Unlike most camping trips, we decided to do only one hike during our recent visit to Wright’s Lake, partly because we wanted to relax, and partly because our friends Deb & Terry were planning on 7 days of backpacking right after we finished camping, and they understandably didn’t want to start tired!
Since this is a long post with a lot of photos….
We hit the trail at around 10am, leaving from our campground and circling Wright’s Lake in a clockwise direction. Deb & Terry wanted to let the dogs off-leash, so we walked the longer way, away from the many summer cabins that line Wright’s Lake’s shore. I left my 300mm birding lens in the car, not wanting to lug it on a moderately long hike at high’ish altitude, bringing only my 100mm macro and 17-85 all-purpose zoom. Although I probably could have captured some good bird images, I was glad to have left it behind at the end of the day!
California Corn Lily (Veratrum californicum)
Our away-from-the-cabins trail rejoined the Wright’s Lake shoreline trail after the better part of a mile, and we were treated to a good number of wildflowers growing in the dappled shade of a somewhat sparse pine forest: California Corn Lily, Sierra Mariposa Lily, Sierra Tiger Lily, Smokey Mariposa Lily, Spirea, several different Lupine and Aster species, American Bistort, Mountain Monardella, Yampah, and Floriferous(?) Monkeyflower.
Variable Checkerspot(?) on Mountain Monardella
With these flowers came butterflies, lots of them! I’m no good at identifying them, but if anyone wants to give it a go, check out my Flickr set from this trip (I’m looking at you, Tom :). Generally, they were Blues, Checkerspots, and Swallowtails, with the Checkerspots especially numerous.
Pale Swallowtail(?) on Tiger Lilies
We soon came to a fork in the trail and turned left on the Twin Lakes trail, which began climbing through a now-thinning forest, still replete with a great many wildflowers and singing birds (mostly unseen, but Deb is a very good birder-by-ear and picked out American Robin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, and Mountain Chickadee – I always learn a ton when I’m out birding w/her!). Of the above, we only saw American Robins & Mountain Chickadees, along with Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Fox Sparrow, Brown Creepers, and Dark-eyed “Oregon” Juncoes galore.
Now where’s that permit….
Not far from where the trail split we entered the Desolation Wilderness, which requires a permit, even for day use. Alas, we had not seen anywhere to fill out such a permit (they’re self-issue for day hiking), so the rest of our hike was technically illegal. A warbler caught our eye – none of us recognized it, so I jotted down its details, and when we got back to camp, it turned out to be a Nashville Warbler (LIFER!).
Camas Lily (Camassia quamash)
I ventured a short ways off-trail to check out a yellow flower (a Cinquefoil of some sort) and noticed next to it a small stand of Camas Lilies (LIFER!). I’ve been seeking this flower for a while now, and am always too late to see it. We saw just a couple of patches of it on this hike, but it’s a lovely flower!
Twin Lakes Trail
We emerged from the forest, now hiking on mostly-bare granite. Fortunately this trail gets enough use that the path was marked with rows and/or stacks of stones, otherwise it would have been difficult to follow (well, not too difficult, since I carry a mapping GPS, but I don’t like to have to use it for navigation). As we rose, we got lovely views out over the national forestland to the west, although the air was still a bit hazy from a recent nasty wildfire in nearby South Lake Tahoe.
Pride-of-the-Mountain (Penstemon newberryii)
Granite slopes like these are the preferred habitat for several types of penstemon, and we saw two: Pride-of-the-Mountain and Royal Penstemon. The bright magenta of the former against the cool grey granite is a classic Sierra juxtaposition, and one that always brings a smile to my face.
Climbing more and more, we were definitely starting to notice the altitude (Wright’s Lake is at 7000′ and we’d only arrived the previous day from San Francisco, elevation 15′). The trail paralleled a lovely creek that babbled and gushed as it made its way down the rocky slopes, and Sorella and Carmella (Deb & Terry’s dogs) were in canine heaven, chasing scents and splashing in the cool water.
Finally, at 12:30 we arrived at Twin Lake, a beautiful little crystal-clear lake, set under the towering peaks of the Crystal Range. It had taken us 2.5 hours to hike the 3.75 miles in, but we were in no hurry, enjoying the flora and fauna (and 1000′ of climbing). We quickly shed our shoes and dipped our feet in – BRRRRR! This is no swimming lake, unless you’re a polar bear!
We ate sandwiches, relaxed, and then relaxed some more. Across the lake, Debey spotted a Spotted Sandpiper (LIFER!), and an Osprey flew overhead, making one unsuccessful dive into the lake. After about an hour, we reluctantly set back for camp.
Little Elephant’s Head (Pedicularis attollens)
About the only bad thing one can say about this hike is that it’s an out-and-back (like most in this area, unless you’re hiking for a LONG ways). On the way down I found another neat flower, Little Elephant’s Head (LIFER!), as well as a small patch of Spotted Coralroot Orchids growing in a shady damp area, as they ususaly do.
Wright’s Lake, from up on the Twin Lake Trail
The views of the forest land were better on the way down, since we were facing them, and we could see Wright’s Lake a ways below us.
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
A pair of Brown Creepers decided we were interesting, and flew very close to us to check us out. They were so close that I actually got a semi-good photo of one with just a 100mm lens (they’re usually not nearly so friendly, and they’re small and prefer shady trees to boot, making them not the easiest birds to photograph).
Meadow above Wright’s Lake w/the Crystal Range on the horizon
Back near the lake, we skirted a lovely meadow by Wright’s Lake’s inlet, then walked through the summer cabins towards camp. There are 80 some-odd cabins along the shore, although none have electricity, and all have outhouses located a suitable distance from the water. We wondered how much one of them goes for (looking it up later, there are none for sale, and apparently that’s usually the case, what with this being a very popular area, and deservedly so!).
We got back to camp at 3:30 and promptly mixed up a batch of tasty margaritas, the perfect end to a perfect hike!
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1282 feet
Hiking time: 3 hours, 29 minutes
Stopped time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
|Birds seen:||Wildflowers seen:|
|- American Robin
- Band-tailed Pigeon
- Blue(?) Grouse
- Brown Creeper
- Dark-eyed “Oregon” Junco
- Fox Sparrow
+ Mountain Bluebird
- Mountain Chickadee
* Nashville Warbler
* Spotted Sandpiper
- Steller’s Jay
- Swallow sp.
- Western Tanager
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
* = life bird, + = year bird
|- American Bistort
- Aster sp.
- California Corn Lily
* Camas Lily
- Floriferous(?) Monkeyflower
- Cinquefoil sp.
- Larkspur sp.
- Lemmon’s Catchfly
* Little Elephant’s Head
- Lupine sp.
- Mountain Pretty Face
- Needle Navarretia
- Pearly Everlasting
- Red Heather
- Royal Penstemon
* Sierra Mariposa Lily
- Smokey Mariposa Lily
- Spotted Coralroot Orchid
- Sulphur Flower
- Tiger Lily
- Yampah sp.* = new-to-me flower