lot.

The first pond

Although the early going is promising, the snow-covered hill in the background is ominous.  Surely enough, just after crossing the creek on the fancy footbridge, a snow bank partially blocks the path.

Preview of coming attractions

At the steepest, roughest part of the entire route, a pair of young hikers is resting.  The trail is totally blocked by snow here.  I find a way to scramble around the blockage; but I cannot locate the trail on the other side.  The numerous puddles and snow banks are not helpful.

Obstacles to the route

The two other hikers consult a GPS device, then disappear.  Eventually, I give up on a continuation toward the lakes.  Several times already, one foot or the other has plunged three feet through the snow into a manzanita bush.  While not particularly dangerous, this process is tiresome and irritating.  A useful shortcut down a big snow bank accesses a point for reconnecting with the return trail.

An easier way down the hill

Down past the long but shady switchbacks, the snow is gone again.  Patches of phlox are scattered about, supplying what sometimes is the only color on the hillside.  As that is a common scenario in the Sierra, phlox ranks among my most favorite flowers for that reason.

A patch of Spreading Phlox

Having crossed back over the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, I stop to enjoy the cascades just below the footbridge.

Plunging toward the South Yuba

The creek seems more colorful than usual today.  Is this a wintertime effect, or have these bright colors always been there?

Minerals galore

A refreshing look

§: Back at the trailhead, my car is alone; the other couple apparently returned even earlier.  So much for GPS navigation!  Although no lakes were reached today, I am not disappointed.  The purpose of this walk was to gain some early-season conditioning, and I certainly did that.  Now, it's off to the Rainbow Lodge just around the corner, for some much-needed refreshment.

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