Day 3 Matterhorn Canyon to Rodgers Lake



Matterhorn Canyon

4:00 PM  Matterhorn Canyon supplied me with a great night’s sleep. I slept uninterrupted from 8:00 until 1:00 AM, which for a woman of my age is damn good. Then I was so comfy and snug, I didn’t budge until 6:00 AM. We hit the trail at 8:00, expecting the worse up to Benson Pass, but it was like a stroll in the park. And what a park it is! The trail led up a canyon, with granite walls rising thousands of feet above us on either side. the weather was ideal, full of fresh sweet mountain air, cool in the shade and warm in the sun. The trail was empty of people until we got to Wilson Creek, and we saw all sorts of birds and flowers, and a magnificently unconcerned 12-point buck who studied us from across the swale. Eventually, he got bored and went back to eating.


Climbing out of Matterhorn Canyon


Up into the morning sun. 


Bless the trail builders! This one is really artfully constructed.


The canyon walls rose above us


Climbing up from Matterhorn Canyon, we passed through lush forests of fir and ferns.


As we got higher, things got drier.



Above Wilson Creek, we passed through a sunlit meadow.


Such a Japanese-garden esthetic!


Looking back down the trail. 


Trees and other vegetation thinned as we worked our way up to the pass.

Today was as easy as yesterday was hard. We topped Benson Pass by 10:30, and took some time out for a snack and to just enjoy being. Then Smedberg Lake by 11:30.

We heard and saw Clark’s Nutcrackers up on Benson Pass. I have certainly heard enough of them on this trip, but they have always been distant, and these were the first close-up sightings. They are such garrulous critters, and their talking is one of the sounds I look forward to. Makes me know I have arrived!


Looking forward to Volunteer Peak. We will walk around the right-side base of the peak and turn left to climb up and over the shoulder to Rodgers Lake.



I considered turning this clockwise, because it looks just like a human torso, but decided against it. The geologists would probably object. But look at those nice legs!



We walked through little gardens all the way down the path.


We walked across an ancient lakebed, which is slowly becoming a desert.



The fractured granite piles look like the remnants of an ancient stone city.


Barbara heads out across the old lakebed.

Sorry! I couldn’t stop taking photos today. Bear with me, please.


Smedberg Lake was cold and windy. It would have been a great time for a swim, had the weather cooperated.


Filling a water bottle in the lake.


Black and white or color? It hardly made any difference.


The trails are so artful!

IMG_4970IMG_4971IMG_4972After descending Benson Pass, we started seeing people, and counted 20 on the trail today, but there hasn’t been a soul since we took the trail less traveled. There were many long-distance hikers, from Bend and Ashland, OR, and Shasta, and who knows where else. One guy had been hiking for six weeks. He said he had hiked the entire PCT a few years ago, and now he’s just going slow, stopping to fish and enjoy the scenery, actually experiencing the places he raced through before, and resupplying every 75 miles. We asked him if he ate the fish he caught, and he said no, most of the time it was catch-and-release. Then he educated us about the difference in flavor between brook and rainbow trout. I had no idea. Apparently, rainbow is much more “fishy” tasting (I guess that means brook trout must taste like chicken).


We took the left-hand trail.

I prefer a trail like this, where the grass can still grow on it—fewer feet stomping it down. The Pacific Crest Trail was nice, manicured and well-traveled. But I am glad to be turning away from it.


Finally reached the top of the little saddle over to Rodgers Lake.


Barbara showed up a couple of minutes later. The sense of distance (which you can’t really get from these iPhone photos) is pretty heady up here!



Looking at the backside of Volunteer Peak. I had considered scrambling up it, earlier in the day, but I don’t feel the drive to do that anymore. Amazing how a few miles on the trail will wear off the edges…


And ahead of us, what’s over the rise?


Pretty Ranger’s Buttons.


Whoa! It’s Rodgers Lake!


Skunk cabbage meadows lined the trail.


A little vernal pool caught the reflection of Regulation Peak behind it..


We got down to the lake, and stopped to rest for awhile on a granite slab. I love this wide strip of quartz in the middle of this boulder.



It helps to stretch.


Barbara looks happy, as usual.

Now we’re at Rodgers Lake, so of course I can’t get the Jimmie Rodgers song, “Away Out On The Mountain” out of my head. It is so, so, so stunning here.



The views from our granite slab, to the left and the right. Rodgers Lake is huge!



And the views from our preferred smooth rock on the lee side of the lake.

The weather is changing. We could be in for some cold or a storm. We shall see. We met a young woman from Berkeley hiking solo, a gardener named Sequoia. Afterwards, I wondered if that was her “real” name, or a trail name. And what is real, anyway? Met another guy named Megaphone, who really enjoyed talking.


View of the lake from below our campsite. So nice to just sit an be.


Of course, sitting is all very fine and good. But I needed to explore what might be over the hill. Turns out, it’s tomorrow’s first destination: Neal Lake


See the rock in the foreground of the previous photo? Well, it has a crack through it, and inside the crack grows the most beautiful chartreuse lichen.

We have set up camp not too far from the lake, in the leeward side, anticipating some weather blowing in with the wind. It is so very pleasant here. Today was Barbara’s hard day, while I was “the Kid,” effortlessly climbing the ridges. Tomorrow starts our two days of downhill to Pate Valley, and then up the Tuolumne.



I think this lodgepole wishes it were a Joshua tree. It just looks so Mojave to me.


My tent site.


Evening comes to the high country.


Every moment, the light changes.

IMG_5014For some reason, my back is extremely sore today, right in the spot where I fractured two vertebrae in our 1994 car wreck. I am very, very pleased to find out that Barbara gives a great back massage! It helped me so much. Grateful for those strong piano hands!


Alpenglow, as seen from my tent. I was too tuckered out to want to get up and actually get a good shot of it, justifying my immobility by saying it’d be gone by the time I got up (it wouldn’t have been…).

13 miles, and 63 floors climbed, according to my phone. A beautiful day!

2 thoughts on “Day 3 Matterhorn Canyon to Rodgers Lake

  1. Today’s photos had me constantly saying “wow!” or some variation. This seemed to be one of the most interesting areas you have written about. Maybe it’s because I have never been in any of this terrain so everything is new.
    Thanks for giving us this vicarious adventure.


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