Sunday, July 23, 2017

Keith's Dome Ridge & Tamarack Lake - 7/17/17

Susie Lake & Waterfall from Keith's Dome Ridge (Dick's Peak above)

Wildflowers on Keith's Dome Bushwhack

Lower Echo Lake from Pacific Crest Trail

Crossing Dam at Echo Chalet
 Keith's Dome is a small rise in the Desolation Wilderness above the Pacific Crest Trail near South Lake Tahoe, California. The views from the Dome and its Ridge are breathtaking as a moderately strenuous group of hikers found out. We started at the Echo Chalet Trailhead located at the end of Echo Lakes Road. Parking is crowded at this time of year but we were there early enough to get a spot in the lot above the chalet. We hiked down the hill then crossed the bridge over the small dam at the bottom end of the Lower Echo Lake. Grab a permit as you go by the kiosk!

Climbing PCT above Lower Echo Lake
 This is the Pacific Crest Trail and it climbs gradually up beside Lower and Upper Echo Lakes. As we continued above several small resort cabins, we saw the water taxi zoom by taking the moderate group of hikers to the other end ... 3 miles.

Moderate Hiking Group taking Water Taxi
 The moderate hikers would then exit the taxi and climb to Tamarack Lake. From there, they hiked back down by the lakes to the trailhead.

Ralston Peak from Lower Echo Lake

Morning Sun on Upper Echo Lake
 The morning sun shone through the clear air and put "fairy sparkles" on the water. The temperature was coolish but warming up fast. A healthy wind was expected a little later. Our group separated with the front hikers wanting to gain the ridge if at all possible. Snow in the higher elevations was still a small nuisance (yes, even in July this year) so we didn't know how far it was feasible to hike.
Pausing near Water Taxi Terminal
 The hikers in the rear of the line were enjoying a great day among the California granite with views at every turn. Soon, we passed the moderate group of hikers as they were taking a rest on their way up to Tamarack Lake.

Starting Another Climb
 It was just before that that we began climbing with the use of more and more granite steps. We stopped for a group photo here. ... minus a few of the front hikers.

Nice View of both Echo Lakes

Into the Desolation Wilderness
After we passed the Upper Echo Lake, we came to the Desolation Wilderness sign. Desolation Wilderness was our "playground" for the week! It is a fantastic area of mountain peaks, rivers and many alpine lakes. Hiking trails run everywhere through this wilderness. Ralston Peak was in our sights from the beginning of the hike and, now, it seemed closer than ever. With a little less snow, we would have made that our destination for the day. So far, no snow, but we knew it was coming.

Granite Landscape
 We climbed the steps and one or two switchbacks then came to the Tamarack Lake Trail junction. The trail signs are made of 8"x8" carved posts. Solid and sturdy! ... and legible!

Stepping Up
 We passed the junction and continued up the PCT. Still happily climbing but well aware of the long distance we were covering.

The Moderate Group on their Way to Tamarack Lake

Dead End at Snowy Meadow
 Finally, we came to a meadow area that was thickly covered with snow patches. Suddenly, the snow patches were covering our trail. To continue or not to continue? That was the question as the front hikers came to a stop and waited for instruction from our fearless coordinator, Lettie. She knew that several hikers really wanted to get that great view of Lake Tahoe so she suggested a bushwhack up to the ridge to the right of the trail. We found out later that this was a named area, Keith's Dome. Our bushwhack led up through a meadow of grass and low brush. Totally doable!

Lettie tells us The Deal
 One by one, the hikers in the group reached a small ridge rise. To our left was Keith's Dome ... which we still didn't know was a named rise. Regardless, we sat atop our little rocky peak and took our break.

Bushwhack up to Keith's Dome Ridge
 Lettie came up and continued over to the other side of the ridge looking for ... well, something. An excited shriek called all of us over!

Break with View of Tahoe & Fallen Leaf Lakes

Mt. Tallac from Keith's Dome Ridge
 On the other side of the small ridge, Mt. Tallac rose across a large canyon. Within that canyon, were Grass Lake, Susie Lake and Half Moon Lake plus the Glen Alpine Trail that connected them. With all the water flowing in the rivers, the waterfall that flowed out of Susie Lake could be seen as a large tall torrent in the far distance. The first photo of the entry shows what we could see. We all took our photos then tired of the high winds and decided to return to the PCT.

Keith's Dome Next Door
 Our bushwhack route down took us right through a large patch of wildflowers, mostly blue lupin. We had already observed a large variety of wildflowers on the trail below.

Bushwhack Descent from Ridge
 BTW, our heads were on a swivel as we watched for bears frolicking in the meadowland off trail.

Tamarack Lake from PCT Above

Short Trail to Tamarack Lake
 On the trail again, we could see Tamarack Lake before we reached the junction. A short trip down to the lake was satisfying then we climbed back up to the PCT. Our hike back to the trailhead was done at a fast pace and about half of the hikers lagged behind. An offer was made for anyone to take the water taxi back but there were no takers. We all wanted to enjoy this scenery to the fullest even if it meant hiking another 3 miles! This was a gorgeous first day of hiking out of South Lake Tahoe.

12 miles; 1900 feet elevation gain; 6 hours

Tamarack Lake & Ralston Peak

Descending through Granite

Heading back down to the Echo Lakes

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