|Floating Island Lake
July 18, 2007
Today's original destination, a 9,200-foot mountain peak, was changed due
to rain on the drive into the mountains, accompanied by heavy cloud cover and
significant winds. I opted for a more mellow
two-mile hike up a
portion of the Mount Tallac Trail in the Tahoe Basin.
An improperly written message on the big sign at the trailhead admonishes hikers to bury their waste 6' (that's six feet) deep, and leave no trace. That I'd like to see.
The trail ascends, then follows a ridge-top, which has been burned off. Apparently this conflagration was intentional, because only the little ridge itself was affected. After climbing for a while, a nice view of Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe provides a respite from the dusty, uninteresting trail, which today is bereft of wildflowers. Just a few scraggly paintbrush and a couple of buckwheat are in evidence.
Fallen Leaf Lake, with Lake Tahoe behind
After about half a mile, the burned area is left behind. A fairly steep climb ensues, and presently Floating Island Lake appears. This body is renowned for the little tufts of mud and grass that sometimes break away from the shore; but there are no islands today.
Floating Island Lake
No floating objects today
This area clearly is not a popular destination in
itself — no
usage trail around the shore, no campsites, no evidence of human interest.
Out of habit I bushwhack my way around the lake anyway, glancing up just in time
to capture a shot of Mount Tallac before storm clouds obliterate the remaining
Mount Tallac 2,500 feet above, at 9724*
Before completing the circuit, I stumble upon another trail heading down beside
the dry creek bed. Although this path clearly has been unmaintained for
years — there being numerous fallen trees to circumvent —
it is compellingly easy on the feet. There is no gruss here as on the main
route — just tree bark and pine needles.
Unmaintained old trail
This must be the original trail. Perhaps they moved it to create a somewhat
more direct route up Mount Tallac, which is most hikers' sole reason for being here
at all. Having not planned this particular hike, I have no map, so there is no
knowing exactly where this path leads; but what the
hell — sooner or
later it must run into Highway-89, so how bad can it be? Rain is
threatening, but no drops have fallen yet.
The trail becomes pretty rough as I continue down, but then I unexpectedly encounter a green area. There actually are some flowers around, including purple thistles and a stand of tall alpine lilies.
These Alpine Lilies are more than six feet tall
The stamens on the yampah resemble the space ships that invaded earth in the original "War of the Worlds" movie.
The trail ends unmarked in a summer home tract, which probably is the actual
reason why the trailhead was relocated. Although it is three miles by road
back to the car, a
cross-country option through Camp Shelly cuts a mile
off that distance.
§: This hike would have been more rewarding had I continued at least to Cathedral Lake, which reputedly is much more scenic than disappointing Floating Island Lake. Either way, walking through a burned area is not my idea of fun.