Today’s day hike included visiting three new lakes I had never seen before. The lakes were Mirror, Strawberry, and West. These lakes are relatively easy to get to by certain vehicles. I did take a normal truck up to the locked gate and began on foot. However, beyond the gate they recommend off road vehicles with 4 wheel drive. I didn’t mind walking and it proved to be a great peaceful day. Nobody else was out there.
As mentioned, the truck was left at the green gate and I walked up to where most people call Sand Flat. Here the Forest Service signs were still covered from the elements of the past winter. I was going to the left towards the three lakes I planned to visit. The right took visitors to Red and Coyote Lakes. Depending on how much time this one trip would take, maybe I could hit Red up on the way out?
The weather was perfect for a July hike. Nobody was on the trail either, which was nice. I always enjoy the solitude of the forest when I can get it, especially in an easily accessed area. As the road made it ways down to the next junction, there was still some snow drifts. The road was muddy and moist too due to the melting snow. No wonder the gate was still locked as I am sure the erosion vehicles would cumulatively cause would not be good.
I arrived at the first junction where I could go left to Mirror Lake or right to West Lake. I decided to go towards West Lake as it is a gradual uphill climb. I could do some cross country from there going more “downhill” in a counter clockwise direction. As I proceeded towards West Lake, a small lake or large pond was present. The outlet was flowing across the trail. I found some rocks to hop along to get across without getting wet. Snow was still present in some places so once again, good job for keeping the roads closed until they dry out!
The road dipped down a little bit to views of a meadow and a camping area. Nearby was West Lake. I looked on the map for maybe an East, North, or South Lake, but did not see one. Maybe it was named after a person rather than a direction? I am not really sure but the lake was crystal clear and pristine.
Saying goodbye to West Lake, I proceeded further along the road towards Strawberry Lake. This hike was a longer and some uphill was involved. Once again though the road was still wet in some areas, muddy in others, and an occasional snow drift or ponding of water was present. These areas were easy to navigate around too. Also there were no mosquitoes which was wonderful, especially with so much water. At the crest and before the final descent down into Strawberry Lake my phone buzzed with a notification. Apparently you can get AT&T cell service out here. Good to know for safety!
The final approach to Strawberry Lake produced a humming sound in the air. Each step I took towards the lake only allowed the sound to grow louder. What was it? Mosquitoes!! Hundreds, if not thousands, of them were buzzing about over the lake and along the shoreline. I snapped a quick photo of the lake, did my work, and then got out of there as quick as possible. A head net was super helpful along with permethrin treated clothing. However, these guys were hungry and they found any spot of flesh exposed. In this case, I did not have my hiking gloves on nor treated so my hands took the blunt of the feasting. Oh and yes, Sawyer’s Permethrin is amazing and safer then Off or other chemicals treated with DEET. Check it out sometime as it is total worth treating your clothing with it.
Now it was time to hike back up to the crest/ridge top spot where I found cell service. From there, I headed north along the ridge to get to Mirror Lake. It was going to save 2 miles of walking. Plus maybe I would get to see something most people don’t see? Unfortunately that did not happen, but the wildflowers were out on the walk. Paintbrushes were vibrant red and orange colors. The lower growing Monkey Flower and others carpeted some areas. Plus one creek crossing contained a couple of Mallard Ducks. That was pretty cool to see. Soon though I was going to arrive at Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake was pristine. The water was crystal clear. The mosquitoes were not there….well at least they were having a hard time getting to me. There was a constant breeze coming through, which kept them down. Believe me though that they were up and going as soon as there was a break. Just keeping my hands in my pocket proved effective and I didn’t get bit at all. However, it was now time to hike back to the main entrance and see if I had enough time to get another lake into my hike.
There was a steep section of the road I walked up. I was thinking that so far my truck could have handled a lot of this trail. However, I would never have made it down this portion. Actually I may have but would have never been able to get back out. This is what made the road an Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) only route. I could see some of the scrape marks on the rocks where vehicles maybe slipped or were not high enough and scraped the bottom of a vehicle. Yikes!
By the time I arrived at the main junction where I had originally started, it was going to be too late for another lake survey. I decided from there to head back down to the truck. It was still a good day and I was able to see new places within the National Forest. One last neat observation was right near the truck too. A small group of snow flowers were basking in the sun. I usually see one, two, maybe three in a group if I am lucky. Today there were 5 of them in a group and rather good size too. A nice touch to end the day.