I have been to the western most lakes in the Golden Trout Wilderness several times. Maggie Lakes I have visited at least once, if not more, a year for the past 7 years. I have seen slight changes on the landscape. Most of it around the trail and at the disperse camping areas. This trip was different as it was going to be for work. It was a trip to document the water quality, wildlife, and botany surround each lakes. The trip took place August 21 and ended on the August 23. We would hike over 30 miles with most of the work being done on the second day.
The first day was spent hiking 9 miles to our campsite at lower Maggie Lakes. We did have some cloud cover that day along with some light sprinkling for about a minute. The trip there was easy going and we took our time. We met a group of hunters near Maggie Lakes. They were bow hunting and did get one bear earlier in the week, but lower down in elevation. We told them we had not seen any bear or tracks along the way.
Once at camp we set up camp and cleaned up the dispersed camp area a bit. Surveys began in the late afternoon around the lower lake since there was plenty of time and light left. It was absolutely beautiful and quiet. I took some photos of the lake and was surprised when I walked around the lake. The water had dropped another 1 to 2 feet since July. It had been the lowest and driest I had ever seen since I started coming to Maggie Lakes.
Day 2 was our biggest day of getting work done. We started off the morning by surveying the upper and middle Maggie Lakes. The upper lakes were the same as the lower. Water levels were low by about 1 to 2 feet. We finished up our surveys, returned to camp, and prepared for the rest of the day.
Camp was broke down, bags were loaded, and off we went to Frog Lakes. It was only a mile up the trail and within 15 minutes we were there. We set down our bags and proceeded to do surveys. Frog Lakes was also experiencing the same amount of drop in water levels as Maggie Lakes. We then proceeded up to Twin Lakes to set up camp and prepare for cross-country travel.
While cross-country was boulder hoping for most of the way, we did stop to take a group photo looking east down the drainage. Taking the photo was a run without spraining an ankle event, but we did take one. The trek was starting to get too steep after the photo was taken, so we proceeded down the hillside. Within a few moments we were on easier ground and proceeded up the mountain for another 10 minutes.
We arrived at a pass, which was called Windy Gap on older topography maps, and looked down into the North Fork Middle Fork Tule River. Summit Lake could not be seen, but I knew where it resided. We saw old barbwire fence in the trees. I mentioned to the group this area used to be grazed prior to the wilderness designation, so this was old remnants from those days. We snapped another group photo and proceeded south. We could see what was the Upper Peck’s Canyon lake from the pass. A two-minute walk and we were there.
The lake was bone dry. Not a drop of water could be found. This made surveying faster and easier, which was a good thing. Pollen rings were seen on the rocks where the water levels once were that year too. It was getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to be back by 6 PM. We proceeded downhill to the last lake of the day, Lower Peck’s Canyon Lake.
The lower lake wasn’t any different then the upper lake. We all suspected that, but glad we inspected the lake to be sure. Our journey down into the bowl gave way to a nice surprise. We discovered a Pika in the rocks. It reminded me of a larger hamster, but with bigger ears. He was very curious as to who and what we were up to. The guys were able to get better shots of him compared to my camera. The Pika was the exciting find of the day. We documented the Pika and finished up the surveys.
Once surveys were completed we headed back down to Twin Lakes. We stopped at Peck’s Canyon Creek to get some water. We didn’t want to filter stagnant lake water, so the water coming out of the ground was a must. It was cold and refreshing too! We made sure all of our water bottles and reservoirs were full. We then marched up the hill another 5 to 10 minutes to Twin Lakes. We would save the Twin Lakes survey until the next morning. It was time to eat dinner and relax from a long day of hiking.
I was looking forward to the trip back home. Not because I was dying to get back home, but I was going to trek along a portion of trail I never had been on before. This section started at Twin Lakes, climbs up near Sheep Mountain, drops down into the National Park’s Summit Lake, then back into the Forest. Once south of Summit Lake, I had been on the rest of the trial. Thankfully the trail had been redone in some of the rockier sections, which made it easier on the ankles.
Prior to leaving we did survey Twin Lakes. It took longer because it was significantly colder. We were in the shade of the trees during the survey and up to when we left. The hike uphill helped warm us up rather quickly. The trail was easy to find, but needed some maintenance work. We snapped a group photo at the pass/boundary. We took a break and then proceeded down to Summit Lake.
The trek down to the lake was easy-going. The trail was in a lot better condition on the Park side, which was nice. The trail signs were easy to read and on our way we went. We arrived on the north side of the lake, where we set down our packs again and enjoyed the view before leaving. Summit Lake’s water level was also lower than I had seen it from my previous trip.
Our bags were back on us and down the trail we proceeded. Once on the Forest Service side, we entered into a rocky stretch of trail. This is where volunteer trail work had been completed in the past year or two. Big difference on the ankles and feet! The views provided great photo opportunities along the way.
Our trip ended early afternoon. A vehicle was parked there for us and we then drove back down to the office. It was a great three-day work trip.