On June 26, 2019, Barbara Higbie and I left Berkeley at 8:30 AM and drove against the heavy commute traffic out to CA Hwy 120 and across the Central Valley. Then we hit Hwy 108 over Sonora Pass. We stopped at the overlook above Donnell Reservoir, which dams the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. It was at capacity from recent snowmelt.
We expected to see more snow, as the winter of 2018-2019 gave the Sierra 160% of average snowfall for the year. But there wasn’t much to speak of until over 9000 feet—then, it lay in thick drifts across the north-facing slopes.
Because of the heavy snowfall, and this relatively early-in-the-year hike, I had searched maps and trekking books for a fairly high-altitude hike that would help us avoid any major stream crossings, which are raging with snowmelt. Neither Barbara nor I had been to the Hoover Wilderness, which is nestled between northern Yosemite and Tahoe on the eastern Sierra slope.
We took the trail toward Roosevelt Lake, but then decided to go to Secret Lake (who can resist a name like that?) instead today. Views of the barren mountains of the eastern Sierra are gorgeous. The wind comes in occasional strong gusts, so we have to make sure our hats are tightly attached to our heads.
Notice the outpost in the valley on this little video? That is the United States Marine Corps Mountain WarfareTraining Center! I didn’t know there was such a thing. It brings the modern outside world into our little backpacking reverie in an unsettling way.
Arriving at Secret Lake there are two other groups sharing the area. We decide to rest, and cook our hot meal of the day, and see where the afternoon would take us. Turns out, not far. We opted for staying put and making camp sometime around 4:00 PM. It’s been a long-enough day.
Good tent sites. The other two groups had moved on, and this beautiful lake nestled amid Jeffrey pine and juniper is all ours. We decided to walk around the lake, and stopped for a swim. The water is cold, but not as cold as last week’s Yuba River swims!
Flowers are everywhere: vermilion penstemon, Mariposa lilies, paintbrush, lupines, tiny white and purple flowers, wild irises. I feel so lucky to be able to do this! Only four hours from home, and the mountains are ours!
Mountain Chickadees calling, “Hey, Laurie!”, Clark’s Nutcrackers calling to each other, crawdads and fish in the lake, the occasional jay commenting on our presence. The wind sounds like a freeway rushing by in the treetops, but down on ground level, it is amazingly calm. The sky is a deep clear blue, with a cloud or two around the edges. It’ll be a cold, dark night full of stars, but right now, I am sitting in the sun, where it’s breezy and open.
A long, slow evening and an early bed. Good night, Barbara. Good night, trees. Good night, critters seen and unseen. We walked a short 5.2 miles, and climbed the equivalent of 83 floors. Feels good to be out in the wide world in my cozy tent, and prone in a warm bag.