Mokelumne Wilderness to the North -- Carson Iceberg Wilderness to the South
Arriving at Ebbetts Pass marks the end of our 27.88 mile Southbound hike from Carson Pass to Ebbetts Pass across the Mokelumne Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Here at Ebbetts Pass we begin our next Southbound section of the Pacific Crest Trail across 29.44 miles across the Eastern edge of the beautiful Carson Iceberg Wilderness to Sonora Pass.
We will experience significant changes in terrain and forest cover with this change in Wilderness areas. We'll have more forest cover, and we'll move into a fantastic transition zone between the predominant volcanic terrain we've been crossing into a zone of amazing golden to yellow colored granites through the great gorge on the upper sections of the East fork of the Carson River.
Shortly after climbing South out of the headwaters bowl of the East Carson River's great canyon we will again plunge back into raw exposed volcanic terrain approaching Sonora Pass and Highway 108 across it. We'll continue South from Sonora Pass across exposed volcanic terrain until we finally approach and enter the very Northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park.
The Southern part of this next section along the East Fork of the Carson River and the surrounding Eastern Sierra terrain, are one of my favorite places in the Sierra Nevada.
On the page below we're hiking South on the Pacific Crest Trail route from where our Southbound PCT route crossed Highway 4 at Ebbetts Pass. Each trans-Sierra highway offers resupply options, and Highway 4 at Ebbetts Pass is no exception.
Use of Lake Alpine Lodge's resupply service is dependent on just how you planned out your trip, and how much food you are willing to carry between resupply spots. Our use of Lake Alpine Lodge as a resupply spot may be dependent upon if we used Echo Chalet at the bottom of Desolation Wilderness: If we resupplied at Echo Chalet we may not need to resupply at the Lake Alpine Lodge.
We can select the resupply plan to suite our needs or preferences. I like to visit every outpost along the edges of the wilderness that supports backpackers.
Like me, you may have hitched 15 miles West down to and back from the Lake Alpine Lodge to pick up the free resupply package we sent ourselves there. I generally kick back at Lake Alpine for two nights of food and rest which works out to two days of food and socialization.
Now we continue South along the Pacific Crest Trail into the Carson Iceberg Wilderness section of our PCT hike well-rested and well-fed.
Our next taste of civilization will come after we hike what I measure as a total of 29.44 miles South on the Pacific Crest Trail across the Carson Iceberg Wilderness of the Toiyabe National Forest to Highway 108 at Sonora Pass.
Sonora Pass gives access to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, our last chance to resupply before the next, and much longer 75 mile trail section between Highway 108 to Tuolumne Meadows.
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station is a 9 mile hitch West down Highway 108 from Sonora Pass.
Hiking South of Ebbetts Pass we are entering the Carson Iceberg Wilderness of the Toiyabe National Forest. Well, Kind of... the deal is that the National Forest Boundaries pass directly through the mountain passes. This is also true of Carson Pass to our North and Sonora Pass to our South.
If we are section hiking this part of the Pacific Crest Trail between Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass, or planning a big loop backpacking trip around the Carson Iceberg Wilderness, we've got to get a permit. Us long distance backpackers don't need to pull any additional permits, our original trip permit specifies this part of the trip, and authorizes our travel.
Ebbetts Pass, like the Carson and Sonora Passes to our North and South, are uniquely situated.
Ebbetts Pass splits the National Forest boundary between the Toiyabe National Forest to the East with the Stanislaus National Forest to the West. These National Forests split administration of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness along the line of the Sierra Crest to our South the same as they split the administration of the Mokelumne Wilderness to our North, along the Sierra Crest.
The route of the Pacific Crest Trail is designed to follow the Sierra Crest, and the Sierra Crest line itself defines the boundary between the National Forests administering the Eastern and Western Sierra flanks. The PCT wanders back and forth along the Sierra Crest between the Eastern and Western authorities that administer its respective flanks.
But the fact is that the route of the Pacific Crest Trail from Carson Pass South to our entrance into Yosemite National Park mostly (99.9%) stays on the Eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, in the Toiyabe National Forest.
The Toiyabe National Forest administers the East flank of the Sierra from the East flank of the Carson Range (that wraps around the East shore of Lake Tahoe) all the way down to and around the East flank of Yosemite's Sierra Crestline down to Highway 120. The Toiyabe National Forest is HUGE, and our Pacific Crest Trail route remains almost exclusively in the Toiyabe from Carson Pass to our entrance into Yosemite National Park.
But the Toiyabe National Forest does not administer the mountain pass trailheads giving access to the Eastern sections of the wilderness it administers.
The trailhead bulletin boards at the trans-Sierra Highway mountain passes are maintained by the Western flank National Forests splitting the crestline boundaries. The El Dorado administers the Carson Pass Management Area and the Stanislaus National Forest supervises both Ebbetts and Sonora Pass Trailheads.
But not to worry if you are driving in from the East: either the East or West flank National Forests will write permits for the mountain pass trailheads if you walk into their Ranger Station on the way up to the trailhead through their respective National Forests.
I call on the Calavaras Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest when I drive/hitch to Ebbetts Pass from the West, or I visit the Carson Ranger District of the Toiyabe National Forest when I drive/hitch to Ebbetts Pass from the East.
Both the Calavaras Rangers of the Stanislaus and Carson Rangers of the Toiyabe will write permits for Ebbetts Pass if you approach it through their district.
The first bit of our hike South to Sonora Pass winds its way South from Ebbetts Pass down to and across Noble Creek in Noble Canyon. From Noble Canyon we begin the climb to the the high point of this section of trail crossing Tyron Peak.
Though we have the option of camping at Noble Lake 4 miles South of Ebbetts Pass, I'd rather push further South to Asa Lake at 6.61 miles South of Ebbetts Pass, or even 8.63 miles South of Ebbetts to my favorite campsite along this section of the trail at Wolf Creek.
I avoid Noble Lake because of the cow damage and try to bypass Asa Lake because of its direct overuse by humans. The Wolf Creek campsite is quieter and less used by man and beast.
All backpackers can postcomments, information, updates and corrections concerning the following section of trail from Ebbetts Pass to Tyron Peak through the comments links on all the trail guide pages.
Registered Members can post up stand alone posts about specific points along the trail or whole backpacking trips using text, images, maps and videos in the Trails Forum that supplements this section of the Trail Guide.
Between Ebbetts Pass and Tryon Peak we don't have great spots to camp. Noble Lake is nice but has the water problems described below. Between Tyron Peak and Murray Canyon we have lots of nice spots to camp in.
Heading South up to Tyron Peak does not look like much by the numbers.
The net gain in elevation is only 588 feet in 4.92 miles. But this number does not reflect the huge amount of elevation we lose as we hike way down into the upper reaches of Noble Canyon (-480 feet from Ebbetts Pass), on our way to crossing Noble Creek way up high in its drainage to get under the switchbacks bringing us up to Noble Lake.
From Noble Creek we climb 800 feet over 1.58 miles to the high point of the PCT across Tyron Peak. This is a bit more than the 588 feet of net change in elevation between Ebbetts Pass and Tyron Peak.
Though the overall elevations change is negligible, we've one big drop and one big climb between Ebbetts Pass to the high point of the Pacific Crest Trail across Tyron Peak.
I have Noble Lake at 3.96 miles South of Ebbetts Pass.
We drop elevation to approach Noble Creekhigh up in the upper reaches of Noble Canyon. This descent brings us down from Ebbetts Pass and out of the forest onto the Eastern bank of Noble Creek and into barren volcanic terrain.
Crossing Noble Creek marks the low point of this section of trail. Noble Creek up here is generally no more than a gushing creek running across the trail, as the trail bends across an elbow bend in the upper neck of Noble Canyon where it narrows into a gorge draining the open basin above..
From Noble Creek all hikers North or South climb. Southbound hikers now begin their climb up to Tyron Peak, while Northbound backpackers will steadily gain elevation climbing the Eastern Sierra flank towards their local high point bending around Ebbetts Peak, just South of Ebbetts Pass.
After crossing Noble Creek we Southbound hikers move downstream along the East bank for a short distance before we turn to put ourselves under the set of switchbacks winding their way South and up to Noble Lake. These switchbacks climb up and across a few precipitous trail sections across heavily eroded volcanic terrain.
View of the Surrounding Volcanic Terrain
Hiking out of the forest down to Noble Creek brings us across an area of massive consolidated boulders falling off the surrounding volcanic cliffs, brought us across stretches of unconsolidated volcanic soils at steep angles which are rapidly move down mountain every Winter and Spring (this flow of the volcanic terrain is slowing as Winters get shorter and drier), and we can see that the high points of this volcanic terrain around us making up the Sierra crestline are capped by sections of hard volcanic rock structures sculpted by the forces of high elevation water, wind, snow and ice.
As we climb higher above Noble Creek up the switchbacks under Noble Lake we can now look back North and see that our hike through the forest South of Ebbetts Pass covered and obscured a wide range of frkn awesome views of the sculpted volcanic terrains surrounding us along the Sierra Crestline and down Noble Canyon.
Man, every part of the trail is awesome as it reveals itself to us one part, one perspective at at time, or all at once. The views we get while backpacking here come all at once and build up over time...
Volcanic terrain characterizes the Sierra crest line through here, as it has for most of our hike South across the Mokelumne Wilderness from Carson Pass down to Ebbetts Pass.
At the top of the switchbacks we come to the lowest point of the little rolling flat basin laying below the Northeast flank of Tyron Peak and the Southwest flank of Highland Peak holding Noble Lake. The trail turns around the East shore of Noble Lake to begin it gradual climb another 500 feet around the perimeter of the basin up through a series of gentle folds rolling off the terrain of the East flank of the 9320 foot gap on the East side of Tyron Peak.
This nifty little basin wedged under the East flank of the Sierra Crest is our way South out of the very top of Noble Canyon to the gap on the East shoulder of Tyron Peak where the PCT slips Southward into the Western drainage of the North fork of the Mokelumne River. We hike a short distance along the Western flank of the Sierra South of Tyron Peak before we slide back over to the Eastern drainage of the East fork of the Carson River approaching Wolf Creek.
We've been in the watershed of the East Carson River since exiting the West Carson drainage passing South of Blue Lakes Road. We'll stay in the watershed of the East Carson River until we climb through its headwaters bowl approaching Sonora Peak.
We'll check out this section of trail more closely below.
Tyron Peak High Point
4.92 miles South from Ebbetts Pass.
9320 feet elevation.
First, lets check out the terrain through a video inspection
Film Ebbetts Pass to Tyron Peak
Views of Noble Canyon up to the headwaters of Noble Creek at Noble Lake and its surrounding basin, passing by the Bull Canyon trail junction and Bull Canyon to our East, on our way up to the high point of the Pacific Crest Trail over Tyron Peak.
Views West of Hiram Peak, Highland Lakes, and lightening mountain on the Western Sierra flank from the high point crossing Tyron Peak.
As we see in the videos and images of Ebbetts Pass on the previous trail guide page, the location where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Ebbetts Pass has little room for parking cars. It's a thin turnout with a trailhead bulletin board and a historical marker. And another new sign (2009) at Ebbetts asks that cars be parked .3 of a mile East down Highway 4.
"Please Don't Park Here"
"Ebbetts Pass PCT parking .3"
mile East down Highway 4.
If you desire, you can drop off your packs and people at Ebbetts Pass, run the car .3 of a mile East down to the parking area, then hike back up to the trail junction that intersects with the PCT .36 of a miles South of Ebbetts Pass down to begin your backpacking trip.
Begin your Southbound hike out of the Ebbetts Pass parking lot to intercept the Pacific Crest Trail .36 of a mile South of Ebbetts Pass where the trail from the parking area joins the PCT.
The Stanislaus National Forest has recently (Summer of 2011) redone the signage at a number of their trailheads. The old broken-down bulletin board at Ebbetts Pass is now gone, and some of the Silver Valley trailhead's old classic signs on the East Shore of Lake Alpine along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail are gone too...
Our trail South from Ebbetts stays fairly flat at first as we wind through the forested East flank of the Sierra below the ridge rising up to the high point Tyron Peak. We can make out a great volcanic wall to our Southwest when we get glimpses of the terrain through the trees.
Rounding a ridge arm we enter the Eastern flank of Noble Canyon and begin our 400+ foot descent to cross Noble Creek. We exit the shade of forest cover as we approach Noble Creek.
3.01 miles South from Ebbetts Pass to the Noble Canyon trail junction.
The junction is on the North side of Noble Creek.
1.91 miles South from the Noble Canyon trail junction to the high point on the gap over Tyron Peak.
Noble Canyon Backpacking Trip
A Fine Short Trip
Steve pointed out that Noble Canyon offers fine short distance backpacking through a stand of giant junipers. We hike South from Ebbetts Pass on the PCT to the Noble Canyon trail junction. We turn down Noble Canyon.
It's about a total of 6.5 miles of delightful downhill hiking from Ebbetts Pass down to Highway 4 at the Silver Creek Campground through Noble Canyon.
Recent names of topographic features represent the character of our Western interaction with the terrain.
Silver Creek, Noble Creek, Silver Peak, and the Silver Trailhead all hearken back to the great Silver Boom of the late 1850s that followed on the coattails of the Gold Rush.
These mountains were overrun first by gold prospectors during the early 1850s, and then by seekers of silver in the late 1850s through the 1860s.
Prior to the frenzy of the Gold Rush and Silver Boom explorers and early settlers probed the Sierra for a path to the Pacific, and many met hard ends.
As we continue South we will encounter Disaster Peak, Relief Peak, and a series of terrain features that broke many wagons and killed many people while testing the fortitude and demonstrating the apparent lack of common-sense of many of the people who survived early attempts to cross the Sierra with wagons before the main roads were established. What the hell were they thinking?
If you have hiked or driven the length of Highway 4 or Highway 108 East to West across the Sierra crest and its approaches, you know what I mean. Those are a couple of mean roads!
I can see crossing the Sierra without road or trail on foot, or with a well-equipped and well-provisioned horse and mule team. But not with a wagon.
I can say one thing about the early attempts to cross the Sierra with a wagon: they did not scout the route, or they would not have tried it with wagons.
The Sierra Nevada was a significant seasonal home and contributor to the life and welfare of native tribes established on both its flanks for between 15 to 30,000 years, depending on who's history you believe.
Tribes from each flank moved into the Sierra during Summer to both harvest its resources and trade with each other across the Sierra crest.
Looking across Noble Creek at a section trail that moves every year when it's saturated with water.
This piece of terrain is moving steadily down the mountain as it's saturated by each Spring's thaw.
Though not moving as fast as the steeper volcanic flanks of Raymond and Sonora Peaks, this section of trail is acting under the same mechanism of gravity pulling great masses of unconsolidated volcanic terrain, the tailings of thousands of years of erosion, down the mountain as on Sonora and Raymond Peaks.
The tailings of the erosion process are moving down the mountain.
When saturated this unconsolidated soil can flow down-mountain. Note the lack of vegetation and deep runoff gullies caused by constant surface movement.
When saturated this terrain will move as one mass. During the peak of a heavy Spring Thaw the runoff runs through this type of terrain, and the terrain wants to flow as water flows. It's unstable nature deters plant growth and just eats up trails laid across it.
These unstable sections of trail require regular trail crew attention at the interval its rate of flow degrades the trail. Each season will turn the trail surface closer to the angle of repose of the flank.
Here, where the trail is crossing a moderate angle, this erosion is not too much of a problem, but it is dangerous on the long steep flanks of Reynolds and Sonora Peaks.
I figured that the rate of water-driven change in the Sierra, expressed through the forces of both erosion and plant growth, would radically slow as a new, drier weather pattern emerged.
I observed ten years ago that increasing temps along the Equator had already pushed the Hadly Cells and the North Pacific High about 800 miles North of their typical positions. This 800 mile offset appears to be stable through the cycle of the seasons.
This shift in seasonal position of the Hadly Cells and the High has in turn deflected the jet stream that typically carried wet storms out of the Northwest to the Sierra Nevada during Fall and Winter. These storms are now deflected to the East way up North on the Northwestern corner of the US, up by Seattle.
Our moisture and weather has been deflected Southeast into the heart of the US, ironically, to where it is clashing with the increased flows of superheated air pushing North out of the Gulf of Mexico.
That's working out real well...
These changes in the basic pattern of global and regional atmospheric flows have changed the timing of our seasonal progression as well as the character of the seasons themselves.
I figure these grand atmospheric changes are going to be practically translated into the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range as a slowdown in how the Sierra physically experiences time.
All water based erosion will slow. The growth rates of all trees and plant life will slow, until they burn. The next generation of plant life will be slower than the present.
These observations appear to be proving true in the short term, but only a multi-decadal overview will ultimately prove or disprove my contentions.
The really scary thing is the forces that altered the position of the North Pacific High and Hadly Cells are not just influencing our contemporary weather, but are still rapidly increasing.
The forces of change are radically increasing as our traditional chemical and thermal atmospheric balances are lost.
Time will be lost in the Sierra. Life is going to slow down in the Sierra Nevada.
Looking back, North, up the PCT after coming around the elbow bend across Noble Creek.
Noble Creek tumbles across the trail at the top of Noble Canyon. I've never seen it flowing hard through here, but I'm sure it does during the Spring Thaw. This is the upper branch of Noble Creek that runs directly into the basin holding Noble Lake between the Southwest flank of Highland Peak and the Northeast flank of Tyron Peak. I'd think there would be a heck of a lot of water judging by how steeply this upper channel of Noble Canyon is being cut into the volcanic terrain.
But the trail did not show it. The trail was well built up, wide and flat with a healthy stone creek bed where Noble Creek flowed across.
Noble Creek is nothing more than a small cut across the trail. But this small cut has carved a mighty canyon below and a pretty nifty gorge here.
The trail on both sides of the canyon cuts across steep terrain approaching the bend at the apex of this narrow neck of narrowing canyon, where we change direction from Southeast to Northeast crossing Noble Creek. The apex of our trail across Noble Creek at this sheer upper end of Noble Canyon marks the end of our descent from Ebbetts Pass beginning our ascent to Tyron Peak.
Noble Canyon is configured like a fan at its top, with each blade of the fan representing a contributing creek feeding the main body of Noble Creek. The main body of the creek itself is quite feeble here, and pinches itself through a narrow chasm where our trail crosses.
I'd love to see some images of Noble Creek and the PCT here during heavy Spring Thaw flows.
Cold temps froze the creek where it crosses the trail in the picture above, forcing the backed-up water onto and down the trail where it too subsequently froze. October 2011.
The image above is looking back North up the PCT after we hiked South across Noble Creek.
I'm trying to figure out the capillary - crystal growth action that made this happen...
Life. It's such a pretty puzzle.
Trail and the Top of Noble Canyon
Below we're climbing South away from Noble Creek out of where Noble Canyon is narrowing into a deep volcanic gorge. Hiking up to here we've traversed above and along a length of the trail in the downstream direction above the steep Eastern bank of Noble Creek.
It is hard to see in this grainy image from a digital video below, but we can make out the line of the PCT across the rock face on the far side of the gorge. We can see the part of the trail that is in the light along the Right side of the face of the rock.
Behind us, we'll be hiking up to where our trail bends 180 degrees across a the top of a finger of jagged ridge descending down from below Noble Lake. We're flipping over the top of that ridge and changing direction again as the trail moves into the ravine holding the creek flowing out of Noble Lake.
Below we are looking North on the Pacific Crest Trail at the top of Noble Canyon narrowing into a gorge where our trail crosses Noble Creek.
Once we cross over the end of the ridge behind us we're set up to directly approach the bottom of the switchbacks up to Noble Lake, which are off to our Left out of the frame of the image below.
In the picture below we're looking Northbound back the segment of trail we just hiked, looking to the Southwest by the compass, at this fantastic volcanic formation sitting where the top of Noble Canyon narrows into a gorge draining the upper basin below Tyron Peak. A second upper branch of Noble Creek drains the upper basin out of Noble Lake.
It seems like the main body of the creek draining the basin below Tyron Peak is squeezed through this volcanic vice.
Tyron Peak lays in the furthest distant Left.
Noble Creek climbs through the gap to the Left of the volcanic face to drain the basin holding Noble Lake, but not Noble Lake itself. When we turn around to continue South on the PCT we will bend a turn into the next ravine to our East where the creek from Noble Lake flows into the canyon below.
Though no problem now, sections of unconsolidated volcanic material like the one above move when wet every year during the Spring Thaw. During wet years great sections of saturated soils move down the mountain, eating up great sections of trail.
Even after a couple of years of moderate or weak Spring Thaw conditions the trail across this type of surface will be at or approaching the angle of repose, giving us little segments of harrowing trail until trail crew re-digs out the trail.
We saw such sections up North along the flank of Raymond Peak, right here, and we will find such a section on the Southern Flank of Sonora Peak, what I call "the red rock trail."
At the top of the steep switchback segment of our climb up the East side of Noble Canyon towards Tyron Peak we find Noble Lake nestled into a hilly shelf in the mountainside.
It has a well developed flat on its Eastern side with light tree cover and water. I should say compressed and trodden-down flat.
This means that Noble Lake is always a break spot for me on my way through this section despite its drawback. Noble Lake has a cow problem. Grazing herds like Noble Lake as much as backpackers do.
This results in the flat on the East side of the lake being liberally decorated with cow shit every Summer, if not occupied by cows. The shore of the lake gets badly post-holed by hooves during Spring, and the cow dung changes the chemical balance of the water, resulting in a choking algae growth and "cow water."
Cow water is water fouled by cows. Cow water is difficult to filter, and clogs many filters. I frigging hate cow water.
I'm not against sensible grazing in the Sierra, but the condition of Noble Lake is not sensible. I don't know how cows and Noble Lake can be balanced so each are healthy, but the current situation is unacceptable.
Oh yes I do know how to fix it.
Half of Noble Lake should be fenced off to preserve the shore. It should be fenced to allow the cows access but denying them the chance to trash the whole shoreline.
Coming off the top of the switchbacks we see Noble Lake as soon as our height clears the brush surrounding its Northeast shore.
Our trail gradually traversed 3.34 miles down 212 feet from Ebbetts Pass to the low point of this segment of trail across Noble Creek. Arriving at Noble Lake we've hiked .62 miles of the 1.58 miles from the low point of this segment of trail to its high point across Tyron Peak.
Living Things Policy Policy "A" is that we don't screw with nature unless it tries to bite us or take our food.
Leave it alone.
Living things policy "B"
Policy "B" is that we check everything out. People complain about scientific knowledge.
They bitch about its limits and about misuses of its power to explain and organize.
Policy "B" requires that we take
from science its logical approach and basic organization,
but that the meaning of
scientific observations finally comes only from heart and spirit, from
the values of the observer.
We encounter Bull Canyon two times. Once here, at this trail junction and another time as we hike North of Murray Canyon, where we can see Bull Canyon in the Northwestern distance emptying into Wolf Creek. Check out this image of Bull Canyon and Highland Peak from just North of Murray Canyon.
Highland Peak is the mountain making up the NE side of Bull Canyon, the East side of Noble Canyon, and the Western mountain bounding Wolf Creek. Highland and Silver Peaks are a visible landmark until we exit the headwaters of the East Carson River 25 trail miles to the South of here when we cross the Carson Gap over to Wolf Creek Lake.
To clarify, that's a different Wolf Creek down South, located off the East flank of Sonora Pass.
Along this section of trail all the creeks eventually empty into the East Fork of the Carson River. Noble Creek and Silver Creek below it, the creek running out of the East side of Bull Canyon, and Wolf Creek all drain into the Mighty East Fork of the Carson River.
We do cross out of the Eastern Sierra drainage of the East Fork of the Carson River for about 3 miles from the high point crossing Tyron Peak to the top of the rise above the West bank of Wolf Creek. We're hiking along the Western flank of the Sierra draining into the North Fork of the Mokelumne River across this upcoming short segment of Western flank trail.
Bull Canyon trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail between Noble Lake and the high point of our trail over Tyron Peak.
Eastbound backpacking routes off of the PCT can be looped through Bull Canyon and back up to the PCT through Wolf Creek Pass, or down to the East Carson River and back up to the PCT through Murray Canyon.
This post marks a route up Tyron Peak. It says the elevation is 9925 feet. The 1979 USGS topo map says it is 9970, but I'm not one to quibble over 50 feet.
The PCT route South of here is bringing us up to and over the saddle on the East side of Tyron Peak, where the gentle side of the mountain offers us the easiest access to the peak.
The trail behind this sign runs a more direct route up to Tyron Peak.
We would have two routes up to the summit of Tyron Peak. The hiking route above would be the first, and the PCT route we are following South would be the second. Combined they would make a good loop over Tyron Peak from the trail junction above.
Snow remnants below high point on Tyron Peak in Late Oct 2011.
This is a product of the very late Spring snows and thaw of the Winter of 2010-2011.
Snow berms in the shadows of forests and peaks persisted through Summer into the next Winter.
The Western Flank
Well, for a moment! We're veering Left traversing down the the Western Flank for the next three miles or so, before we return to Wolf Creeks Eastern drainage.
Below are a couple of views Southwest from the high point of the PCT across Tyron Peak. The two maps below will help us get some context on the trails that tie this complex terrain together with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
Arnot Peak is the prominent dome-style peak among the multiple peaks topping the massif closest to us to the Left of the center of image.
Lightening Mountain is the pyramidal mountain in the middle-background Right, just beyond and a bit to the Right of Arnot Peak. The flank of Hiram Peak begins rising out of view out of the right side of the image.
Disaster Creek flows West between Arnot Peak and Lightening Mountain. Disaster Creek begins its flow down to the Clarks Fork out of Half Moon Lake, which is hidden behind a low rise to the Left of the stripe of yellow meadow we can see on the far Right of the image.
That stripe of yellow meadow is Upper Gardner Meadow.
Arnot Creek flows around the other side of Lightening Mountain, its Right or West side, which is beyond the yellow stripe of Upper Gardner Meadow..
We can see Stanislaus Peak in the far distance to the Left of Ari's head, on the far Left of the image. Stanislaus Peak is maybe 8 miles Northwest of Sonora Peak, rising between the converging routes of the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails. In the foreground we can find three routes down to the TYT, which we can follow South towards Stanisluas Peak and our Highway 108 trailheads, or North towards Lake Alpine on Highway 4.
Let's take a more clear view of the terrain to the South.
Three Drainages offer Three routes West to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Two creeks below us flow down the Western flank of the Sierra to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail along Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus between the mountains pictured below, while Highland Creek runs through Spicer Meadow Reservoir on its way to join the North fork of the Stanislaus River way down the Western flank of the Sierra. We can follow each of the trails along these creeks to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
Disaster and Arnot Creeks flow Southeast and Southwest, respectively, around the triangular bulk of Lightening Mountain on their roughly 8 mile long courses down the Western Flank of the Sierra to the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus. Our position on Tyron Peak puts us about 5 miles North of their trail junction above Upper Gardiner Meadow, so around 13 to 16 miles to the Clarks Fork.
Arnot Creek meets the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail where it first enters the drainage of Clarks Fork. Disaster Creek meets the TYT 5.82 miles further South (along the route of the TYT) at the very end of the paved Clarks Fork Road.
Though the trail distances down to the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus from Ebbetts Pass is short, I'm ball-parking it at around 16 miles, the distance one would drive a car from Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 to the Clarks Fork Road on Highway 108 is huge. Check out the road map at the bottom of the map linked to above. It is a long way around on the Highways, and rather direct by foot.
The Arnot and Disaster Creek trails bring us down to the Clarks Fork Road, which intersects with Highway 108 where the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River converges with the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River. This point is a few miles West down Highway 108 from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, where the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus begins at the South end of the Upper Kennedy Meadow.
Note Upper Highland Lake's sliver of blue peaking out from the West side of Hiram Peak in the upper Right corner of the image below. Highland Creek flows Southwest down to Spicer Meadow Reservoir beyond Lower Highland Lake. Following Highland Creek downstream for 6.46 miles brings us down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at the Jenkins Canyon trail junction 11.38 miles South of Lake Alpine, just above the beautiful campsites around the top of Spicer Meadow Reservoir. If you go down there to camp. There are amazing campsites along Highland Creek just above Spicer Meadow Reservoir, as well as ancient cow camps in Hiram Meadow.
The North Fork of the Mokelumne River flows towards us out of Upper Highland Lake, which is the Highland Lake visible in the upper Right corner of the image below, before it begins its grand button-hook bend around to the Northwest and eventually around to the Southwest into a magnificent granite canyon. A few miles down this canyon is where the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail emerges from a great hanging granite canyon to cross the North Mokelumne River.
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail can be accessed through all three of these creeks, Disaster, Arnot, and Highland from here.
Hiking down Arnot or Disaster Creeks brings us to two different points on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail along the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River. Hiking down Highland Creek brings us to the TYT at the top of Spicer Meadow Reservoir.
We can see Hiram Peak on the Right above Highland Lake, Lightening Mountain in the middle distant center-left of frame, and the Arnot Peak Massif rising out of the far Left side of the image.
These mountains divide the drainages and the trails that follow them Southwest down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
We are looking at a key pivot point for a whole lot of backpacking loops.
Trails going in Six directions radiate out from this hub of trails in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
Lower Highland Lake peeking out behind Upper Highland Lake.
Hiram Peak rises beyond the Highland Lakes.
Highland Creek runs down the canyon beyond the far lake.
The Highland Creek Trail route can bring us down to Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Spicer Meadow Reservoir where the Highland Creek Trail turns North to its end at the Silver Trailhead on the East Shore of Lake Alpine.
The Dardanelles Cone silhouetted in the far misty distance behind Highland Lakes.
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail runs around the base of The Dardanelles facing us. The TYT crosses over the Northern shoulder of The Dardanelles passing out of the watershed of the North Stanislaus into the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus.
Note the well-maintained road leading to Lower Highland Lake. That road connects with Highway 4 a bit West of Ebbetts Pass.
Check out this map showing the trail connecting Lower Highland Lake (which we can barely see beyond the road through the forest cover) with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail around the North Shore of Spicer Meadow Reservoir in the shadow of The Dardanelles.
The Upper Highland Lake is the source of the North Fork of the Mokelumne River.
What we see to our Southwest while crossing the high point of Tyron Peak is a web of potential backpacking loops. We are also getting a momentary view of the Western drainage of this whole section of the Sierra crest line, which composes a big chunk of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
Arnot and Disaster Creeks both drain into the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River along Highway 108 at the Southern boundary of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
Upper Highland Lake is the headwaters of the North Fork of the Mokelumne River. Lower Highland Lake feeds Spicer Meadow Reservoir though Highland Creek.
Highland Creek offers a path to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at a point 11.38 miles South of the Silver Trailhead at Lake Alpine.
Both Arnot and Disaster Creeks have trailheads along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route on the old paved road up along the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus off of Highway 108. These trailheads are 17 and 23 miles South of the Silver Trailhead at Lake Alpine along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route, respectively.
This big, messy, and unfinished Topo Map of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness will give you an idea of the relationship between the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails through the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. Your imagination will put together excellent backpacking trips.
Click the marked trail routes for detailed maps, and the red dots for guide information.
Highland Creek, Arnot Creek, and Disaster Creek all head roughly Southwest to intersect with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. The various connector trails between the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails gives us many options for planning Grand Hiking Loops around the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
A fine dirt road branching Southeast off of Highway 4 a few miles West of Ebbetts Pass brings us out to the Highland Lakes Car Campground, where PGE has nice campsites. Here we can access the Gardner Meadow or Highland Creek Trailheads. From Gardiner Meadow we can access the Arnot or Disaster Creek trails, or the Pacific Crest Trail at Wolf Creek Pass. From the Highland Creek Trail head we can hike down to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Spicer Meadow Reservoir.
Ebbetts Pass can be much more than a passing moment along the long trail. It is one of a series of trailheads leading into a complex network of very interesting backpacking trails that can themselves provide years of rewarding hiking.
The Carson Iceberg Wilderness is an amazing place.