Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Snow in the summer: Spaulding Lake area, July 2011

This past weekend we hit the road again. 

Like usual, I-80 east up the hill. 
This time, we decided to stay a little lower in hopes of avoiding lots of snow, 
but still high enough to avoid the valley heat. 

It didn't really work. For the snow, at least. 

Yeah, that's an ice and snow covered lake. In July. Actually, it's Island Lake, a very popular summer destination for short backpacking trips. It's a great swimming lake! Really! I was actually at this lake 2 years ago this month, and it was full of swimmers. This year, folks stayed on shore. 

The snow makes our dogs go crazy! Lots of playing along the way. 
We took I-80 east to Highway 20, and exited westbound on 20 to Bowman Lake road. We left Friday after work, and camped that night near the Carr Lake trailhead (map, also note there is a campground at the trailhead but it can be very busy). On Saturday we hiked out of Carr Lake, past Feeley Lake, Island Lake, and out toward Crooked Lakes. The snow was unbelievable! We were probably on snow maybe 80% or more of the time. Even out in the sun, there was snow--this area must be a cold microclimate because it was definitely unusual. 

Snow in the water...it's like a magnet. 
I'm not actually this cool.
Snow slide zone!
We probably hiked 5-6 miles around the Island Lake area. Mr. Active has spent a lot of time mountain biking in this area, and I've hiked here many times. It's a great destination for Bay Area and Valley folks who want a shorter drive. There are some really cool granite areas you can get to from the Spaulding Lake area! Great for day hikes and backpacking. 

Our unexpected snow day resulted in tired dogs and tired people, as well as sunburns for both of us. 
I'm destined to have horrible tan lines. 

After our hike, we decided to drive out Bowman Road to Bowman Lake 
to see if we could find a nice dispersed campsite even farther into the National forest. 
Don't do this. 
Bowman Lake is a long drive out on a very bumpy road, and it's a dammed lake that fisherman love. We couldn't find any good dispersed camping, so it ended up being a scenic (and long, and bumpy) detour! We even also drove out to Highway 20 and west to Bear Valley to check out camping there...mosquito-city! As Mr. Active says, "It was an adventure. Adventures aren't always fun."
We ended up at a great site near the Yuba River right off Bowman Road. 
We were very happy to be done driving! 

Since we were in the van (with fridge and water heater!) we ate ice cream we had bought the previous night and had hot showers before dinner. Yeah, we are very aware that "camping" with the van is not really camping. :) The van = our vehicle to get us to cool places for outdoor activities. 

Finally at camp and loving the van. Fridge contained: salsa, veggies, ranch dip, and beers...plus tortilla chips and the makings for an amazing dinner!

Carex loves snow. She goes NUTS for hours on end! The result = this. 
For dinner, we broke out our dutch oven (thanks to our Minnesota friends!) 
and made this:

You are jealous. We ate this while camping. And it was ah-mazing. 

Pre-made dough (precooked for a bit in the dutch oven) plus these toppings: tomato paste (sprinkled with garlic powder and oregano), zucchini, sun dried tomatoes, pepperoni, and three kinds of cheese: parmesean + pepper jack + cheddar. 

After a long day of fun, we slept well and the next morning drove a very short distance to a pullout on Bowman Lake road to pick up a trail out past Spaulding Lake. 
The first part of the trail is along the flume that is fed by Fuller Lake (map). We don't know why (with all of this snowy runoff) but the flume was nearly empty.

This hike had NO snow visible 
(and we were so close to our hiking route on Saturday!). 
It looked and felt much more summery. 

We hiked out past Spaulding Lake up Bear River, which feeds the lake. 
This river was NUTS--super high flows. 

We only went out about 4 miles from the trailhead, but if you go farther 
you get into even cooler granite areas. We just didn't have time on Sunday. 
Our turnaround point was in some granite with a neat little pond and lots of wildflowers:

In all, it was a great weekend--even with all of the snow. 
If you want to visit Island Lake area, I'd recommend you wait until August!! 

Coming soon: a post of flower photos taken on this and many other trips. 


  1. This was a pretty crazy snow year, which didn't stop until mid-June. I can still see white peaks on Mt Rose from my upstairs window of my house here in Reno. And I am jealous of the pizza. . .

  2. I am also QUITE jealous of that pizza! And thanks for the tip on Island Lake...I will have to check that place out!

  3. Ack, you're giving away our "secret" sites! :) That area is where we used to always do early season weekend backpack trips (usually to five lakes basin) - I can't believe it's still covered in snow in mid-July!