This was my third time doing this wonderful loop trip. The trail starts at Upper Highland Lakes and makes it way to the PCT, then breaks off to go over a saddle and into Paradise Valley before climbing up Disaster Creek and back to the trailhead. The entire loop is about 16 miles. I organized a meetup with Bay Area Backpacker Women's group & 3 others joined me on this trip. This trail is great with lots of nice views but the real star of this trip are the wildflowers. On Friday night we stayed at the Bloomfield campground which was extremely empty...us, the host and one other group. I was really surprised given it was the 3rd week of July and the others campgrounds we stopped at were packed...oh well at least there was more peace and quiet.
We got to the trailhead around 9 AM and with beautiful blue skies we headed out. Given what a light snow year it was I was really worried that we wouldn't see many flowers. However, we were thankfully treated to a pretty good display especially on Day 1. The lupine, like my earlier Emigrant trip, were in abundance and gorgeous. Day 1 was a very pleasant hiking day there were lots of flowers to stop and take pictures of, it wasn't too hot given that you go through lots of forest cover and thankfully the sqeets finally started to drop off...of course in exchange I got biting flies. Water was another concern of mine on this trip but we cross several streams that were still running but I would expect them to be dry in about 4 - 6 weeks. We came across one PCT hiker who was from New Hampshire and said that the stretch between Carson and Ebbetts had been really beautiful. We reached our camp at the headwaters of Murray Canyon around 2. This camping spot is really wonderful and there is a if you walk through the well established campsite you'll come across a small spot that overlooks Murray Canyon and the mountains out to the Northeast. We setup camp, ate lunch and then Lorraine and I headed out for short afternoon hike. We climbed a peak just to the east of our site that offered some great views and interesting terrain...I'd highly recommend this little side trip. When we got back to camp Anna had started a campfire...woohoo! We hung out and talked into the evening which was a lot of fun.
I woke up in the middle of the night....well several times due to the Tang :) and it was pretty cloudy which had me worried that it was going to rain but of course it did not and we walk up to really nice skies. We headed out of camp around 8:30 & about a 1/2 hour into the hike we broke off of the PCT to hike into Paradise Valley. Unfortunately the flowers were not as great as when I had been there before but of course this side of the mountain was North face and had no doubt melted very early in the season...I suspect that the peak had happened about 2 -3 weeks earlier. In any case there were still some flowers and the valley was a beautiful albeit a toe jammer of a hike down to Disaster Creek. Once we hit Disaster Creek we headed right and hike in forest cover until we came to the unnamed meadow with the trail marker that is unmarked on maps...sigh...I hate this spot it always leads to some amount of confusion. Given I had been through here 2 times and I had my USGS Map and GPS...we just went off trail until we ran into Upper Gardner Meadow. The meadow is really beautiful and would make for some great photos in the right light. The meadow had also past its prime for wildflowers but was nonetheless pretty. After you hit the meadow it's only about a mile or mile and a half to the trailhead and we were back to the car by 2:30.
This trail once again proved to be great and everyone on the trip really enjoyed it.