Another summer hike into the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness was soon at hand. This one I had been coordinating with Jamie. She was going to come as a volunteer to help me with my work on top of being introduced to the Sierra National Forest and Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. Here is our 11 mile adventure!
The day started early around 515 AM. We were going to get up, eat breakfast, and drive up the mountain to get an early start. The day before showed some big thunderheads floating around the Sierra Nevada. An early start was the best and in a couple hours we were making our way down the trail. We did need our mosquito nets right away as there was no breeze to keep them at bay. However, our clothes were treated with Sawyer Permethrin so no bites at all. The hike starts in a Geological Area called the Dinkey Roof Pendant. Users get a quick view into what that looks like by the folds in the rock alongside the trail. This ends rather quickly and we soon had to cross a creek.
A slight uphill to get the blood moving and soon we are hiking on an easy pace. This stretch of the trail is always beautiful from the past few times I have come. The vegetation is lush in green and wildflowers greet people as we pass by. A view of Dinkey Creek is on the left with a small waterfall. Then a slight descent down to the second creek crossing known as Dinkey Creek. The water was the highest I had seen, but the rockers were still protruding above the water line. This allowed for a few hops and a skip to get across.
Shortly pass the crossing one can find the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness sign. We stopped to snag a photo by the sign before proceeding further up the trail. The mosquitoes were trying their best to make breakfast out of us, but no luck for them. We kept moving and enjoyed some of the scenic areas along the way.
One of my favorite spots on the trail is just before the rocky climb up to a flatter stretch of trail. Photos are usually better on the way out because of the angle of sunlight. Here the creek meanders through meadow-like vegetation and a metamorphic mountain sides in the background. A vibrant blue sky tops off the area. Then users hike into the rocky stair-stepper part of the trail, which I called “cobble wobble” for Jaden the previous year. Anyway as we proceeded through both of these area we came to snow. Jamie mentioned how her coworkers did not believe there was still snow in the Sierras. Now she had proof of the snow, which we quickly found out was a giant slab of ice due to the melting and freezing.
Once past our snow patches and open parts of the trail, we eventually came up to our first intersection. At the end of the day we would be coming from the left in the photo above. Right now though we were going to the right towards Mystery Lake. It was an uphill climb that included a couple of creek crossings before arriving at our destination.
This stretch of trail is about 10 to 15 minutes tops. It is not a hard hike at all. Once again the creek crossing was not a problem. A side note, this is the outlet flow from Mystery Lake above us. Once across the trail makes its way along the east side of the creek an opens up into a very beautiful sight. One of the things I told Jamie is from this point on we will see lake after lake and each one, in my opinion, will get better and better. By better I mean for views and photo opportunities.
Our arrival at Mystery Lake began the “awe” and “wow” factors. It was beautiful, the water like glass, and nobody around. I believe this was Jamie’s first visit to a natural lake in the High Sierra. We grabbed the samples we needed, took some photos, grabbed a snack, and then moved on to our next destination; Suede Lake.
Another 0.6 miles of hiking and we would arrive at Suede Lake. The journey there is mostly on flatter ground and through meadows. The trail cuts through a lot of these areas, which means it was flooded. We didn’t walk on the trail but tried to stay near it as much as possible. Some spots were several inches deep in water. Others were long stretches of mud. Photos were great, we chatted and enjoyed the hike before the climb. This was probably going to be the hardest hike of our trip.
The climb up to Suede Lake is not long by any means. It is a steeper climb but a steady pace and your at the top in no time. Along the way I caught something “shimmering” in the light. I went off trail to investigate and discovered yet another birthday balloon. I would go on to find a total of 9 for the whole summer, which is just crazy. I believe at this point it was number 4 or 5 for me. Anyway, I stuffed the trash in my backpack and we continued marching along. Soon we would be greeted to another wonderful view.
Suede Lake is closer to the Three Sisters peaks so it added some depth to our view that morning. The routine of getting some samples, grabbing photos, and enjoying the view for a moment or two was complete. The trail follows in a clockwise direction around the northern side of the lake. We hoped across the flowing outlet, grabbed another photo or two, and made our way to the next lake. First, we needed to do some more uphill hiking.
The trail makes a climb uphill for about 5 minutes. Once at the top it is a nice downhill walk. The birds were chirping now, nobody was around, and the lush green vegetation was beside the trail. We continued to chat for about 20 minutes until our arrival at South Lake. You can see the lake through the trees as the trail makes its descent. This is one of my favorite parts of the hike when you arrive at South Lake. It has great photo opportunities.
The breeze around South Lake was starting to pick up here and there. We didn’t mind though as it kept the mosquitoes away from us. They were starting to thin out a bit. I found myself putting on the net when near the lake, but not having it on as we walked. Once again we did the work and continued east (clockwise) around the lake. Soon we would leave the trail and cut across the forest to another trail. It saves time this way.
Before leaving the trail we needed to cross the outlet flow from South Lake. It was not too difficult to find some larger rocks to hop onto and across. Once across the trail was behind us and it was time to navigate through the forest. Some dispersed camping sites were observed initially, which made sense. We could still see the lake. However, the further we went into the woods the less and less signs of human activities were present. It was a rocky hike so we navigated around boulder fields to open areas and over some down trees. The air was still, buts were pretty much non-existent, and it was peaceful. The only sound I remember is breathing with each step I took.
Our cross country trek through the forest ended at a trail going north and south. Heading north takes you to First Dinkey Lake. We made a right going south towards Second Dinkey Lake. It was a uphill climb, but not very long. The outlet flow from Second Dinkey Lake was on our left. It was flowing quite strong for this time of year. However, the sound of water falling in pools and rocks is peaceful and relaxing. Soon we were at the trail junction that resides on the north side of Second Dinkey Lake.
The log in the lake was still present where River and I sat a couple years back. Instead of being dry up to the lake, there was now water. We decided to grab a timed photo of both of us at the lake before getting to work. It was going to make more of a silhouette of us, but we didn’t care. We grabbed some snacks and soon made our way west towards Island Lake. The clouds were getting darker to the east of us, so we kept watch as we hiked. I had never been to Island Lake so I was excited to check it out.
The trail went west of Second Dinkey Lake. We trekked along and enjoyed it. The trail zigzagged uphill for a bit. It was at this point we saw a mother, son, and dog coming down the trail. They warned us that some “big groups” were at Island Lake and making a lot of noise. We said thank you and wished them a great rest of the day. The trail soon after became not as steep. Views of the Three Sisters were coming into view. The destination was getting closer and closer as was lunch time!
Island Lake was beautiful. The white clouds coming in to cover the blue sky, peaks in the background with snow, and perfectly clear water made the scene almost surreal. This moment was soon interrupted by people on the other side yelling, rolling rocks down the slopes to crash, and other activities. Thankfully it was not consistent, but it did detract from that “wilderness” and “solitude” feeling.
It was time for lunch and we ended up finding a higher spot to sit. Here we had a nice view of the lake, a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes down, and the warmth of the sun. Besides the occasional noise, it was a great spot to sit and ponder. We talked a bit, but most of the time we sat there eating and taking in everything around us. I can see why so many people hike all the way to this lake. Soon lunch was ingested and it was time to get moving.
As we began to pack up, the clouds to the east of us were getting darker. In fact, thunder was rolling through them. The plan was to go to Rock Lake next, but with the darker cloud coming in we decided to head downhill to First Dinkey Lake. On my way down the thunder came in right near us causing me to jolt a bit on the rock. I slipped but quickly caught myself. Later on I would soon discover the sole of my boot ripped off and would be the reason for pain in my leg near the end of our hike. Anyway, the hike down was easy. The rest of the hiking was all downhill to the trailhead.
We were just on the edge of the storm. Thunder kept on letting us know how close it was to us. We occasionally looked east towards the dark clouds. At one point there was an opening in the trees as we approached Dinkey Creek just east of First Dinkey Lake. Here we took photos and videos of the storm moving through. Thunder kept pounding and rumbling. Putting our phones back in our pockets we continued across the creek and found a surprise.
The surprise happened right on the trail. Looking down there was the endangered Yosemite Toad basking in the sun. We spooked him a bit, but I was able to get a close up photo of it. It was the size of a 50 cent coin tops. They do get bigger, but this was a “young one.” It soon crawled its way off the trail and into the nearby vegetation. Following its lead and with a push from the thunder, we moved further down the trail.
The wildflowers were out and alongside the trail as we walked. Views of where we were early that day was to the left (south). A large meadow that precedes First Dinkey Lake was in view. The sun was drying us out a little bit as the rest of the landscape. First Dinkey Lake soon came into view, but I remembered a great spot for photos. Within a few minutes we had arrived.
The shooting stars were everywhere at the photo spot. We carefully walked through them as the bees were buzzing along getting their pollen. There are a couple springs so treading carefully not only for the bees but for sinking into the ground purposes was also required. We ended up taking a lot of photos here. Photos of us at the location as well as the location itself. It was a great “finale” to the lakes we needed to survey that day. The rest of the trek downhill would be along the creek and eventually to the trailhead.
Once we moved past the final lake on our trip, we saw a few more people. There were about two to three small groups. All of them had backpacks to stay overnight somewhere. As we passed the first group there was the sound of a waterfall to our left. We left the trail to go see what it was and sure enough, water was cascading down and along a bedrock outcropping. We grabbed some photos and video before returning.
As we were making our way down the trail, we talked about how the day went by so quickly. We had covered a lot of ground, seen so many lakes, and enjoyed every minute of it. The trail junction to Mystery Lake soon arrived. We looked at the sign remembering just hours ago we were making the right to go to our first lake. It was a bittersweet moment as we continued on down the trail to our vehicles.
The wilderness sign was now behind us and we could see the parking ahead of us. We just needed to cross the creek one more time. However, there was a lot of what looked to be marble off the trail. Deciding we had plenty of time, we headed in that direction to check it out. There was a user created trail there so we followed it. It took us down to Dinkey Creek again. I had never been here before myself so it was all new. We heard the plunging of water in a pool. A waterfall must have been close by and soon we saw it. Quickly, we crossed the creek by building a crossing out of down logs. Once across we took a moment to grab a photo.
There was another use trail heading back towards the vehicles. We followed it and it was well established. There were signs stating the trail was no longer maintained, but I think all the traffic it gets from people exploring the geological area has kept it in good shape. Soon we were back at the vehicle only to get one more surprise before leaving.
We had not seen any wildlife on the entire trek. At least any big “game” as one could put it. With our bags off our backs and eating a final snack we saw a doe moving through the parking area. Nobody was around and she didn’t seem afraid at all. She was rather healthy looking and seemed to be enjoying her stroll. We thought this was a great way to end our day! Now loaded up in the truck we made our way back down the mountain. Before going we looked east once more and saw the storm had “followed” us out to the trailhead. Thankfully we started early and almost completed all the sites we set out that day.