TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
Post Reply
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1550
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Contact:

TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by windknot » Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:28 pm

For a quick overnighter to a popular low-elevation area of the Sierra, the planning of this trip involved more than a bit of intrigue. I wasn't sure that this trip was going to work until two days before. The Sierra National Forest Facebook page said that the Dinkey Lakes were inaccessible due to snow. The main Dinkey Lakes trailhead couldn't be driven to, though I was told one could drive to "5-6 miles from the trailhead." The road to Courtright was open, but the last few miles to the Cliff Lake trailhead were said to be closed. I was tracking snow levels using satellite map layers fanatically, refreshing the Conditions section of this forum as often as possible, and pestering the poor folks at the High Sierra Ranger District station as often as I thought they had new information.

The latest high res satellite image on 7/1 showed things looking up: Bullfrog Lake was ice-free, and the road from the Courtright dam to the Cliff Lake trailhead looked snow-free too. I was still worried about the Nelson Creek crossing, especially as one person in our group wasn't a very experienced backpacker. But then on July 3 Mav re-posted a conditions update from someone who had just been in the area and who confirmed that there was a crossing 100 yards upstream of Nelson Creek that was only knee-deep. We were good to go.

The Clovis FS headquarters was closed on July 4 for the holiday, so I made the drive up to Prather to pick up our walk-in permits for July 5 when the office opened at 8:00am. We got there a few minutes late, and there were already 4 parties in front of me. I tried my hardest to eavesdrop on their conversations to ascertain whether or not I'd be able to snag my permits -- I needed 5 of the 8 available. 20 minutes later I got to the front, picked up the permit, and headed back to enjoy the rest of my 4th.

Image

On Friday morning, we fueled up in Sanger and drove up to Courtright. I haven't driven past the Dinkey Road turnoff in over 15 years, so it was a fun drive peering around every corner trying to reacquaint myself with my surroundings. We got to the Cliff Lake trailhead after 2.5 hours, surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot, and geared up. Mosquitoes were about a 2-3.

The hike down to Nelson Creek was straightforward and thankfully downhill. This was our first backpack of the season, so in good hiking shape we were not. Upon arriving at the creek, we turned upstream and, just as expected, a much more mellow section appeared in about 100 yards. We forded and none of our oxen died. The water was cold as snow. The first two seconds were pleasant, the next three were tolerable, and then the following 5 were highly uncomfortable. Had the crossing taken longer than 10 seconds, who knows how I'd describe it. I'd been reading all of the cautionary threads on HST about stream crossings and the much more significant danger posed by water than by snow, so the risk was very present in my mind.

The rest of the hike up to Cliff Lake was snow-free and iffy stream crossing-free. I'd never hiked this trail before, so I was surprised by how gradual it is. There were a handful of groups coming back down, and we passed a few groups going up. Once we hit the Cliff Lake turnoff, we veered off-trail a bit and hooked up with the unmaintained trail to Bullfrog. We had the lake to ourselves (saw several folks going to/coming from Cliff) so we took our time and found a good well-used campsite on the northeast corner and set up camp there.

Image

I stopped to fish a bit and the rest of my party decided to spend the afternoon relaxing around the lake, but I had designs on further exploration so I headed out to check out the rest of the Dinkey Lakes. Up to Rock Pass was snow-free, but on the north side of the pass the trail disappeared in snow. I continued down to Rock, where the lake was about 1/4 frozen. My goal was to visit Island so I was tempted to head directly there (SW of Rock), but the slope was covered in a solid snow field with a steep gradient so I thought better of it and headed the long way around Rock. Once I was due W of Rock I headed straight toward Island, crossing several more snow fields until I topped out on the small cliffs above Island's eastern shore.

Image

Island was still about 75% covered in ice, with most open water on the southwest corner and western fringe. I circumnavigated the lake clockwise, hopping across the one narrow part of the swollen inlet creek, and trying a bit of fishing. No luck, though a few people camped at the lake told me they saw a fish. I headed back around 6:30pm and got back to Bullfrog an hour later, in time for a hearty dinner and drinks at camp. Mosquitoes were present but not bad at all -- I imagine they'll be much worse very soon.

The next morning we hiked up to the top of Dogtooth Peak. We initially headed up along the path toward Rock Pass, but once atop the ridge we took the more direct path north/northeast and found easy walking up to the top. Only the final 20 feet or so required the use of both hands, and we enjoyed great 360 degree views.

Image

We took the direct route due south back to camp, where we packed up and headed out after eating an early lunch. 2 hours later we were back at the Nelson Creek crossing, and shortly after that we were back at the truck. Not a whole lot to report, but it was a great first backpack of the year and a useful warmup for longer trips later in the season.
Last edited by windknot on Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.


You can read a few backcountry reports here: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/






User avatar
sekihiker
Founding Member
Posts: 587
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:47 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Fresno
Contact:

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by sekihiker » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:08 pm

Thanks for sharing this. I'll be heading back to this area to continue my botany survey and it's nice to see the snow is melting nicely.

User avatar
davidsheridan
Topix Regular
Posts: 168
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2014 2:56 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by davidsheridan » Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:39 am

Thanks for posting the nice TR. Sounds like a great first trip of the year. Any other trips planned? How are the fishing prospects back there? My friend is looking for a West side trip with good fishing, looking for good catch rate, not concerned about size. Thanks again. BTW, I couldn't view your pictures, but that might be user-error on my part.

User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1550
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Contact:

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by windknot » Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:22 am

I only have one more trip planned in the Sierra for next month (not entirely sure where yet -- I'm in the process of recalibrating due to snow levels) but I'm hoping to do more exploring up here in the Washington Cascades.

In several trips to the Dinkeys I've found fishing to be pretty consistently good, but I struck out on this trip -- didn't even see a fish! First Dinkey, Rock, Cliff, and Little are great for lots of brookies (a bit bigger in Little than in First or Rock). Mystery, Swede, and South can have fast action too (rainbows) though I haven't fished them in a while. Bullfrog is very hit or miss for rainbows, and Island is hit or miss for goldens. Never seen a fish in Second Dinkey, but CDFW has stocked it with rainbows a few times in the past 20 years. This is a good area for folks who want to find a good catch rate (this trip notwithstanding) because there are so many lakes near each other that it's pretty easy to move on to the next one if they're not biting in the first.

Odd about the photos, they show up fine for me. Not sure if this is because they're on Google Photos and so I can see them because they're mine/I'm logged in. If anyone else can't view the photos, let me know and I'll re-attach them once I host them elsewhere.
You can read a few backcountry reports here: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/

User avatar
rlown
Topix Docent
Posts: 7298
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Petaluma, CA

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by rlown » Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:24 am

Nice TR. As for the pictures, you need to make the pictures/album public.

User avatar
davidsheridan
Topix Regular
Posts: 168
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2014 2:56 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by davidsheridan » Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:31 pm

I can see the pictures now. Thanks for the beta on the fishing in dinkey lakes! I didn't remember that you're up in Washington, exploring the Cascades! I will be up on Mount Baker later this month. I was planning on doing the Coleman Deming route, but I understand there's a problematic crevasse in this route... So I'm looking at the Easton glacier now. Please PM me with other Cascade recommendations., I did a solo trip on the Devil's Dome loop in 2015, and literally only escaped within minutes/hours of being consumed by wildfire. That is an area that I have a strong fascination with and want to explore, my wife is Canadian, and we fly from Seattle to the Okanagan Valley, going over the Cascades at least once a year. I am always wanting a window seat for that flight! See you on the trail wildknot

User avatar
robertseeburger
Topix Regular
Posts: 205
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:53 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: San Mateo Ca

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by robertseeburger » Sun Jul 14, 2019 3:46 pm

Nice TR. Amazed that lake is frozen in July at this low elevation...
Every time I think I get how much snow there is.. I find out there is more.

User avatar
brianA
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2016 4:04 pm
Experience: Level 2 Backpacker

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by brianA » Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:06 am

Never been, but have always been fascinated by Dogtooth. Thanks for including that pic.

User avatar
freestone
Topix Expert
Posts: 800
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:42 pm
Experience: Level 1 Hiker
Location: Santa Barbara
Contact:

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by freestone » Mon Jul 15, 2019 9:56 am

Windknot, thanks for the report and always good to read of your travels. After reading several recent early season, after ice out, fishing reports, I am getting the impression that trout are either gouging on larva close to the bottom or just very sluggish but either way, not interested in feeding on or near the surface. Maybe the water is still too cold and has not had a chance to support a good hatch yet?
Fram...

User avatar
bbayley80
Topix Regular
Posts: 106
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 5:46 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker
Location: Fresno, CA

Re: TR: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, 7/5-7/6

Post by bbayley80 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 12:37 pm

Windknot.
thanks for the great beta and TR-good to see the snow/ice is starting to let go of its grip out there! that hike out to Island is one of my favorite day hikes in the area. stoked you got out there!

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot], Pulpit and 4 guests