This trip was the first trip we'd done in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. It was very pretty! The fall colors were great! And unfortunately, it was the last hike that we'd be able to have in the area with Jason and Patty, who are moving back to Idaho. Sad! We are losing all our backpacking partners! In any case, we had a great time, and the weather was perfect. Cool during the day, and below freezing at night, and super clear for optimum star viewing.
We started out from the highland lakes area and hiked up to Asa Lake, where we ate lunch. It was a pretty little lake with nice clear water, and some pretty nice established campsites nearby. The trail was hard to find above it, though. So we wandered around a bit cross country until we hit it again. It would have been a great place to stop for the night, but we forged on up the hill to a saddle between some peaks. The views were amazing. You could see for miles, and there was a nice cool breeze. You could tell that the breeze sometimes became a bit more than that, because of the gnarled trees up there on the ridge.
So then we dropped down towards Noble Lake and then turned off on the trail towards Bull Lake. Eventually, we cut off the trail, and Steph's new boots were kind of hurting a bit, so she stopped and got her feet together while we navigated our way cross country to Bull Lake. There was no trail there, but nonetheless, we found the lake already inhabited by some fishermen, so we set up in a meadow on the other side and had a nice time. I went back and picked up Stephany and we proceeded back to where Jason and Patty had set up camp. Dinner happened just at sundown, and much amazement was had, since Patty had never had freeze-dried food. Jason had been so impressed with our fare during our Desolation trip that he packed a bunch of them up for our food, and it was super yummy. I am continually amazed at how good those meals have become. I remember eating freeze-dried stew during my boy scout days, and man, it was pretty nasty, though light and fairly nutritious.
The night before, we had driven up to the frighteningly named Mosquito Lake campground and slept in one of the spots there. It was fairly chilly, and Patty's feet never really got warmed up, so I suggested she boil some water and put it in a nalgene bottle, and put it in her sleeping bag down by her feet shortly before she got in to bed. I used that for winter camping a few times, and it was a real treat. It worked quite well for her! Apparently, her feet were so warm that she had to discard the bottle and shed a layer or two! :-) I did the same thing for Steph, since she was afraid that she'd be cold too. We had decided to bring our bivy sacks instead of our tent to save weight and to be able to look at the sky, and she was a bit nervous that we hadn't brought the tent to keep us warm and enable us to zip our bags together, but the hot water bottle worked, and she was cozy warm all night! Once again, the oven prevailed! Because it did get cold that night! It got below freezing enough to freeze a bunch of ice on the creek nearby and cause frost to form on stuff near us, and on the inside of our bivy sacks. But we were all warm, and the stars were AMAZING! Once the moon set, it was absolutely astounding.
So we slept away, and then awoke with the sun. It was cold, and hard to get up because of the cozy warm sleeping bags, but it was quite a pretty morning, so we eventually rolled out of bed and got breakfast going. We then tanked up on water and headed out cross country around the mountain to try to get back home. We eventually found the trail, but we didn't find the cutoff that was supposed to shave a couple of miles off our trail, so we ended up walking the wrong way for a while. This was a fortuitous accident, though, because we went down into a canyon that was filled full of aspens and willow and all sorts of stuff that was showing it's full fall foliage, and it was super super super pretty. We ate lunch there and had a great time!
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a climb back up and out. And the trail was kind of nonexistent for large stretches, possibly because of the cows who obviously were in the area. Ah yes, the cows. They were gone, but their signs were everywhere. Cropped grass. Odd trails that didn't go anywhere, cow pies, etc. Apparently, Kit Carson wrote a clause into the law that created the wilderness area allowing the ranchers who were there the ability to keep using the land. He had it in his mind that they would eventually move away or something and the land would revert totally to wilderness area. But apparently, it got changed, and now pretty much anybody can bring their cows up there to graze. This is quite an exception from the other wilderness areas, and it was a bit annoying always having cow pies everywhere, and the trails obliterated, and fences in odd places. Cows suck. Luckily, it was so pretty that they couldn't mess up too much. And it was past grazing season, so they were gone. :-)
So the hike back turned out to be a bit longer than it had been planned. It was kinda tough. But everybody motored on up and out and back to the car. Wohoo! We kept the pace of 2.1mph while walking, and 1.2mph overall. So we reached the car in plenty of time to make it home, though we did get stuck in some sort of major accident on 205 that we had to bypass on side roads.
The rocks of the area were quite varied in structure. We were expecting a lot more granite type stuff like in the desolation and Yosemite, but it was more metamorphic and volcanic type stuff. Interesting conglomerates and very granular and flaky granite type rocks. Different, but interesting. There were some pretty cool rock formations around because of this. Not the traditional slab granite type things, but more strange eroded columns and cliffs of stuff.
And there were some nice meadows too. Beautiful fall colors all around. Willows and aspen and the grasses were all turning yellow and brown. It was super pretty. Much of the grass had been munched by cows, but it wasn't too annoying. The main problem was that the trails were pretty much wiped out by the cows. We had to wander about a fair amount to try to find the best way back out quite a few times. We ended up doing a fair amount of "off trail" navigation. And one of the people we met on our way back said that they had found a sign that had been purposefully broken by what they believed to be the ranchers to try to discourage people from using the area for backpacking. He thought that this was a common thing in the Sierra, but I hadn't ever seen it before, so I was surprised to hear this.
So aside from chipmunks and some ground squirrels, we didn't see any wildlife at all. We did see deer tracks, and lots of cow evidence, and horse and dog tracks on trail, but it was fairly quiet other than that. We didn't see too many humans either. Just a couple at the trailhead, maybe 6 people on the trail, and a hunter carrying a gun near the trailhead. Oh, and the fishermen at the lake.
So in summary, this is a great place to go in fall. The cows are gone, the weather is cool, the colors are super pretty. It was a nice semi-loop trip with lots of great views and plenty of nifty little lakes and streams around. And it was even more fun with Jason and Patty along. They are super nice people. I'm sad to see them go!!
So here's the map of the route which we took. And my pictures are here.
Back up to backpacking...