Outside with Charlie: Wildflowers abound

By From page B3 | August 9, 2011


Here we are — the middle of August and the weather is gorgeous. It’s been relatively mild all over, so being outside is wonderful.

The Carson Pass area is arguably one of the premier hiking destinations around here. By itself, it’s stunning and even more coupled with the drive to get there. It’s worth the time to visit any time of year.

Highway 50 is probably the best way to get there. Turn on Highway 89 in Meyers, drive over Luther Pass, and turn right on Highway 88 at Picketts Junction. You’ll find Carson Pass after a short drive through Hope Valley.

You can also take Iron Mountain Road in Pollock Pines and turn left at Highway 88 to get to Carson Pass.

You’ll find two parking areas when you arrive that both require a day use fee of $5. There is an information hut at the Frog Lake, Lake Winnemucca and Round Top Lake trail head staffed by volunteers from the Eldorado National Forest Association.

They are generally knowledgeable about the condition of the trail and surrounding areas. Maps, hats, T-shirts and other goodies are available for purchase.

One of the most fantastic things about hiking in the area of the three lakes is the annual blanket of wildflowers that burst forth each year. Normally, this happens in late June to early July but they’re blooming later this year because of our long winter.

The hike to Frog and Winnemucca isn’t overly strenuous but is steeper from Winnemucca to Round Top Lake. According to recent hikers and the information hut staff, the trail is largely clear of snow but there are still some pretty good snow fields left.

The trail from Winnemucca to Round Top Lake is, however, still covered by quite a bit of snow so be prepared to do some crunching if Round Top is your ultimate destination.

As of Aug. 4, the news is there are wildflowers to see. There was a chance there wouldn’t be any this year — it’s happened a couple of times in the distant past.

Flowers popping up where the snow has melted include monkey flowers, columbine, Sierra lilies, snow flowers, penstemon, shooting stars, corn lilies, mules ear, lupine, phlox, primrose, shooting star, Indian paintbrush and an entire catalog of yellow flowers too numerous to list.

The list is not complete — there’s not enough room in this column to do justice to the banquet of color, texture and visual splendor that pops up.

Because the hiking season is shorter this year, expect the trails to be more crowded. School starts soon so families may be making a last bid to get to the high country.

You’ll need to take a few things — $5 for the day use fee, a camera with plenty of room on the memory card, extra batteries and lots of insect repellent.

Take plenty of water and food — there are no coffee carts. And remember chocolate. No chocolate equals no go for me.

Wear a hat, lots of sunscreen and a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. Dress in layers and leave your cotton clothing home. Hiking poles are good to have, a book on wildflowers is helpful, and include a sketchbook if you like to draw. Last but not least, pack a light rain jacket — just in case.

Have a safe and wonderful day. Stay outside!

Charlie Ferris

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