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TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

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TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby ssdivot » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:18 am

I'm a bit hesitant to post trip reports here because compared to what a lot of you folks are doing, my trips seem so trivial. Although to me they are big adventures :D . Also I don't know exactly what constitutes the "high sierra" but don't think where I go really counts ha! But I have so enjoyed reading this forum over the years and seeing the astounding pictures and trip reports that I want to contribute something.

I could only be away for two days this week, so I decided to go back to the Mokelumne Wilderness, this time going in from the north side, from Allen Trailhead, which is off HWY 88 near Silver Lake. I had gone a short way down this trail last year looking for a geocache, but had never been farther. My plan was to go to Long Lake, the destination that I'd intended to go to last week when I entered from the Tanglefoot Trailhead to the south. I didn't make it last week to Long Lake, and guess what, I didn't make it this time either, but I did have a fantastic, beautiful hike! I ended up at Cole Creek Lake which is about a mile short of Long Lake, but was such a nice place that I stayed there. The total distance was 7.2 miles one way, with 1850 feet of elevation gain along the trail going, and 1120 feet of gain coming back out. One reason I like the Tanglefoot trailhead is that it is seldom used and I like solitude. I thought there might be more people coming in from this trailhead near the HWY. But no vehicles were at the trailhead.

The first couple of miles of the hike from Allen Trailhead the trail climbs, through really nice woods and small meadows, with occasional nice vistas to the north of the Silver Lake area and the Crystal Range beyond. After a while you go through a barb wire fence and go down a little bit to a place called Allen Camp. There is an old building here, a nice meadow, and signs that it is private property. The terrain flattens out somewhat for a while. There were a ton of birds and some almost dried up streams with small trickles of water in some spots. After a bit, the trail climbs up again, and you get to the high point at about 4 miles in, on top of Squaw Ridge, at 8600 ft. As soon as you get up to the top of Squaw Ridge you can see for the first time the valley to the south where the trail will take you, and where a few lakes are located. I could see Mokelumne Peak for the first time and the saddle west of Moke Peak where I had come across northbound last week. Really awesome views from this point. There are a couple of historical Markers up here, for a trading post, and apparently this was part of the "Carson Trail" back in the day.

After topping Squaw Ridge the trail drops down gently and enters the Mokelumne Wilderness area. There is a trailhead at this point called Munson Meadow Trailhead. It looked like you'd need a high clearance vehicle to be able to actually drive to this trailhead but I'm not sure. There was a ranger truck parked there. Prior to this point the trail has been in some places open to dirt bikes, but once in the wilderness no motorized vehicles are allowed.

After entering the wilderness, it was one of the most pleasant walks in the woods I've ever had. The trail goes south and gently loses altitude, but so gradually it isn't really noticeable. The lakes are at about 8000 feet elevation, and the first lake that is near the trail is Cole Creek Lake, which is 3.2 miles from the top of Squaw Ridge. The trail goes through woods, across meadows and occasionally up into more open granite with some really amazing views to the east. I think one is looking at the Blue Lakes area looking east across Summit City Creek canyon.

I met a ranger coming up the trail toward me, and he had been camped at Long Lake. He had a partner who apparently had passed without seeing me, because I had gone off trail for awhile to sit on a bluff and have a snack. I talked to him for awhile. This is the first time I've ever seen a ranger out on a trail. He was curious about the trail conditions coming from the south as I did last week, so I felt kind of useful for a change LOL, to be able to tell him that the trail I'd been on last week, which is lightly travelled, was in great shape with no logs having fallen across it during the last winter. The ranger said there were no people camped out down the trail that he knew about.

Shortly thereafter, I got to a junction with a sign pointing to Cole Creek lake, 1/2 mile off the trail, so I went to check it out. It was so beautiful..I really couldn't believe it. And zero people. The lake is clear and clean and deep looking. It would be great for swimming. There were nice flat places to camp with tress that were perfect for my hammock. Man..I could not believe I felt like I had this whole wilderness area to myself. It was probably only two thirty in the afternoon at this point. I was kind of tired though and the area was begging me to set up camp and quickly get into the activity I specialize in....lounging. Seriously I don't know how I do it, pass hours of time just puttering, sitting on the bank watching birds and bugs, or wandering around the perimeter of the lake. I take a Kindle with me in case I need to pass time or get "bored" but it rarely gets used.

When I went to bed it was perfectly calm wind-wise. I did not set up my tarp. I did see a few shooting stars during the night when I'd wake up, leftovers maybe from the recent meteor shower. I did get cold sometime during the night, but it wasn't the usual cold spot, it was just an overall chilliness. When I got up, right before dawn, I noticed there was a slight breeze, and that was probably why I was chilled without my tarp blocking the wind.

I sat on the bank of the lake watching it get light and drinking coffee and eating my breakfast of stove top stuffing (weird I know!). The hike back out was fantastic. I saw no people on the way out. There was some fresh horse manure on the trails near Silver Lake and I wondered where they had gone.

I did not see any bears on this trip but did see a lot of their droppings. I saw way more birds than I usually do, hawks, juncos, hummingbirds,and a brilliantly colored bird that I later found out was a Western Tanager. Lots of chipmunks. And one group of cows who were not happy to see me.

I'll for sure be coming back to this area. For some reason I was just sure that there would be all kinds of people running around on the trails, and this certainly was not the case. There are several other lakes to explore in the area and hopefully next time I will be able to stay for a few days. I'd say its really the best backpacking trip I've had so far, just so so beautiful, both the hike itself and the destination.


Image

Link to more pictures:

https://plus.google.com/photos/114155939630846586999/albums/5911743203399029121



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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby jessegooddog » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:34 am

This is a GREAT trail report! And pictures! And the bird reports, don't get too many of those - did you see white crowned sparrows by any chance? I have yet to see or hear my favorite bird (next to ravens) this summer. Was it hot at this lower elevation during the day? I have been waiting for cooler weather to do a trip somewhere off the Carson Pass.
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby maverick » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:09 pm

Hi Stephanie,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write up your TR and for including pictures.
We appreciate anything Sierra, and beyond, here at HST! Not only is great to read
everybody's different style of writing, but also the great enthusiasm which is conveyed
for the wilderness in each TR to which we can all relate here.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby Vaca Russ » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:16 pm

Stephanie,

Thanks for writing a TR about this area. I can only remember one other report from this area. It was written by Vickster:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9537&p=71444#p71444

I have a real curiuosity about the fishing in the lakes in that region. I believe Cole Creek Lakes were gilnetted so the MYLF has a habitat.

Do you remember the name of the Ranger? Was it Tom Banks? I have run into him in the Moke in the past. He is a pretty good guy.

Thanks,

-Russ
” Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.”- Ernest Hemingway
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:23 pm

Enjoyed your report. I've done some trips into Mokelumne from the other end (Blue Lakes), but I've always kind of wondered about the area you're talking about. Thanks for posting this!
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby ssdivot » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:58 pm

jessegooddog wrote:This is a GREAT trail report! And pictures! And the bird reports, don't get too many of those - did you see white crowned sparrows by any chance? I have yet to see or hear my favorite bird (next to ravens) this summer. Was it hot at this lower elevation during the day? I have been waiting for cooler weather to do a trip somewhere off the Carson Pass.


I'm happy that you found the report interesting. I love looking at birds and trying to identify them but to be honest I don't know the names of very many different kinds. When I do get a good look at one, I try to remember the details of it to identify later. Juncos are easy because they are usually in groups and like to hop around on the ground :) . There were a lot of birds that were small and higher up in the trees to where I couldn't make out details of them. I do know what a white crowned sparrow looks like though, and I didn't see any of them. I need to get a book of birds that is centered on the Sierra to narrow down my identification attempts! I saw some robins, a lot of hummingbirds, a flicker, some kind of hawk, a glimpse of two birds near the hawk that looked like they were black and white?, and the highlight which was the colorful western tanager that landed right beside me when I was sitting at the lake. I didn't know what it was until I got home and was pretty stunned!

It was about 45 at night and I'm not sure how hot it was during the day...probably lower 70's. And probably upper 70's on the second day and back down near Silver Lake. I wasn't sweltering, but it was hot in the sun when going uphill. Going back down it was real dusty on the north side of Squaw Ridge and the wind was coming from behind me and kind of blowing the dust I was kicking up back towards me. I was wearing long pants and had that dust totally coating my legs up to my knees inside my pants. I begin to see more what gaiters are for :lol: . I think it would be even nicer later in the fall or in the early summer when more water was flowing as there were a lot of little creeks that were dried up. On the other hand I had not even one mosquito!
Last edited by ssdivot on Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby lambertiana » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:00 pm

Mokelumne does not get much attention, but really offers some solitude. I've been in through Tanglefoot a couple times, and like it a lot.
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby ssdivot » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:21 pm

Vaca Russ wrote:Stephanie,

Thanks for writing a TR about this area. I can only remember one other report from this area. It was written by Vickster:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9537&p=71444#p71444

I have a real curiuosity about the fishing in the lakes in that region. I believe Cole Creek Lakes were gilnetted so the MYLF has a habitat.

Do you remember the name of the Ranger? Was it Tom Banks? I have run into him in the Moke in the past. He is a pretty good guy.

Thanks,

-Russ


Wow now this post of yours just resulted in quite a google-fest on my part. It took me awhile to figure out what MYLF was. VERY interesting thank you! I am ignorant about fishing, but I was looking for fish in the lake and it was very clear water and I saw no fish. I was wondering because I have a friend who is new to backpacking who mentioned he wouldn't mind fishing. I had read a post somewhere that indicated that Long Lake which is about a mile south of Cole Creek lakes did have fish. Don't remember what the date on that was.

Dang it, I don't remember the Ranger's name. I'm terrible with names. He was a very nice tall lanky fellow with longish hair.
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby venturefar » Sat Aug 17, 2013 6:10 am

Thanks for sharing. I definitely have to get out in the Mokelumne more. Looks like a beautiful place.
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby rlown » Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:41 am

There were a lot of birds that were small and higher up in the trees to where I couldn't make out details of them. I do know what a white crowned sparrow looks like though, and I didn't see any of them. I need to get a book of birds that is centered on the Sierra to narrow down my identification attempts! I saw some robins, a lot of hummingbirds, a flicker, some kind of hawk, a glimpse of two birds near the hawk that looked like they were black and white?, and the highlight which was the colorful western tanager that landed right beside me when I was sitting at the lake. I didn't know what it was until I got home and was pretty stunned!


There is one book you need:

gear 001.jpg


I use it all the time. helps with identification and has color pictures of all species relevant to our area.

russ
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby madeintahoe » Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:19 pm

What a wonderful report..thank you so much...The Mokelumne Wilderness is a very favorite of mine..but I have only been in certain areas...I have heard about the Allen TH...looking at my map I see where you went. It's a beautiful area!

I was in the area on Tuesday hiking Stevens Peak...we saw what we are almost 100% sure a Golden Eagle swoop up about 100 feet feet from us..and an American Kestrel..hovering in the wind in one place and than swoop down into the bushes.......The Western Tanager is beautiful you saw!

Beautiful pictures and report..Thank you!
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Re: TR: Cole Creek Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness

Postby Tollermom » Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:22 pm

Great report. My adventures aren't epic, but there are adventures to me nonetheless. I would like to try this one. Thanks for the detail.
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