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Trail Report: Silver Lake to Scout Carson Lake

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere outside Yosemite National Park

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Trail Report: Silver Lake to Scout Carson Lake

Postby sierranomad » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:18 pm

The text follows; images are on my blog - link below in signature (don't want to upload them twice). :)

I had had a very busy week at work. As the week progressed, the desire to get out into the mountains grew into a full-blown need.

Though I often like "mega" day hikes of 20 miles or so, the hectic work week subdued me. I wanted to hike about half that, and to find a trail closer to home than my usual destination, Yosemite. I dug out my 16 year old copy of Sierra North (Wilderness Press), and shopped for a trail. I decided on the trail from Silver Lake to Scout Carson Lake, up Highway 88 near Carson Pass.


* Backpack or day hike
* 11 mile round trip
* 2,000' elevation (a gradual climb)
* Horse Canyon Trailhead (.8 mile past Silver Lake. If the trailhead parking is full, park in the secondary parking 100 yards closer to Silver Lake). Permits are required for backpacking.

The trail starts as a gradual climb in a fir forest, and never gets too strenuous. You meander through the forest for the first couple of miles, with occasional views south to glistening Silver Lake, and north to the lava cliffs. I must admit that I wasn't expecting to be in the forest for that long, and was getting a bit impatient for some hiking above timberline.

But I reigned in my misconception and started paying more attention to the things that were at hand. Soon I spotted a quick flash of brilliant yellow and orange. I've seen Western Tanagers on only a few occasions, and I always get a thrill...I consider them to be one of the most attractive birds in the sierra.

I enjoy examining rocks, lichen, and to a lesser extent, flowers. This hike satisfied all of these interests. I was frequently in company of two very different types of rock: jagged lava and smooth, glacially polished granite. The granite made me feel "at home", as that is the predominate rock-type in Yosemite, where I do most of my hiking.

The granite boulder in the third picture from the top was captivating. I named it "The Thing" after the comic book hero of the same name. Next week I'll include a close-up of it and speculate how it formed; I say speculate because I am no expert. I will welcome input from others who know a little or a lot about geology. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to find a definitive answer by next week.

Ascending from the forest you traverse an open hillside and cross several small creeks. The flower display is quite impressive: Indian Paintbrush, lupine, columbine, daisies, mule's ear, snow plant, pussypaws, larkspur and others grace the hillside. The setting is fantastic: Delicate and colorful flowers backdropped by dark, grotesque volcanic rock.

After 5 miles we come to a junction. Scout Carson Lake is 1/2 mile away, a number of campsites dotting the trail on the way. We go through forest, a small wet meadow and more forest before reaching the lake. I was a little surprised at the size of the lake. I think it would be more appropriate to call it Scout Carson Pond.

I sat by the lake and enjoyed my lunch, observing the birds and dragonflies while I ate. When I was ready I headed back refreshed, and glad that I had only 1 1/2 hour drive to get home.
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