Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Tahoe Sunset from Showers Lake, by Peter Skaff.
                                                            Lake Tahoe Sunset from Showers Lake, by P.Skaff

 

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Backpacking
Showers Lake

Hiking the combined Tahoe to Yosemite, Tahoe Rim, and Pacific Crest Trails from Echo Summit to Carson Pass via Showers Lake crossing Meiss Country Roadless Area

 

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The art of walking
 
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Trail
Guide

INDEX
NORTH

Showers
Junction
to
Schneiders Junction
SOUTH

Showers
Lake
to
Meiss
Cabin
Topo Hiking Map

Echo 
Summit
to
Carson
Pass

Maps

Index
MILES
and
ELEVATIONS
Miles
and
Elevations
INDEX

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
PERMITS

Meiss
Country
PERMITS

All
HIGH SIERRA
PERMITS

Local
Weather



All Sierra Weather
Tahoe
to
Whitney
on
YouTube
Showers Lake
The Best Campsite
between
Echo Summit and Carson Pass

Showers Lake Videos

Showers Lake in the
Morning

Showers Lake under
Ice surrounded by Snow

View looking North at the Southern end of the Lake Tahoe Basin with Christmas Valley and the South Upper Truckee Drainage at our feet, taken from just North of Showers Lake.

Views hiking South to Showers Lake from Echo Summit had been generally obscured by steep mountains and dense forests.

Our views up until now were fleeting seconds as we momentarily emerged from the dense forests and peeked around the complex terrain filling the Southwest corner of the Tahoe Basin.

Approaching the shelf Showers Lake sits on begins opening up wider views of the South Upper Truckee Watershed draining Christmas Valley into Lake Tahoe.

Long View from Showers Lake into the Tahoe Basin through Christmas Valley

Freel Peak is the biggest mountain on the far Right edge of the picture. We can see the haze of the faint blue of Lake Tahoe visible below the Carson Range in the furthest distance. That's the East Shore of Lake Tahoe.

Though Christmas Valley is a narrow U-shaped valley on the South end of the Tahoe Basin, the views we get from Showers Lake looking down through Christmas Valley to Lake Tahoe feel, and are very expansive compared to the relatively claustrophobic character and general lack of views along our hike from Echo Summit to Showers Lake.

Approaching Showers Lake we begin to get good overviews of the terrain wrapping around the South end of the Tahoe Basin that were mostly shrouded by forest and rock until we approach Showers Lake.

Hiking Map South
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Trails West to Highway 50
Echo Summit to Round Top & The Sisters

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The Best Campsite in the Meiss Country Roadless Area

For those of you who would argue this point, I am speaking of the best campsite along the main Pacific Crest, Tahoe to Yosemite, and Tahoe Rim Trails from Echo Summit to Carson Pass.

I bet all of you locals have some real nice spots.

I am seriously interested in hearing about your favorite campsites and trips in Meiss Country Roadless Area.

Post 'em through this link, Best Campsites in Meiss Country in the Backpacker's Forum.

If you Register, you can post your favorite Meiss camp spot as a stand alone topic in the Echo Summit to Carson Pass section of the forum or the Meyers trailhead forum, which is currently unfinished.

Southern End of Lake Tahoe.
Close up of Tahoe from Showers Lake

The open terrain around Showers Lake begins to grace us with some expansive views to the North of South Lake Tahoe. The best views are to our East and Northeast, across the Carson Range and into the high desert beyond. Finally getting an expansive view imparts a greater understanding of the context of the terrain we could not completely figure out until we could get a series of overviews.

This process of questing for information and understanding our context in obscured conditions is part of becoming an excellent backpacker. Your view of the terrain does not just seek out the beauty, but also sees beauty in the logic of the terrain and its drainiges in a cascading set of contexts.

Internally the terrain establishes the physical stress, our heart rate, breathing and energy consumption. This level of exertion establishes the mental reality we will view the world through.

Externally the terrain affects the weather, which affects the distribution of life, which affects the rate of erosion and change. Every piece of this grand puzzle fits into every other piece to create the operating reality we deal with.

This reality and its operations, characters, and logic are available to properly tuned human perception.

To the practical observer the logic of the terrain will reveal the most likely route, the likely approach, and give us hints about the nature and difficulty of our upcoming experiences. Our observations allow us to calculate the degree of physical investment we will have to put into crossing the terrain, and how to most effectively disperse that investment.

Premium Overlook in Meiss Country Roadless Area
The great views around Showers Lake are combined with beautiful protected campsites on the flat aprons around Showers Lake's North and South shores, by the compass. These view and camping assets make Showers Lake the arguably best spot to camp in Meiss Country along the line of trail from Echo Summit to the Carson Gap.
Regardless, Showers Lake is an excellent place to relax after any hard hike. Long distance hikers are advised to plan Showers Lake as a campsite. It gives us the best overview of our hike across Meiss Country.

Showers Lake is also ideal for medium and short distance backpackers. It almost splits the distance between Echo Summit and Carson Pass, making it an excellent mid-point for a quick local backpacking trip across the Meiss Country Roadless Ares.

Sweet Overlooks
While you are at Showers Lake, even if you are a long-distance Pacific Crest Trail backpacker running through, make sure you stop and check out the two granite overlooks just North of the lake on the two bluffs protruding off the North edge of the flat shelf of terrain the lake sits. Both have magnificent panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the whole visible Northern Horizon framed within the walls of Christmas Valley.

At Least Stop for Lunch
So, long distance hikers should put Showers Lake on our daily hiking schedule at least for a long break, or one of our daily lunches, if spending a night there does not fit into our overall hiking plan. I would re-jigger my schedule to make it a campsite.

If you are just passing through and want to see the overlook view, the first overlook extends out to the North next to where the trail South from Echo Summit enters the flat apron around the North Shore of Showers Lake.
Just look over your left shoulder when you enter Showers Lake's campsite flat from the North, and you will see the well-worn footpath to the overlook. The second overlook is located about 50 yards to the East along the edge of the bluff.

If we are hiking Northbound through Showers Lake the overlook is the trail we see off to our right just as we are hiking to the end of the campsites on North end of Showers Lake.

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Christmas Valley
and

Shadow

Christmas Valley from Showers Lake on the PCT, TYT, TRT.

Christmas Valley far below.

Great Cloud far above.

Our view is looking beyond the complex upper valley down at the flat where the run of the South Upper Truckee flattens out, and much of the houses making up the little township of Meyers are located.

Christmas Valley
and
South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe beyond Christmas Valley from Showers Lake, Meiss Country Roadless Area.

Pulling our perspective back a bit we can put Christmas Valley into context in the South end of Lake Tahoe. The road maps below the full Desolation Wilderness Hiking Map also gives us some context.

Road Maps of South Tahoe Basin

Carson Range wrapping around the East Shore still decorated with Spring snow during June of 2010. Snow was historically common in June, but the last two decades have seen Spring move earlier into Winter, Winter grow shorter and weaker, with dry Fall conditions pushing into December.

Above we see thinning snow still clinging to the upper elevations of the Carson Range on June 7th. The fact is that the grand weather patterns over the whole North Pacific Ocean have radically changed during the past twenty-five years.

We have already become a drier, wetter climate. Our four-season weather pattern born out of the Northwest seems to be moving towards a two-season pattern spawned in the tropical oceans to our Southwest.

This long, slow change in weather patterns over the course of my life has deep, powerful implications for man and Nature. Though these changes seem "slow," happening over the course of a single human lifetime, this pace of change of weather patterns is unprecedented over geological time spans.

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Information

Meiss Country Roadless Area

Echo Summit
to
Carson Gap

Showers Lake "Loop"
(as shown on the USGS map)

Elevation
8720
At Showers Lake trail post North of Showers Lake.

Elevation
8680 at Showers Lake.

Mileage
6.80 miles South from Echo Summit.
5.2 miles North of Carson Pass.

Map Anomaly

Although the 7.5 min USGS Topo Map shows two trail junctions bracketing Showers Lake where a trail breaks off a loop from the main route of the PCT through Showers Lake.
Though there are still two trail junction posts bracketing Showers Lake, one on the North side of Showers Lake, the other to the South, there is no longer a maintained trail passing the West Shore of Showers Lake as the map indicates.

The main track of the trail now passes around the North Shore of Showers Lake on what was the old loop off the PCT-TYT-TRT around the North Shore of Showers Lake.

Hiking Map South
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Trails West to Highway 50
Echo Summit to Round Top & The Sisters

Though I found the signpost pictured above at the spot the Northern junction was marked on the map, there was no trail junction, and no trail around the South Shore of Showers Lake.

My notes on this trail junction say, "Signpost, but no Junction." (Yup, I keep a "trail notebook," one of those tiny 4.5x3.5 inch "Penway Composition Books," in addition to my journal.) Experiences, memories, notes, images, and videos are almost required to keep any kind of meaningful record of High Sierra terrain.

Hiking Southbound past the Northern sign post turns us down a gully alongside a beautiful granite berm-feature that gives us an idea of the great scrambling terrain surrounding Showers Lake.

It appears that as the main trail has been routed through Showers Lake old route of the TYT-PCT bypassing Showers Lake has been abandoned. Likely in the name of reducing erosion damage. Trail designers figured they might as well run the trail through the already damaged North Shore apron of Showers Lake and let the damage around the South Shore caused by the trail heal.

Therefore it also makes sense that there is a trail post at the map point South of Showers Lake marking another junction to a trail that no longer officially exists.

The second, Southern trail junction post at Showers Lake is now located at the campsites on the North side of Showers Lake, rather than South of Showers Lake, as marked on the 1992 USGS map.

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Check out the Map, and Click the Colored Dots for related trail guide page.

MILES AND ELEVATIONS

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The Showers Lake Trail Junction
North
of
Showers lake

Twisted old Lodgepole Pine.
Twisted Lodgepole. Not abnormal, but extreme

Knarly twisted lodgepole about to fall into mulch, much to the benefit of its brethren's future growth.

Trees work both individually and as a group to convert rock and meadow into nice forest-floor to provide for their future health and expansion.

The lives and actions of each tree supports its own, and its fellow tree's welfare through coordination, cooperation, and fierce competition.

"Forest" is almost too-static of a term to describe the group movements of individuals who are acting more like a "herd of trees" than a staid "forest."

I see trees and their forests as being a whole lot more rowdy than that, but on a time scale that escapes most folk's attention spans.

Showers Lake Trail Post
North End

The junction post on the North side of Showers.
See the map for the location of this post.
Showers Lake Trail junction post

Trail post, but no trail junction.

Rather than a loop off the main trail to Showers Lake the whole trail loops around its North Shore.

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Showers Lake Check Dam

  Showers Lake's Genesis  
  Showers Lake Check Dam  
 

Showers Lake exists because of this Check Dam.

More on
High Sierra Check Dams
.

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Showers Lake
A Jog in the Trail
A Pleasant Campsite
A Fantastic Overlook
Southbound hikers hit the North Showers Lake trail junction post pictured above at the head of a gully running down-mountain to our Left, and turn Left, to the North, down the gully.

We can see something a bit strange about this junction. It is that the main trail has been rerouted, deflected through its one-time loop around the North shore of Showers Lake. We are hiking down the gully to approach the campsites on the Northeastern apron of Showers Lake. A short ways down the gully the trail turns Right to climb to the Northeast corner of Showers Lake just below the check dam.

Looking at the post above we can sense what's strange is that the old main route proceeded straight, wrapping around the South Shore of Showers Lake where the North end of the Showers Lake loop turns down the gully.

Well, visiting Showers Lake is good to meet folks and see the sights, so a good thing overall, but it's a little detour around the most direct line across the terrain, which is what most PCT hikers are looking for.

Well, instead taking the option of pushing straight through this little detour, and following what remains of the old route straight around the West-Southwest shore of Showers Lake, we'll cop a Left at this junction to visit Showers Lake.

Both the old 30 minute and much newer but still "old" 15 minute maps still depict the trail's old configuration around Showers Lake.

Hiking Map South
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Trails West to Highway 50
Echo Summit to Round Top & The Sisters

Hiking down this gully we have a great rock wall of beautiful forest shaded granite rising to our Right, until we find ourselves threading our way to our East through a break in its expansive wall following our trail turning Right out of the gully for the brief climb up to Showers Lake.

This rock is part of the great rock formation that wraps around the Northwest Shore of Showers Lake that is so nice to scramble around on. Showers Lake is a very pleasant and pretty piece of rock/terrain, water and forest to camp and take delightful walks/scrambles to explore the surrounding terrain from our Showers Lake campsite.

Turning Right out of the gully around the bottom of this cool rock we quickly scramble up to the compressed apron around the Northeast shore of Showers Lake that serves as its main campsite area.
On our final steps hiking Southbound up to Showers Lake we can see where the deeply silted-in check dam/outlet stream from Showers Lake is located off to our Right as we enter the great camping flat around the Northeast shore of Showers Lake.

We can see the soils under the forest around the Northeast Shore of Showers Lake have been compressed by many years of backpackers camping here. There are also a couple of sites across the lake off its Southwestern Shore.

PCT-TYT-TRT HINTS
Long distance backpackers can take advantage of this little detour.

Best View of the Meiss Country Roadless Area
Swinging around the North shore of Showers Lake puts us within feet of one of the BEST overlooks we are going to get of the South Tahoe Basin and Lake along the length of our hike around the Meiss Country Roadless Area wrapping around the very Southernmost Corner of the Tahoe Basin and Lake. It's certainly the best overlook of the Southern extent of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding basin.

But, though this fantastic viewpoint is not on the trail, it is close. This fine overlook is a few feet off the route of the PCT-TYT-TRT along the North end of the rerouting the of trail route around the North shore of Showers Lake.

At the far North end of the flat apron of campsites around Shower Lake's Northeast shore is a well trod trail to the Northeast (Southbound hiker's Left) that pushes through some brush for a few short feet until it splits into two trails, each leading out to the end of two great rocky ridge-fingers jutting out from our mountainside flat over the end of the sheer and complex Upper Christmas Valley drainage.
In the drainage tributary fingers of the South Upper Truckee reach up to Showers Lake and the shelf it's sitting on.

From these overview positions we get a good sense of the nature of the terrain around us, such as this shelf under the top of the Tahoe Rim mountains holding Showers Lake, as well as Meiss Meadow.
We also get long views of the whole Southern end of the Tahoe Basin.


Camp Notes
Showers Lake

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Night 4 backpacking out of Meeks Bay, to Tuolumne Meadows, but only because I launched through Meeks Trailhead after 4 pm...

We're 37.51 miles South of Meeks Bay after two and a tidbit of the third day.

Location:
6.8 miles South of Echo Summit.
5.2 miles North of Carson Pass.
Excellent campsites all around the lake, and concentrated next to the overlook.

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
MILES AND ELEVATIONS
Echo Summit to Carson Pass
MILES AND ELEVATIONS

Total distance from Meeks Bay
TYT
37.51 miles

Lots of Local Backpackers
This is a popular spot for local backpackers from Tahoe, Reno and Carson City in Nevada, and local residents living in the West Flank Sierra Foothills.

I always meet lots of locals here.

Weather Notes

Sunset
Late September
7:08 PM or so *

Temp before Sunset
Mid-50's

No weather, no mosquitoes:
no tent

Sunrise:
Late September
6:42 AM or so *

Temp at Sunrise:
44°
Light wind, no clouds.
Period of morning clouds has ended.
Days clear and cool.

Local Weather Resources

Echo Summit
Weather Forecast

 

NWS
Echo Summit
Point Forecast

 

Regional
Weather Forecasts

NWS
Regional Forecast Greater Lake Tahoe
FORECAST

NWS
Regional Forecast
West Slope Sierra Tahoe to Yosemite

All
South Lake Tahoe
Regional Weather Information

Local Reporting Stations
MAP

All
High Sierra Weather Resources


Real Time
NEARBY
Ground Reporting Stations

Rubicon 2

Fallen Leaf

Echo Peak

Meyers


All

HIGH SIERRA
Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Road Conditions

All
Lake Tahoe Basin Highway Conditions

Big View
Radar

North California
Radar

Big View
Space

Western US/Pacific
Satellite

* "or so" note:
I record the Sunrise/Sunset times and their respective compass points, the time of the rise, transit, and setting of the Sun, (transit is when the Sun crosses the imaginary North-South line in the sky) and the Moon Phases for the day my backpacking trip begins as the header of my journal. These are the bookends of day into night.
I also note their rate of daily change.

The sunrise and sunset times shift in conjunction with their shifting rise and set compass points.
This means that trips over a week in duration require I include another set of readings for the date of the mid-point or end of the trip.
When I'm collecting the data from the US Naval Observatory I poke around a bit, to determine if the rate of change is great or small.

This allows us to accurately use of the Sun as both a compass and a clock for the duration of my trip. Unless it's cloudy.

Time and space are deeply related for backpackers, as well as physicists.

The times of Sunset and Sunrise given above reflect the time on the start day of a September 2009 Tahoe to Yosemite backpacking trip. In fact, each day the Sunset and Sunrise times precede slightly, so my accuracy diminishes.

The daily rate of change during September is a loss of up to two minutes a day for both Sunrise and for Sunset.

In other words, the day is shortening by up to four minutes a day in September.

Celestial Navigation
Information
Astronomical
Information

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Good Neighbor

Texas Steve camping at Showers Lake.
Steve the Texan High Sierra Backpacker at Showers Lake
Steve is backpacking the Tahoe Rim trail by sections.

Early Morning Brightness

First Light illuminating Little Round Top and about to hit Showers Lake on a Lazy morning at camp.
Showers Lake in Bright, beauitiful morning light

Descending East shoulder of Little Round Top-Sierra Crest-Tahoe Rim
behind Showers Lake in Morning Sun

I kicked it late at camp, and did not depart until the Sun hit the lake.

One way of measuring effectiveness and efficiency on the trail is the length of our hiking day. How long it takes us to develop the capacity to comfortably hike from Sunrise to Sunset is a measure of fitness.

Another is how many days in a row can be hiked from Sunrise to set before needing a day off.

And finally, what speed can be maintained over those full days.

These are interdependent variables.

Each greatly affects the others.

Carefully consider how you mix them, and carefully monitor the results.

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Evening Light Fades
Darkness Spreads
and
Clouds Glow

Light, shadow, and clouds: Lake Tahoe Sunset from Showers Lake.
Light, shadow, and clouds
Sweet Lake Tahoe Sunset from Showers Lake.

Showers Lake
Images by
Peter Skaff

Sunset over Lake Tahoe from Showers Lake, September 2009.
Shower Lake Sunset, Peter Skaff

by Peter Skaff.

Thanks Peter!

Also See Peter's
Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking:
Crabtree to Gem Lake, Deer Lake, and More

Send me your shots through the forum or Email.

North: Showers Junction to Schneiders Junction                               South: Showers to Meiss Cabin

Sunrise at Showers Lake, September 2009.
Shower Lake in the morning by Peter Skaff
by Peter Skaff

Video
Showers Lake
in the
Morning

Departing Showers Lake, Backpacking South

Departing Showers Lake hiking South on Day 5 from Meeks Bay to Tuolumne Meadows after a nice night at Showers Lake.

Video Playlist
Echo Summit to Carson Gap

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Video
Showers Lake
under
Ice and Surrounded by Snow
June 6, 2010

 

This video shows part of a Spring snow trip to Showers Lake from the South Upper Truckee trailhead. May and June brought heavy Spring snowstorms, leaving a heavy snow cover in early June.

REMEMBER THAT.

Many PCT and long distance High Sierra Backpackers are beginning to believe that Summer backpacking conditions begin in May!!

They do not.

Though recent trends have brought a snow free Sierra in June and even May, this is highly unusual, and makes anyone in the Sierra during May and June subject to "unexpected" Spring snowstorms. The same danger is true during October and November.

October and November have been getting warmer and the onset of Fall and Winter storms has been delayed by the same climate mechanism that is triggering early Spring Thaws. Hikers in Fall are subject to powerful, unexpected early season Winter storms blowing in, as are early Spring backpackers subject to unexpected Spring storms.

Early and late season backpackers must be ready for the worse weather that the time of the year they are hiking can possibly blow in, despite the recent changes in Fall and Spring weather.

I believe that many more backpackers are subjecting themselves to increasingly dangerous situations in late Fall and early Spring precisely because the climatic tilt towards "good" weather during these critical periods of weather transitions have drawn out many hikers not properly experienced or geared to deal with the potential weather that can blow in during early Spring and late Fall.

To have the best backpacking trips possible we must always consider the worse-case scenarios possible. Otherwise "things" can get way out of hand.

SPRING CONDITIONS at SHOWERS LAKE

 
   

Though we approached Showers Lake from the Northeast coming up from Meyers, this video well depicts Spring conditions in the Meiss Roadless Area.

Hiking Map South
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Trails West to Highway 50
Echo Summit to Round Top & The Sisters

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Spring Bear tracks
departing hibernation spot near Showers Lake, June 7, 2010

  Departing Showers Lake the next day, I noticed a lone set of tracks descending from a stand of trees around some big rock that had melted out.  
  Spring Bear tracks from hibernation spot near Showers Lake, June 7, 2010  

Further inspection (I circled this stand of rock and timber) revealed, as I suspected, that only one set of big tracks were coming in or out of this location.
One set of tracks were coming out, and no tracks led in. As the snow was soft and wet, bear tracks were very easy to observe. The outgoing bear tracks were a day and a half  to two days old, judging by recent temperatures, winds, Sun, and other factors.

The tracks were pointed directly down the mountain towards the houses about 7 miles away along South Upper Truckee Road. Though the tracks indicated a lethargic and hesitant bear, there was no deviation from the straight line of the bear tracks towards "civilization."

At the South Upper Truckee Road a quick and tasty meal could easily be had out of these luxury house's unprotected garbage cans. If I was a bear, that's where I'd go too!

I found it sad that the bear tracks did not point towards any of the three nearby lakes that hold fish and attract all sorts of critters, nor towards Meiss Meadow, which was right then experiencing the snow collapsing on the Meadow.
Bears find lots of good stuff when they root around in the expanses of moist meadow soils just exposed to strong sunlight. All sorts of life was just exploding into the exposed meadow, and the bears just shovel it into their mouths.

Though the Bear's natural larder of meadow, forest, and lake looked full, bear was headed down to the houses. This means that my sadness will be shared by the homeowners in Christmas Valley, where bears have been tearing up shit outside the homes and even entering them (and really tearing shit up!) seeking easy pickings.

In early 2011 two old yuppie dudes who live in Christmas Valley informed me that a bear had failed to hibernate, instead staying awake and feeing from the houses in Christmas Valley all Winter long.

To me this just means two things: They are going to eventually kill that bear, and that homeowner garbage in the Lake Tahoe Basin must be bear proof by law if common sense won't work....

A bear in your kitchen can ruin your day. And your kitchen. Then then they shoot the bear.

Despite all of these instant and grim thoughts these bear tracks inspired while standing here on this snow-covered mountainside, seeing these bear tracks still gave me a good feeling of satisfaction to locate a bear's Winter den right after Bear had departed.

That good feeling was that there is some natural security, even in this crazy world dominated by the Urban Jungles we have created, a Natural Security that can independently preserver through the roughest of climates. 

Until the poor country bear stumbles into our endlessly expanding Urban Jungle, and we kill it.

Go Bears!

Living Things Forum

Videos from this 2010 Trip

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North: Showers Junction to Schneiders Junction                               South: Showers to Meiss Cabin

Showers Lake
Campsite in the Morning
About ready to hike South

Sun breaking through the trees over Showers Lake campsites on the flat apron around the North Shore of the lake. Besides composing the majority of campsites here, the big flat makes the whole North side of Showers Lake one big campsite.

There's also sites on the other shore of Showers Lake.

Showers Camp in Morning

About Ready to Hit the Trail.

The sleeping pad is my seat, the pack is the seat back. I'm ready to get up, stash the stove, pot and fuel, strap all the externals onto the outside of the pack (tripod, 2 extra food bags ((and the Garcia inside)), sleeping pad, and gallon water-storage bottle) and hit the trail.

Note the lack of people in the background. Though Showers is very popular during Summer, it gets quiet in mid-September. Very nice.

This is one of about 5 campsites on the Northeast Shore of Showers Lake, but the well-trodden flat around the North apron of Shower Lake makes any spot adequate to throw the pack down. Even if the place is full you will be able to find a nice flat to crash on.

Meiss Country Roadless Area, LTBMU

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Campfires
on the
Trail

Pete and Jason
Doing an Echo Summit to Showers Lake backpacking trip at Showers Lake ending the day I came through.

Member Wisdom
on the
The High Sierra Trails

Peter and Jason's firestarting tip: Use Moss. Al's addition: Super dry cubed wood from snags is ultimate firestarter.

Jason and Pete's
Fire Tip

TW Member Backpacker Experience & Experiences
from the
Trail

Peter's fire tip
"I included this one for the trail tip - the green moss/lichen at the base of the fire makes GREAT starter material." (quote & photo: Peter Skaff, Jason prepping the Fire with moss. Also see Peter's killer photos on this page and the previous page.)

Alex fire tip
When you encounter fallen snags that have dried and cracked into little dry cubes, you have encountered nature's fire perfect starter. Pop out a few of these wood cubes, put them in a plastic bag, and keep them in your pack. Split shards off a cube to kindle one of the cubes. They virtually burst into flames.

You know you have the right stuff when the cube you observe is dried to almost the density and weight of Balsa Wood. Along with dried moss picked dead and dry from trees, cubes and moss are two of nature's pyrotechnic fire starter materials.

Having a bit of both stored in a plastic bag in your pack is good policy.

Camp and Trail Skills

On
Fires, Tents, and Company

Alex note
I never make fires, except for emergency situations, or during the rare times I backpack as part of a group. That is rarely, as I'm a solo backpacker. I have only considered making an emergency fire twice in my life, and on each occasion ultimately decided that fire was not necessary.
I have made plenty of social fires, but I believe that fire takes away from the natural experience, though they add to the social.

My reasoning behind forgoing fires is simple. Fires create a sphere of light that limits vision to within that sphere of light. We are blind outside of the sphere of light. Foregoing fires allows eyes to adjust to the falling darkness. The capacity of vision, of sight, and the things to be seen are amazing. After adjusting to natural darkness, artificial light will seem like an insult to your senses. Pick the right campsite, and remain quiet, and the natural equivalent of the "changing of the guard," takes place as day critters bed down and the night life comes out. This transition cannot be viewed from within the sphere of light.

This guide will be peppered with stories about nighttime in the High Sierras, and some of them should be yours.

I apply the same minimalist principal to tents as light. If we cannot see past the light of the fire, we have less to no chance to observe from within a tent. If no weather or mosquitoes are threatening I do not put up a tent. I have been known to tent up after a few nights exposed under the fullness of a bright moon, just for sufficient darkness to sleep.

Many consider fires and tents as indispensable parts of the camping experience. I do not. They are safety and social components in the backpacker's "toolbox."
I put social considerations into secondary position when traveling through nature. This is not to say that I am anti-social on the trail. Far from it. I am generally the most social long-distance backpacker on the trail. I pack extra food so that I can take the time to explore both the personality of the natural terrain, and the personalities of the fine people who travel through it.

But when I travel through, camp, or just sit quietly in a remote wilderness area, I want my mind tuned to, and reflecting the natural environment, and not the people around me. When an individual travels lightly and quietly, the things that walk, crawl, swim and fly do not easily notice our presence. This Summer I had a bobcat walk through the edge of my camp near the headwaters of the E fork of the Carson River. The bobcat was totally unaware of my  presence. This has happened with bears, birds, coyotes, and people. Groups will never have this happen, unless they are being targeted for food. The noise and bustle of a group would have warned off the bobcat long before anyone observed her.

Maybe I enjoy company more after not seeing anyone, or saying anything, for three days to five days. The longest I have gone without seeing anyone in the High Sierras is five days. This happens mostly in Winter, late Fall, and early Spring, when traffic in the Sierras goes way down as the depth of the snow rises.

This is not to say I condemn fires or company. I do not. I enjoyed two fires between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney during the Summer of 2009. The first, when I shared a campsite with a USGS Small Mammal counting team in the Emigrant Wilderness near Latopie Lake. They were a great crew, and I still thank them for the shots!
That experience makes up a funny trail story, and explains why there was a fire at all, in that fire-restricted area. See the 1st night in the Emigrant Wilderness, further down the trail guide, for the story. The other fire I also shared with BUG, (Erin, snug as a bug in a rug, walking from Sonora Pass to Yosemite Valley-a break-then the JMT to Whitney. Erin! Did you do the whole trip?) and two late-season meandering Pacific Crest Trail hikers, CHILE AND PARTY DOG, know as the CHILE-DOG PCT HIKING TEAM.

Camp and Trail Skills

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Great Folks Everywhere

USGS Team with Erin at Latopie Lake   Chile and Party Dog next to the Forest Service Keyway fire pit, Stubblefield Canyon

USGS Team, Erin, and fire at Latopie Lake. See the kid on the left in short sleeve cotton? That explains the fire!
Emigrant Wilderness.

  Chile and Party Dog, next to Forest Service Keyway fire pit that they well lit-up the night before.
It was early, they were crashed, and I was out of there! Stubblefield Canyon, Yosemite.

Although I find that fires, tents, and people are distractions to the real point of backpacking deep into the High Sierras, I always have the ability to make a fire, put up a secure tent, and share a fine conversation, or a friendly campsite, meal, beverage, and a fire, with my fellow backcountry travelers.

What do you think about tents, fires, and group travel?

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Fires, Tents, and People in the High Sierras

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Showers Lake Forum

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Showers Lake
in the
Bright Morning Light

View Northwest Hiking South away from Showers Lake
Sunrise over Showers Lake
Starting day 5 South towards Tuolumne Meadows from Meeks Bay
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Departing Showers Lake, Day 5

A crisp and clear sunrise over Showers Lake.

Nifty rock formation on the West shore of Showers Lake good for scrambling around. The trail down the ravine approaching the North Shore of Showers Lake lays on the other side of that great granite rock.

Does that not invite you to scramble over its nooks and crannies?

That's the big rock formation we noted when we emerged from the forests hiking South from the Schneiders Cow Camp trail junction to Showers Lake.

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Signage
AT
Showers Lake

These sign posts sit within the North end of the campsite area at Showers lake, and are more for decoration than information.
  South       North  
  Trail Posts at Showers Lake       Trail post at Showers 2  

South on the combined Pacific Crest, Tahoe Rim, and Tahoe Yosemite Trails.

Carson Pass on Highway 88 to the South.

We can also access Highway 89 by turning North at Meiss Cabin along the route of the TYT.

 

North to Echo Summit.

 

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North: Showers Junction to Schneiders Junction                               South: Showers to Meiss Cabin

Highly Restricted
Catch and Release
SHOWERS LAKE
Trout Fishing
REGULATIONS

  Text of Notice Below.       Text of Notice Below.  
  Showers Lake Fishing sign: no fish'n       Showers Lake Fishing sign: no fish'n  

(TEXT)
Attention Anglers!

This water is currently being managed with special regulations.

These Special regulations are listed below and are in the...California Freshwater Sports Fishing Regulations Handbook.

7.50(b)(111), Title 14, CCR

Upper Truckee River and tributaries...

July 1 through Sept 30, Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used.

Daily Bag and Possession Limit: 0.

California Department Fish & Game

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(TEXT)
UPPER TRUCKEE RIVER
ANGLING REGULATIONS

The Upper Truckee River and tributaries upstream from their confluence with Showers Creek (Alpine and El Dorado Counties)

Open Season:

July 1 through September 30

LIMITS; ZERO TROUT

ONLY ARTIFICAL LURES WITH
BARBLESS HOOKS
MAY BE USED

NO BAIT ALLOWED

California Department Fish & Game

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  Translation
Catch and Release.
      Translation
Catch and Release.
 

Fishing Showers Lake

As we hike South from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney we will travel across a wide variety of vast drainages containing what seems to be endless webs of rivers, creeks, and lakes.

We will also travel across a wide range of fisheries. Some locations and fisheries are highly restricted, such as the Lahotan Trout in East Carson and related drainages in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.

Other fisheries are problematic remnants of earlier plantings that need to be fished out, to have the planted fish removed. Many of the fisheries in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are unique. Due to their isolation from others of their species, many Sierra trout have evolved unique sub species. Mountain Trout of the High Sierra. Everything up here's special...

Other areas are actively planted with trout, and you have excellent fishing. I say you because I don't fish. I stalk fish with a camera...

What I'm going to do for fishing spots is put a link up to the particular National Forest's Fishing Information for that fishing spot. For Showers Lake that's the Meiss Country Roadless Area in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

I also have transcribed copies of the Fish and Game fishing regulations for Showers Lake that were posted there in 2009. These are the fishing regulations for Showers Lake, and I doubt they will ever loosen up. I'd bet they are more likely to tighten up as water conditions tighten up in the Sierra.

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Fishing
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Fishing

Unfortunately, this link currently leads to no real fishing information. (Since updated to current fishing information) I have hopes it will... Thus I have posted images and transcribed the text of the fishing restrictions posted at Showers Lake, above.

For more and the latest fishing restrictions information call the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit at

(530) 543-2600

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North: Showers Junction to Schneiders Junction                               South: Showers to Meiss Cabin

Showers Lake
Meiss Country Roadless Area

Thoughts on Cool Backpackers,
Seclusion, Sneering Yuppies, and "The Scraper"

Showers Lake was too great of a reward for my slacker 7.8 mile day. Showers Lake offers the best campsites between Echo Summit and Carson Pass.

Actually, Showers Lake offers the best campsites on the Pacific Crest Trail between Lake Aloha (and the string of Lakes South to the Desolation Wilderness boundary, about eight miles North of Echo Summit, to Tamarack Lake, a couple of miles South of Blue Lakes, a span of roughly 28 miles.

These are not the only campsites, but the best sites.

Local Campsites
Showers Lake
is the
Best

There are good campsites in the upper Meiss Meadow, just North of where we begin the climb up to the Carson Gap. There are campsites a bit South of Meiss Cabin, and there are sites near Meiss Lake just a bit to the North of the Meiss Cabin, but offset by about a half mile to the North, where the lake is nestled in up there.
Ah, Meiss Lake's too marshy and full of mosquitoes to qualify as having good sites. Maybe late in the season, after everything dries out.

Further South down the trail there are campsites near the little lakes on the North side of the Forestdale Divide near the headwaters of Forestdale Creek.
There are nice campsites at Lost Lakes, which is located above the Northern Blue Lake about .75 of a mile Northwest of the PCT where it begins climbing the North flank of The Nipple. But they are accessed by a dirt road, so we may have some vehicular company there, depending on our timing.

And, there are campsites South of Blue Lakes at Tamarack Lake, and at the series of lakes South of Tamarack Lake.

But, Showers Lake is still the prettiest place to camp between Lake Aloha and Tamarack Lake on the PCT.

Round Top Lake is even better than Showers Lake, if we are hiking South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. Round Top Lake is 7.9 miles South of our position here at Showers Lake, by the Woods Lake to Winnemucca Lake to Round Top Lake Route.

I could spend the next night at Round Top Lake after camping here at Showers Lake, but only if I wanted to do two short days in a row.

Despite my slacker day and lack of miles, I had a really good day getting to Showers Lake, and no pressing reasons to go any further.

Trails
The Original Social Network
In the 6.8 miles between Echo Summit and Showers Lake I met 7 really cool people. In addition, I picked up over 2000 calories from Randy at Echo Summit, which virtually assured that my food supply would make it from Meeks Bay to Tuolumne Meadows with no worries at all.
That amount of food nearly equals a day off, if managed properly. Peter and Jason turned me on to a fat pouch of tobacco. Mike, the Tahoe Rim badass, cheered me up with his attitude, and just by talking.

All these people were charged up, and were having their best qualities drawn out of them crossing through the beauty of the deep terrain and dense forests in the Southwest Lake Tahoe Basin. Their pleasure added to the charge I got from the terrain itself.

Racing through would diminish the experience.

I arrived at Showers Lake with a few hours left in the day and was well rewarded for my laziness with relaxing views of the afternoon mellowing into twilight over Lake Tahoe with hot chocolate and smokes.

I could have easily watched the same sunset from Round Top, about 9 miles further South, but my social day was well worth the short mileage.

Peter Skaff, of Peter and Jason above, caught some fine images of Showers Lake, including the sunset over Lake Tahoe pictured above, that well captures one of the many faces of sunset from Showers Lake. I featured Peter's fine photographs on this page.

I also enjoyed the company of Steve, pictured above, a Texan who's love of the High Sierras is as big as the state of Texas. Steve was working out sock issues as he put another section of the Tahoe Rim Trail under his belt. Steve was trying to curb some blistering problems with the correct socks for his footwear, and I'll be damned if he was not carrying 8 pairs of socks to find the correct solution.

It's funny, but once we find "solutions," we find the problem changes! Hard feet go soft, and soft feet go hard.

Wide Range of Backpackers
There is a great boulder that sits on the Northern side of Showers Lake overlooking the extent of the Southern Tahoe Basin. Here I met a nice set of couples. I think they were around my age, 50, and they impressed me. Their social circle included wine, the mountains, and athletic recreations with a sophisticated flair.
Nice people, and I was enjoying the company now, while I could. Once we get past the Carson Pass there will be few people on the Pacific Crest Trail to Sonora Pass this late in the season, and even fewer between Sonora Pass and Tuolumne Meadows.
The TYT from Carson Pass to Saint Marys Pass was virtually devoid of hikers when I hiked through a month earlier.

This means that if you are hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail you will not run into many backpackers during mid Summer, once you get past the Carson Pass Management Area.
During late season there will be few if any hikers in Summit City Canyon.

Seclusion
in the
High Sierras

Seclusion in the High Sierras is an expectation. Seclusion on the main High Sierra Nevada Crest Trails is no longer possible for extended, if even short lengths down the Pacific Crest and other main trails during the high Summer backpacking season.

To save ourself some disappointment, we should not expect to find seclusion on the main High Sierra Trails in mid-Summer.

The simple fact is that there are just way too many people in California, and within our country, for Summer seclusion in the High Sierras, or about anywhere. But, the side trails and alternative routes are still relatively quiet, for now.

The Long Distance Hiker
The beautiful Sounds of Silence

Seclusion was not possible when I backpacked between Lake Tahoe (South Upper Truckee Trailhead) and Mount Whitney between July 15 and August 28 of 2009. (Nor the 2012 trip... or the 2006 trip either...)
The main long distance trail along the Sierra Nevada Crest, the Pacific Crest Trail had regular traffic, with generally no more than two or three hours between Northbound PCT and a few other flavors of long distance backpacker. But, off the main trails we can find some seclusion.

In July of 2009, I saw nobody for two full days (in mid-Summer!)on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail between 4th of July Lake to half-way up the Northern flank of Mount Reba.

Likewise between Lake Alpine and Highland Lakes. No One!

Absolutely no on along the Upper Clarks Fork along the TYT from Saint Marys Pass to Clarks Fork Road during 2010. Nobody!

I saw no one from Jack Main Canyon to Stubblefield Canyon during 2012.

Between Iva Bell and the Graveyard Lakes trail junction, on the way down to Vermilion Valley Resort, I saw one person from a distance, during the span of one night and two full days. I waved!

More Degrees of Separation...
These experiences demonstrate that a degree of seclusion can be found even during mid-Summer off the main High Sierra trails, if our route puts us onto the long-distance side trails through the High Sierra.

I think it's real important to have as many days each year as we possibly can when we don't talk or listen to another human, or human created noise. I can run up a bunch of two day silences on the High Sierra side trails during Summer.

As these side-trails off of the main Pacific Crest and John Muir trails compose my personal "standard route" between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney, I know when I head South from Lake Tahoe during Fall that I am going to have a lot of miles and a lot of days with few backpacker encounters.

Summer is only Part of the Year

If we want seclusion during the Summer we will have to explore the side trails. If we really want seclusion we are going to have to backpack out of the Summer season. That's fun.

Develop the skills and gear to survive the possibility of late Fall and early Spring snow storms first. The Sierras are much quieter during late Fall and early Spring than during Summer.
But we've got to be careful. During Spring and Fall we are subject to Late and early Winter storms that will try to surprise us...
We can get up to five days of secluded silence during Spring and Fall, and as much as we want during Wintertime.

Summer Balance

Because my standard routes always go off the main routes onto secluded trails during Summertime, this permits me to enjoy the higher density backpacker areas when I hike through them. Balance is the key.

Here's how I see it: One in a hundred people in the city is civil, let alone social. One in a hundred backpackers is not civil, if not downright social.

So, the more backpackers I meet, the better off I am.

There are exceptions out there. Generally close to the trailheads. People who go deep on a regular basis are almost uniformly cool. Well, there's a bell curve and sweet spot, as with everyone and everything, me included.

No problem. We take the good with the bad. The former can be enjoyed, and we don't stop walking for the latter. Hi and bye!

Sneering
Yuppies searching
for
Meaning

If we want seclusion in the High Sierras, take remote side trails, or learn to backpack through the Winter snows.

Too many people, generally composed of sneering citidiot yuppies wearing new gear near over-popular trailheads dislike meeting people on the trail.
Their basic response is not to look at you when passing on the trail. The worse is sneering while passing. This effect seems to be centered on Mount Whitney, but spreads a thin anti-social veneer up and down the main trails. Let me set you Yuppies straight:
The Pacific Crest Trail between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney is THE SUPERHIGHWAY OF TRAILS. It is full of backpackers from the last drips of the Spring thaw to the first frosts marking the end of the Summer backpacking season. By the first hints of the snows of Fall the trails have long been quiet.

Sneering Yuppies along the main High Sierra trails are projecting their own unreasonable expectations on nature and man, just as they do in their massive cities, and should reassess their perspectives.
Hell, I'm tired of them sneering at me in the nasty cities they created, let alone in the mountains.

Here's a simple trail rule:

Be nice to everyone your encounter.

I do not come to the mountains to get away from people. I am getting away from masses of people, the millions and millions of sneering citiodiot yuppies, flatland fools, and mindless "consumers" that we have created to populate the nasty massive urban mega-centers of population that have spread like a cancer across California during the last few decades.

So all of you sneering yuppies, flatland fools, and nasty "consumers" who think that everyone they see on the trail is an imposition on their experience need to either mellow out, travel the remote side trails, or venture out during Winter if you really want or expect seclusion. Or stay out of the mountains. But I have hope for your lame asses.

Nature is The Scraper

The mountains can cure or kill any bad or misguided spirits, when you take them on their own terms. Backpackers do.
I am certain that the mountains will "scrape" misguided spirits clean of spiritual filth, unreasonable expectations, and bad attitudes.

The mountains square practices away while creating context and perspective. It can be a rough trail.

One of the first things natural exposure does is make us aware of the value of human experience by omission. The second thing it does leads us to the first: It makes us work hard, very hard over many days to put ourselves into isolated places.

This work and isolation creates the separation that can actually reveal your own perspective on the fundamental framework of human meaning and relationships.

From your own perspective.

The harder it tests you, the clearer your perspective becomes.

Until it kills you.
The ultimate end of all lives is death.

That is the "scraper." I'd be damned if sneering yuppies don't come out the other side of the "scraper" as chill hikers. When we put ourselves into nature it will squeeze until meaning flows out, if we like it our not.

I'm curious to see what it squeezes out of you... thus this website with its ubiquitous COMMENTS feature...

But, please don't splash any spiritual negativity on me, as it's being squeezed out of you. Ha ha... and be careful!

Hey, I'm the guy sharing extra food, first aid gear, good words, and accurate observation and analysis of the situation.

Be Nice.

If you don't like seeing people on the trail, don't sneer at them, but rather avoid this "problem" by seeking out the truly secluded side trails. Learn to backpack in Wintertime, when total isolation can be guaranteed by route selection. Learn to travel cross country, where you craft your own routes.

Then maybe you can learn to look people in the eye.

In any case, the physical pollution from massive cities is already too much for man or nature to handle, and both are moving to resolve the error.

Don't carry these bad spirits into the backcountry.

This all sums up neatly:
Be Cool to your fellow backpackers.

They are the ones who will help you out when you sprain an ankle, run out of food, or get totally lost. And you'll be damn glad to see them then!

Let's Hike!

And let's share, reinforce, and protect these experiences by protecting each other's good natures.

Status

My Showers Lake campsite marked my fourth night out of Meeks Bay, though it was only my third full day on the trail, as I started South from Meeks Bay just a bit before sunset on my first day into the mountains.

It's rough hitching to Meeks Bay from the Bay Area!

And, I made little progress today, dallying to soak in the pleasures of backpacker culture and the complex natural terrain around the Southwestern end of the Tahoe Basin.

What a Sweet Day.

7.5 min
Topo Hiking Map

Echo Summit
to
Carson Pass
30 min
Topo Hiking Map
Echo Summit
to
Round Top Lake

Miles and Elevations

Next page South
Showers to Meiss Cabin

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Backpacking Trail Guide

North

Schneiders Junction
to
Showers Junction

Compass.

Backpacking Trail Guide

South

Showers
to
Meiss Cabin

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Segment
Showers Lake

North: Showers Junction to Schneiders Junction                               South: Showers to Meiss Cabin

Trailhead
Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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Frosted Backpack

Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

Your guide to the High Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails

Snug tent after Snow Storm
© Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Crown Jewel of the Pacific Crest Trail