06/20-21/2009 - Tahoe National Forest - 5 Lakes Basin
The first backpacking trip of the summer…it’s always so exciting. This was a Sierra Club Loma Prieta section trip that I was leading with Sanjeev. Since it was mid-June we decided to have the trip at a relatively low elevation and made it easy for those who needed to brush off the backpacking cobwebs….like me. So we chose 5 Lakes Basin which is located in Tahoe National Forest close to Emigrant Gap and about 20 miles east of Nevada City. I had hiked in this area a few years before in a heavy snow year at that same time in June luckily the snow level was below average this year so we could go higher up.
We headed out on Saturday morning after we had a pre-hike weigh in contest. Two of us had packs that weighed 27 pounds and no one was above 35 pounds so we were set to go. Our entry point was the Carr Lake trailhead and there was no shortage of folks headed out. The weather was cool and partly overcast which I think played in our favor since it kept the mosquitoes away. The trail we followed passed along a number of really pretty lakes the first of which was dammed Feeley Lake. We took some group photos and tried out one of the two Flips on the trip and then moved on. We saw the brightest green moss clinging onto the trees and in the low light it practically glowed. The next lake we ran into was Island Lake and this lake is so pretty that it really requires a stop. We perched ourselves on an overlook and sugared up for the rest of the hike.
Just after the turnoff for the Grouse Ridge trail there was a use trail that headed up Sand Ridge. Our original plan had been to just follow the Glacier Lakes Trail into 5 Lakes Basin but Sanjeev figured if we saw the use trail we should take it as some trip reports promised great views from the ridge. The other bonus of being up on the ridge was the stiff breeze which would keep any sqeeters away. We headed up on the use trail and there was some good wildflowers on top of the ridge including what I believe was mule ear. We also saw lots of spreading phlox in a variety of colors – white, lavender and deep purple. We did have very nice views from the ridge and with the exception of one other hiker we didn’t encounter anyone this was really nice since undoubtedly we would have seen many other folks on the other route. We stopped for lunch and then quickly descended off of the ridge. Once we came off the ridge we needed to do some easy x-country to get into the Lakes Basin and no one had any problems with the hike. We did unfortunately have trouble trying to find a campsite. Given that the area sees so many visitors we wanted to find an established campsite and one that was not too close to the water. The good campsites were already taken by folks that had done the short hike in from the Grouse Lakes Trailhead. Manish and Sanjeev took the lead on scouting the lake just North of the first lake. After some time they declared victory and we established home for the night.
It was nice that we got into camp early but it was pretty chilly so everyone bundled up and others slept in their tents. There was a fire pit at our site (a double fire pit) so we collected some down wood and started an early pre-dinner campfire which was just what we needed. We ate an early dinner and I finished it off with some T&T…always a backpacking favorite although this time I tried it with mango tang. The mango tang was okay but doesn’t have as much sugar as good ol US orange tang so I will likely stick with my orange tang in the future. After the last logs had burnt we scampered into bed and settled down for the night.
I think we were all a bit reluctant to get up in the morning because it was so darn cold and Curtis refused to come out until the sun was showing. After take a little walk I decided to get the day started out on the right foot, I got my French press out and started brewing. We had one person in the group have a reaction to some mosquito bites so we quickly got out the Benadryl and things got better a couple of hours later. There was some debate/discussion about the route we should take back and in the end we decided to do some off trail hiking and head towards Glacier Lake which sits right below the Black Buttes. The route up to the lake was pretty straightforward. There were some snow patches here and there but nothing major and soon enough we were at Glacier Lake. The lake was in a very pretty setting and there were lots of great campsites. After enjoying some snacks we headed out on the Glacier Lakes trail which connected with the Round Lakes trail and back to the Carr-Feeley trailhead. I think the group had a good time and everyone got along with each other. This was a good first trip of the season and Curtis decided to reward himself with some goodies from Ikeda including a burger and slice of pie and I nibbled on peanut butter pretzels and dried fruit loaded with sugar…good times.