|Round Top Sunset||
Upper and Lower Blue Lakes at low levels during Fall viewed from The Nipple
|lost Cabin Mine|
Current Weather Conditions
Well, I've always kind-of agreed with the map, and called this "The Nipple." But, this is not "The Nipple." I'd call it, "one of the nipples."
This unique point of view below, looking at the top of the crestline of the Western arm of the massif of The Nipple depicts the dominant feature of this section of our hike, and from under which our finest views of the terrain to the Southwest will come into view, as we hike across its Southwestern facing flank, which is the Sunlit flank dropping down out of our frame of view to the Southwest. That would be the Right side of the image below.
That's where the Southbound PCT tracks under this nipple.
Above we have the view Southeast from the Northwest, at an opportune moment when the tree cover broke while hiking down from Forestdale Divide to the road breaking off East to Lost Lakes. These rare views tell us something very important.
We've got to keep our eyes open for breaks in the forest cover we are hiking under to get spectacular views of The Nipple massif wrapping around the Lost Lakes.
We were made to do this, so in my mind it is only a matter of how we return to the source.
The Backpacking Formula of Reality:
That is who you are, in one respect.
The other respects take care of themselves, if you find your balance.
Deep, shallow, long, short, weak, strong, high, low, it's how you take it that demonstrates what you know.
Dirt Road Spur
Forestdale Divide Road
Yet another Wilderness Boundary!
Boundary Number 3
Before beginning our climb South up along the Western flank of The Nipple, we once again cross the convoluted boundary of the Mokelumne Wilderness, this time in the Toiyabe National Forest, this time where the current dirt road to the Lost Lakes crosses the Pacific Crest Trail route.
As described above, the Northern segment of the old dirt road looping out to Lost Lakes has been removed, well, obscured really, and the new trail and road beds routed about a half-mile to the West of Lost Lakes.
Rather than hiking to and past Lost Lakes, as depicted on the USGS maps, the Pacific Crest Trail and Forestdale Divide Road pass about a half mile Southwest of the lakes, and the Forestdale Divide Road was moved to the West of the new trail route.
The rerouting of the road and trail diminishes, but does not end auto access to the Lost Lakes. That's a mixed blessing.
Number two, we will clearly see the wear-and-tear on the terrain brought about by mechanical access. Huge zones of flattened terrain.
Hey, I don't have too many problems with four-wheelers, when everyone act correctly. The point for all responsible horesmen, backpackers, day hikers, and four-wheelers should be access to, and protection of, this stunningly beautiful terrain, not its destruction.
I have no problems with access, as long as it does not destroy what it accesses.
Coming South off the Forestdale Divide we saw the random four-wheeler tracks East and Wet our Southbound line through the forest where four-wheel drivers have openly defied the wilderness boundaries, and as we travel across the Mokelumne Wilderness South of here we will encounter the great fire rings in the center of great circles of flattened terrain, trampled flat by dozens of four-wheelers carrying hundreds of partiers/campers.
I'm a proponent of multiple-public uses of the forests, including four-wheelers and snow-mobilers, as long as each user-group cleans up their mess, especially the trash and mess created by random four-wheel trucker-group parties,
I am an opponent of private use of public lands.
I support various levels of public use, from auto to foot, as long as the means of access do not damage or destroy what they are accessing.
Looking Southeast for the continuing track of the Pacific Crest Trail on the other side of this faint dirt road East down to Lost Lakes, I finally located a partially obscured PCT marker in a tree that indicated the way South.
Now we climb South across the Southwestern Flank of The Nipple:
North and South
Road to Lost Lakes
This terrain is regularly crossed by all of the above b
Though four-wheelers are supposed to stay on the dirt roads, they often follow the old dirt road across prohibited terrain...
Paper Maps Online has the National Forest Mokelumne Wilderness Map online that best depicts this complex wilderness boundary.
Looking Across the East West Road out to Lost Lakes
Looking South at the fairly obscure continuation of the PCT across the dirt road to Lost Lakes.
|Note the wound on the trunk of the tree on the right.|
|Close up: The wound in the tree is the PCT marker I was looking for!|
I really hope the sap is not an indication that the PCT marker exposed the tree to a pathogen or parasite, and is merely the tree's response to an irritation.
It looks like a heavy-duty rejection to me...
Have you observed this?
As we climb higher up the flank of The Nipple our view of the Upper and Lower Blue Lakes, sitting below us to the Southwest, expands nicely.
The high point of the trail across the flank of The Nipple is a mile South of the Lost Lakes road junction, at 8920 feet in elevation.
Reaching the highest point on the trail across The Nipple brings you up 280 feet of elevation in less than a mile.
You will have no cover until you pass off the Southern side of The Nipple.
The Nipple: 9342 feet.
Trail high point elevation: 8920
8.0 miles from Carson Pass
Upper Blue Lake
|View of a very low Upper Blue Lake (Fall) comes into view as I ascend the flank of The Nipple|
Climbing South out of the dense forest onto the exposed flank of The Nipple begins to open up expansive views of the Blue Lakes laying at base of The Nipple's Southwestern flank.
The Blue Lakes
|Climbing higher up, Lower Blue Lake also comes into view.|
Upper and Lower Blue Lakes.
Stunning View Northeast
Looking Northeast from The Nipple reveals Charity Valley
Hiking to the South up the Southwest flank of The Nipple we notice we're hiking up to a subordinate peak followed by a gap in the crestline, before our path across the Southwestern flank cuts off our view to the North.
For a brief moment we get a view to the Northeast as we pass by this gap, of Markleeville Peak, the barren peak rising out of sight on the far-Right of the image, framing our view of the Eastern escarpment of the Sierra, the Carson Valley beyond, and the Pine Nut range wrapping around the East edge of Carson Valley.
This gap in the mountain's crestline allows us great views to the Northeast while hiking the few feet of the trail across its width.
The Mouth of Charity Valley Lines Up the Carson Valley and the Pine Nut Range beyond.
Grover Hot Springs is located further down Charity Valley, and to the Southeast, the Right.
A bit further beyond Grover Hot Springs lays Markleeville on Highway 89.
In the far distance we are looking straight out into and across the South end of the Carson Valley, at the Pine Nut Range bounding its Eastern edge.
Lower Blue Lake
off of the
Flank of The Nipple
as we descend the
Southern Flank of The Nipple
|This lake sits just East of the trail.|
Nestled in the Southern Shoulders of The Nipple.
Great long views
open as we descend the
South Flank of The Nipple
Hiking off the South flank of The Nipple looking across a 7 mile long 8000 foot elevation "flat," at the High Sierra Crestline mountains surrounding Ebbetts Pass.
Let's Figure Out
Next Seven Miles
As Seen in the Images Above & Below
Hiking off of the Southern Flank of The Nipple reveals the next seven miles of terrain we will hike across between our present position on The Nipple to the base of where we begin to climb Raymond Peak on our way South to Ebbetts Pass. Above we see the Sierra Crest Mountains surrounding Ebbetts Pass and guarding the entrance into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness to the South of our position on the South flank of The Nipple.
This is our first, and most impressive view of the upcoming range we will cross.
The tallest peak on the far Left is Raymond Peak. The campsite of which I speak sits in forest at the base of its ridgeline running to the Northwest, on the far Left end of the massif. That's our view Southeast.
Behind and to the Right of Raymond Peak we see Silver Peak in the further distant Southeast. To the Right of Silver Peak, also in the furthest distance, is the double-crest of Highland Peak. Silver and Highland Peaks are connected by a low ridgeline, and both are located on the South side of Ebbetts Pass and Highway 4 in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
Raymond and Reynolds Peaks are located on the North side of Highway 4 in the Mokelumne Wilderness.
Closer to our position than all these peaks is the great volcanic cylinder rising to the Right of Raymond Peak between Silver and Highland Peaks. The "cylinder" rises prominently above the low ridge in the background dividing Silver Peak from Highland Peak. The pictures below have better resolution, but the picture above lays out the whole range.
Nonetheless, though this "cylinder" appears to rise between Silver and Highland Peaks we can see that it is even closer to us than Raymond Peak.
Reynolds Peak is the high point of the ridgeline running Southeast from that volcanic cylinder.
If we draw an imaginary line from our current position to that volcanic cylinder we will find Wet Meadow Reservoir splitting that line at the base of the volcanic cylinder peak, and the series of lakes, being Tamarack, Lilly Pad, and Upper Sunset Lakes all located on or slightly to the Right side of that line between us and The Cylinder.
That would be on the Southwest side of the line.
The PCT bends Northeast from Wet Meadow Reservoir to the Left of this imaginary line to access its onto the Northeast facing flank of Raymond Peak. That would be its far flank, not visible in the images above and below, in both of which we can see the full extent of its Southwestern flank. The map for this segment of trail lays out the terrain we are looking across between The Nipple and Raymond Peak:
The images above and below explain that once we reach the top of The Nipple we have an all-downhill or fairly-flat/rolling terrain crossing under forest for the next 7.1 miles, at an elevation of between 7600 to 8000 feet. This relaxing section of shaded trail ends shortly past the campsite situated at the base of the Northwestern corner of Raymond Peak, where we again begin climbing.
Once we get off the exposed flank of The Nipple we will be hiking under nicely forested rolling terrain with good sun protection until we begin climbing up onto Raymond Peak to hike across its Northeastern facing flank.
This flat shaded length of trail ahead ends where we begin climbing Raymond Peak past the improved campsite located aside a tasty all-season spring-fed creek. The creek begins its flow from a spring just below the summit of Raymond Peak.
Hiking South from that campsite on the edge of the forest at the base of the Northwest flank of Raymond Peak we hike out of the protecting forest to be exposed without cover until we approach Upper Kinney Lake, a total of about 9.4 miles.
My point breaking this down is to point out that this section of trail between Carson Pass and Ebbetts Pass is highly exposed, which will affect us physically, especially if we neglect to properly plan and account for our water and/or Sun protection needs.
If anything can affect us physically, it will affect our perception.
The Cylinder, Highland Peak
A close look at the distant Highland Peak and its nearby mountains reveal their rugged volcanic composition.
In the closer Left of the frame we have the volcanic cylinder. I marked that sucker on the hiking map. To its Left out of sight (Northeast) is Raymond Peak, and Reynolds Peak is the high point just down the Sierra Crestline behind and to the Right (Southeast) from "The Cylinder."
It is through here we can see just how wildly the path of the Mokelumne Wilderness Boundary swings around, taking on an almost tattered look, as it swings to and fro under the command of ancient economic and political interests.
Looking through the gap to the Right of the cylinder we can see the double-crests of Highland Peak in the distance.
Erosion cuts amazing shapes into the hard volcanic rock.
|The variety of shapes, textures, colors, and shadings of the volcanic terrain is remarkable.|
The harshness of the terrain adds serious character to its stark beauty.
I have marked this feature as "The Cylinder-Cone" on the "Near Terrain" map below.
Behind it we can see the ridgline connecting Silver Peak rising to the Left from Highland Peak rising to the Right.
We're going to pass under The Cylinder on our way onto the Northeast flank of Raymond Peak.
Jeff Davis Peak
Bending around the contours of the PCT coming South off of The Nipple Jeff Davis Peak reveals itself to our Northeast as we approach the Southern end of The Nipple.
The hard volcanic rock is slowly sinking into a grave of its own eroded soil.
Jeff Davis Peak.
Note that the soil is composed of eroded or broken down volcanic material. All of the soil. For miles and miles in every direction.
Except for the small zones, or islands of granite sticking up through this vast ocean of vulcanism.
Last Steps South
Blue Lakes Road
After dropping off the Southern Flank of The Nipple, we find ourselves tracking South and finally entering some thick forest cooled by good tree cover. Since climbing onto the exposed flank of the Nipple we have been lashed by sun and wind. A bit of shaded travel is nice.
Little islands of granite rock appear here and there, a nice counterpoint to the volcanic terrain we have hiked through since departing Carson Pass.
You cannot miss the Blue Lakes Road. It is paved. We cross it. I guess it's paved so PGE can service their facilities at the Blue Lakes.
Blue Lakes Paved Road
10.65 miles South of Carson Pass
16.13 miles North of Ebbetts Pass
Granite and Forest
Entering the forest dropping down to the base of the South side of The Nipple marks one of the rare times we see bits of the rare granite terrain between Carson and Ebbetts Passes.
This upcoming five mile long stretch of trail from here, just a bit North of Blue Lakes Road all the way down to the Campsite under the Northwest edge of Raymond Peak has bits of granite terrain mixed into the volcanic along this nice length of shady forest trail.
The vast majority of the terrain the Pacific Crest Trail crosses between the Southern Tahoe Basin and Jack Main Canyon is volcanic, or describes an interface between volcanic and granite terrains. No, it is mostly volcanic...
Above we see a rare outcropping of granite in this predominantly volcanic terrain.
|One of the many heavily used unmarked trail junctions between Blue Lakes and Wet Meadows Reservoir.|
The convoluted Mokelumne Wilderness Boundaries across the Toiyabe-administered Mokelumne Wilderness give easy access for vehicles to this location. That's why there are so many heavily used unmarked trail junctions through this area.
Paper Maps Online has a Mokelumne Wilderness Map showing this complex wilderness boundary.
Note the depth of the PCT trailbed, the branches warning long-distance backpackers back onto the main PCT, and even a bit of construction tape tied to a little lodgepole pine.
|Looking back to the North at the Pacific Crest Trail winding its way through a bit of fine granite terrain towards The Nipple.|
This section of the trail is not marked on the topo map, so I put it in.
Blue Lakes Road
|The sign denoting the Blue Lakes Road.|
"K" marks the spot!
Blue Lakes Road
10.65 miles from Carson Pass
16.13 miles to Ebbetts Pass
The Blue Lakes Road intersects with Highway 88 2.5 miles West of the junction between Highway 88 and Highway 89, otherwise known as Picketts Junction.
Check out this google roadmap to see where Blue Lake Road and Highway 88 meet.
Blue Lakes Road
|Looking South across the Blue Lakes Road|
at the Pacific Crest Trail.
The predominant characteristic of this section of the trail is Dry. Dry and exposed from Carson Pass down to where we cross the exposed Forestdale Divide. A bit South of Forestdale Divide we enter a short bit of moderately thin forest cover down to where the spur road off the Forestdale Creek Road turns East towards the Lost Lakes. Forestdale Creek Road continues down to the North side of Upper Blue Lake.
This spur of road to Lost Lakes also obscures the the trail for the Southbound hiker. For the Northbound hiker on the PCT, a nice reflective marker points the way North on the Pacific Crest Trail route.
Before reaching the dirt road to Lost Lakes the Southbound hiker will cross the old dirt road's bed hiking South of Forestdale Divide, where we should take extra care. After crossing the main Forestdale Creek Road at the top of the Forestdale Divide, the Southbound hiker will encounter the old road loop to Lost Lakes, which appears to still be used by ambitious four-wheelers.
The Northbound trail is clear to see, but the Southbound trail requires a bit of scouting to pick up on the other side of the faint old dirt road. This is because the PCT is better marked out for North than Southbound hikers.
A short distance further South we encounter the currently used spur off of the Forestdale Divide Road down to the Lost Lakes.
Here the tire tracks from auto traffic combined with a partially obscured trail marker on the Southern side of the road again give the Southbound hiker pause. And again, for the Northbound hiker this location is well marked. In this case by a home made PCT marker that someone put up, which well marks where the Northbound route continues across the Lost Lakes road spur.
The video on this page address all of these ambiguous points on the Southbound trail.
After finding the Southbound trail on the South side of the spur road to Lost Lakes, we again emerge from forest cover to climb across the Southwestern flank of The Nipple. As we traverse up the Western Flank of the Nipple, we encounter a sweet spot for views, composed of where the trail crosses a low spot in the ascending crestline allowing views in almost all directions.
Great views to the West reveal the backside, the Southwestern flank of the Round Top/Sisters Massif. This range makes up the Northern flank of the Summit City Creek's great granite canyon. The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route drops into Summit City Canyon crossing over from the North Side of the Round Top massif. The impressive mass of granite that makes up the South bank of Summit City Creek, and the Devils Corral, are also visible from this sweet spot.
Looking Northeast, we can see Markleeville Peak in the distance through this gap in the flank of The Nipple, and further beyond the Carson Valley sitting in a haze beyond the base of the Eastern Flank of the Carson Range.
To the Southwest we now get an amazing perspective overlooking the Western Sierra beyond the stunning blue beauty of Upper and Lower Blue Lakes.
Continuing South up the Northern flank of The Nipple brings us past our cool view spot, and our views to the North and East are again restricted until we drop off the South flank of The Nipple.
From the South Flank of The Nipple the terrain to Ebbetts Pass, as well as long views of the Sierra Crest tracking South, become visible. And, the first thing I generally measure with my eye is the distance to the tree line on the North side of Blue Lakes Road where we can find cover from our exposure to searing Sun and whipping winds on our exposed position traversing The Nipple.
From the high point of the trail on The Nipple we are now less than 2 miles from Blue Lakes Road. We will enter forest cover before we reach the Blue Lakes Road. A short distance to the South of Blue Lakes Road we will encounter a series of Lakes which offer water, good campsites, and nice places to spend the night.
And, I am ready to kick back. I generally hit Tamarack Lake after a roughly 16 mile hike from Showers Lake or Round Lake, depending on if I am coming out of the Tahoe Basin through the Echo Summit or South Upper Truckee traiheads.
I was especially tired during my last trip through this section in late September of 2009, when I was carrying a heavy 11 day food supply to sustain me across the 181 miles from Meeks Bay to Tuolumne Meadows without resupplying. I was more than ready to make camp at Tamarack Lake!
The forum pages for this section of trail are set up and broken down so backpackers can correct, update, comment, or question the guide information.
7.5 Hiking Topo Map
30 min Hiking Topo Map
Backpacking Trail Guide
Backpacking Trail Guide
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