Outside with Charlie: Two fine Autumn hikes

By From page A9 | September 28, 2012


Summer faded out rather graciously, with a soft and colorful sunset. Autumn has whispered in right on time and brought with it beautiful hiking weather.

The days will get a bit shorter each day and the light will change. With some luck, the high country will show reds, golds, and yellows soon.

Here are two fine hikes for autumn for just about any level of back country traveler. Eagle Falls is just a short trip up US Highway 50 to South Lake Tahoe. Located on Highway 89, above Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, the hike is gentle and the rewards are great. This hike requires a wilderness day permit, which is free and available at the trailhead.

There are two falls here. The lower falls are on the Emerald Bay side of the road. The upper falls, and Eagle Lake, are on the opposite side.

Start the hike at the trailhead. Very shortly you will come to a set of steps, a bit steep, but very easy to navigate. After that, the trail is a gently rising forest trail that will take you to a bridge over the stream that feeds the falls. Make sure that you take the time to look back, as the view to Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe is a big part of this hike.

Continue on for a short bit and Eagle Lake will greet you. It is a fine place to sit and enjoy nature at its finest. The entire round trip, if you go to Eagle Lake, is 1.6 miles.

For more of a trek, Thunder Mountain, off of Highway 88, is a gold-plated autumn hike. The trailhead is located just a stone’s throw from Carson Spur, just about 1.7 miles past Kirkwood, on the south side of Highway 88.

This hike is easily tailored to the time you have. Start at the Thunder Mountain trailhead, and enjoy a gentle uphill that will take you past some very large granite rocks and lava outcroppings. Continue hiking and soon you will be on a ridge above Kirkwood. You have hiked out of the forest cover and from now until you reach the peak, you are in the open.

If your day is a short one, anywhere along here is a good place to stop and head back. Choosing to go on puts you in the exposed lava that forms Thunder Mountain. At 3.6 miles you will be at the summit, 9410 feet. The views from here are remarkable. Silver Lake is spread out before you to the west, and numerous mountain peaks surround your view.

Find a spot in the lava to sit and enjoy lunch.

Hiking in the fall is a bit different from the long days of summer. As autumn deepens, the days grow shorter, cooler, and the possibility of storms is more present. Back country travelers have to remember that, once out on the trail, you are on your own.

Take more than enough food and water. An up-to-date first aid kit, compass, sunscreen, hat, and bug spray should be in your pack. Leave your wonderful cotton clothing at home. Dress in synthetic gear, and layer up. A rain jacket should go with you as well. The temperatures can vary. Take a map with you. Keep in mind that your cell phone and GPS may or may not work out in the mountains.

Enjoy your time outside. Autumn hiking offers wonderful memories for those who take full advantage of it.

Charlie Ferris

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