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Salt Springs Resevoir

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Salt Springs Resevoir

Postby Hetchy » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:05 pm

Hi all. I found a cool new(to me) spot for hiking. Salt Springs resevoir of hwy 88. It is on the Mokolumne river. Two buddies of mine decided to boat to the back of the res and do some fishing for 3 days last October. I decided to take the trail back and meet them. The place is like a minature hetchhetchy valley. Hiking along the northern shorline I watched my friends and the border collie "lillie" putt away and out of sight.. total silence.
The back of the resevoir is about 5 miles so I set a slow pace.. just taking it in. The trail climbs from the dam I am guessing 500 feet stays there for a mile then desends to just above lake level for the remaining 4 miles. There are a couple of ancient looking foot bridges and one flowing spring along the way (halfway back). That was late october and the spring was flowing good.. I drank it unfiltered.. tasty, clean. I bet the place is raging with snowmelt in springtime. Almost level hiking the rest of the way on a good trail.
At the back of the resevoir I found their camp right along the mouth of the Mokolumne river. Beautiful camping on grassy flats as the resevoir is low in October. They only use the lake for power generation so I was not too stressed about their campsite selection being below the water line and all.. though I would not have chosen it.
The next day we went hiking up canyon along the Mokolumne and there was still the remains of a trail. Overgrown here and there but Lillie had no problems showing the way! They crapped out early but Lillie and I kept on up canyon for 2 more miles. We passed the Blue Hole, a salty spring, and up canyon views from the boulder strewn river bed were memorable. I was continually amazed how Lillie the collie would "orbit" me as we went along even in the heavy brush! I was worried she might get lost and I would have to go back and explain why I did not bring the guys dog back! But she always found me again and gave me a look like "You the one who is lost buddy"!
I only went 3 miles up canyon from the mouth of the Mokolumne but I looks like there might be some really cool offtrail country up there. It is a low elevation, about 4000 feet but I bet April might be as good a time as October was to travel here. Midsummer might be hot as hell but there is that spring at the half way point and of course the resevoir and river, probably good swimming temps then.
The next day I paddled out in the kayak they had towed behind the gas boat. My first time in one of those things. Out on the lake surrounded by the tall white granite cliffs, dodging granite "islands" was epic. I ended up paddling the entire length of the res and back! On the way back I saw the first and only other people of the trip. A group of two couples in two long canoes were casually paddling back, the sounds of a flute being played.. the sunlight a golden yellow.. very surreal and very pleasant. I was trolling a line from the kayak and snagged the trips only fish (for me). It jumped.. "wow" a big one. It jumped again and came off the line... Normally a bummer but here somehow I was glad.. I did not want to be distracted from the scene anyway.
The next day I broke camp, packed the pack and began the hike back.. my friends were still loading the boat so I adopted the snails pace again(hard for me to do). I have to say the hike back was one of the most memorable I have had. Amazing how after having hiked around places way up on the crest, that a place I had overlooked completely, a place at the starting elevation of my other hikes, could capture me so.
I recommend Salt Springs Resevoir off highway 88 to anyone wanting a easygoing hike and or paddle trip. Google it up if you wish but beware there is another place with a similar name called Salt Spring that which I have no idea about.
Cheers y'all Hetchy
You can make more money, but you can't make more time.

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Re: Salt Springs Resevoir

Postby mokelumnekid » Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:35 pm

Great trip report, thanks. One thing the google earth image is good for is showing all the nice clear cuts in the areas to the west. Of course living in Washington state has re-set the bar for me in that regard: big parts of the Olympic Peninsula, the Cascade foothills and a lot of Vancouver Island is a burned-over moonscape.

I've contemplated going all the way from Hermit Valley down the Mok to SSR, and have done a lot of that route, but at some point as you say it is so hot and travel on the north side of the river a real bush-whack, even with the clues that old Monte left there for us I start thinking that the high country sure looks nicer :wink: and turn the treads in an uphill direction.
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