Ted's Hiking World Mount Lola
Tahoe NF

June 25, 2007

The main trail to the summit of Mount Lola involves a round-trip from the north of up to 10½ miles, depending upon one's actual starting point, plus an elevation gain of up to 2,530 feet.  Partner John and I have opted for the much shorter (albeit steeper) route from the south.  After 7 miles of nicely graded road, we veer left at the 'Lake Spaulding Hydroelectric Project' sign.  Immediately there is another sign indicating "Cars Not Recommended"; but of course we ignore that one.  Heeding a right-pointing red arrow painted on a tree, and keeping left at the next unsigned fork, brings us to White Rock Lake after five miles of high-clearance track.

Attempting to get as close as possible to the trail's beginning, we optionally stay to the left along the lake's northern shore until a big rock in the roadway suggests a prudent stopping point.  Our hike starts here.

The jeep road continues east past the lake to the obvious trail heading straight up the hillside.  And what a rotten section it is!  The first few hundred yards necessitate steep scrambling up slippery volcanic rubble.  Part way up, we find a less difficult detour over to a tiny creek, which sports the only running water we would see today.

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White Rock Lake

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Patches of Phlox on the big trickle

This day was scheduled as an outing in the Wrights Lake area — that is, until a forest fire at South Lake Tahoe prompted a closure of US-50.  Smoke from that and possibly other fires is immediately evident as we start climbing.  Directing attention more locally, I am intrigued by the texture of some old trees.

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The haze is omnipresent

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Nice textures

As our objective looms some 1300 feet above, the route rates to be fairly steep all the way.  After traversing a small snow bank, the trail hugs the eastern side of the ridge for some distance.  There are numerous phlox and paintbrush among the mule's ears, interspersed with lupine and forget-me-nots.  An abrupt switchback veers left to the ridge top, whereupon the final ascent begins.

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Getting closer

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This switchback is more pleasant than most

Apparently no one considered making this last trail segment user-friendly in any way.  It simply goes up in a steep straight line to the summit.  After multiple stops to catch my breath (my companion is a relative youngster), our goal is achieved.  Awaiting us at the top is a mixed group of nine souls who have come up the other side of the mountain together.

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Modern measurements have recalibrated this elevation as 9175*

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There is a trail register

I am beset by mixed emotions — satisfaction with the accomplishment, elation at being here for the first time, and disappointment in the obstructed views.  This is the highest point in the Tahoe National Forest.  Below us the main trail heads downward toward Independence Lake.  Stampede Reservoir also is in the photo, but the outline of its whitish shore can barely be discerned in the upper-left corner.  The normally spectacular Sierra Buttes are virtually invisible, and Mount Rose does not even seem to exist.  Any prospect of a glimpse of distant Mount Lassen is out of the question.  I must return here on a clear day.

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Independence Lake

Meanwhile, the other hikers have departed, leaving us the summit to ourselves.  John takes a short snooze while relishing the feel of the air and the smell of the sagebrush, as I busy myself recording the antics of bumblebees, grasshoppers, and butterflies.  A beautiful anise swallowtail services a western wallflower, but declines to stop long enough for a nice still-shot.

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Nap time

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Nature's elegance

John and I take time to explore a sturdily constructed wind shelter replete with a rain-proof fireplace alcove.  For some reason, we aren't sufficiently curious to investigate the false mountain summit.

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A fancy wind shelter

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The false summit

As we turn our attention to the return trip, White Rock Lake seems quite distant, although it really is not.

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Less than two miles down

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Castle Peak in the background

A last glance back at the south-facing cliff merits another photo.  We reject an impulse to slide down the snowfield, and shortly the end is in sight.  It remains only to avoid taking a header on the treacherous final downhill, and we have it made.  In places such as these, a walking stick is worth its weight in ice cream bars!

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Been there, done that

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One of only two patches of snow

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Nearing trail's end

For the drive home we opt for a "shortcut".  Instead of heading east back to SR-89 and then to Truckee, we continue west to Jackson Meadows Reservoir.  From there, another 15 miles or so of very slow going takes us past pretty Bowman Lake and ultimately down to Highway-20 and "civilization".  Taking this "back side" of the big rectangle has saved quite a few miles, yet it required a lot of extra time and beat up my Outback as well.  The scenery was worth it, but I feel that a single visit may have been enough.  The road is just too crummy.

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Bowman Lake, headwaters of the Yuba River


§: Although the Pacific Crest Trail skirts the southern shore of White Rock Lake, and although our road crossed it twice during the drive in, we never saw a trail indicator of any kind.  There probably is something to demarcate the official Mt. Lola Trail and the PCT on the lake's south side.

Mount Lola itself was named in memory of Lola Montez, former mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and exotic dancer in Grass Valley.  Her lifestyle inspired the expression "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets."  Ms. Montez was quite a character; look her up on the Internet.

The Bowman Lake area also is rich in history.  Its waters powered the hydraulic gold mines at North Bloomfield many miles to the west.  The world's first long-distance telephone line was constructed to accommodate the facilities of this major system.

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