It's the month of July. In my world that can only mean one thing, It's that time of the year for a special "Don Q" treat in the mountains.
As someone who has spent his entire life having fun in the Great Outdoors doing things such as salt water fishing, fresh water fishing, big game hunting, camping, hiking, four-wheeling, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, horseback riding, white water rafting, etc., wanna guess what is one of my all-time favorite outdoor activities?
You'd never guess in a million years.
And, this is that special time of the year to do it.
About now, you're probably saying, "What in the heck is it?"
Well, to answer your question, "One of my all-time favorite activities in the Great Outdoors is to take a short hike into the nearby High Sierra of California to enjoy an awesome and unforgettable display of wildflowers."
That's right - wildflowers!
Gorgeous, gorgeous wildflowers.
Those wildflowers are currently blooming in the Kit Carson Pass area.
Would you like to enjoy their beauty?
Well, if your answer is "yes," here is what you have to do:
- To reach the wildflowers, take a combination of U.S. 395, Nevada S.R. 88 and California S.R. 88 to the summit of Kit Carson Pass. That's a drive of about 41 miles south from Carson City.
Park in the paved parking area and pay the U.S. Forest Service parking fee.
- Before beginning your hike, be sure to have a light jacket or sweater for variable weather conditions, camera, plenty of color film, lunch, drinks, sunglasses, sun screen and insect repellent. And as a special treat, if you're a fisherman, take your fishing gear.
- Then be prepared to hike an easy two miles on a well-marked trail. That trail is the Winnemucca Lake Trail. The wildflowers are located in a large meadow area, between tiny Frog Lake and large, deep, crystal-clear, ice-cold Winnemucca Lake. That meadow is just past a knoll on your left known as Elephant Back (for obvious reasons).
If you've never been to that area, don't be afraid of being alone. Just follow the hordes of people. On a given Saturday or Sunday, at the height of the wildflower display, you can easily count dozens and dozens of other hikers.
Once you're on the hiking trail, be sure to take it slow and easy. You'll be walking at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. If you're not used to high altitude, it's very easy to quickly run out of air and energy at that altitude. Take plenty of rest breaks and use the spectacular scenery all around you as a good excuse to catch your breath.
Hike from the parking area to the junction of the trail to Frog Lake, a distance of about one mile. Then, just a few hundred yards past that junction, the trail forks again. The left-hand fork leads to Ebbetts Pass (22 miles). The right-hand fork leads to Winnemucca Lake (one mile).
At this location, you'll have Elephant Back on your left, towering, snow-capped Round Top Mountain (the highest point in the Mokelumne Wilderness Area) directly in front of you and Caples Lake, far below, on your right.
- Just before reaching Winnemucca Lake, you'll come to the wildflowers. You can't miss them. They will be in a large area of bright colors: green, white, red, yellow, blue, violet, etc. In that area, you'll see many types of flowers including Mule Ear, Indian Paint Brush, Lupine, Buttercup, etc.
Note: I was there on July 3. The flowers were not quite at full bloom at that time but they were certainly worth the effort. The Mule Ear were particularly beautiful at Frog Lake.
- To enjoy the wildflowers, follow these basic rules of common sense:
1. Stay on the well-marked trail. Don't take shortcuts.
2. Be considerate of other hikers. Don't walk two abreast.
3. If you're a member of a large group, step aside and let smaller groups pass.
4. Step out of the way of the occasional heavily-loaded backpacker.
5. Do not block the trail, while admiring the flowers, when other hikers are trying to pass.
6. Don't set up your camera in the middle of the trail.
7. Don't trample other flowers, while trying to get that one absolutely perfect camera angle.
Note: On July 3, I watched a group of 16 women trample a large area of flowers so they could get the "Perfect Picture."
8. Keep your pet home. If your dog must be with you, have it on a leash.
9. Don't litter.
10. Last and most importantly, enjoy Mother Nature's handiwork and beauty.
- Then as a bonus, when you are done admiring the flowers, take the short hike of about 400 yards to reach the shores of nearby, scenic Winnemucca Lake. It lies at the base of Round Top Mountain.
The lake contains good populations of Eastern brook and Kamloop trout. The "brookies" run up to 13-14 inches and the Kamloops measure up to 18 inches.
If you are a fisherman and you brought your fishing gear, fish the far back side of the lake for the best results. Your best chance of success will be with an inflatable raft or a float tube.
Be advised that shore fishing success is normally very poor.
- Finally, at this time of the year, this area offers something for everyone. That includes gorgeous high-mountain scenery, colorful wildflowers, trout fishing, rafting, float tubing, swimming (if you're brave enough!), day-hiking, picnicking, backpacking, camping, photography and mountain climbing.
How can you go wrong?
So, if you would like a memorable experience, plan to see the beauty of the wildflowers in the Kit Carson Pass area in the near future.
If you go, it will be a treat that you will long remember.
- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't name the next lake past Winnemucca Lake. If he grins and says, "Round Top Lake is just over the next ridge" you had better have the money to cover your loss.