Ski Mountaineering

Grouse Lake, Bear Lake

July 3-5, 2020

Reiner Stenzel

This was a successful family trip over the weekend of the July 4 holiday. We had a group of 10 hikers, two grandparents, four adults and four children, ranging from 8 to 80 ages. Not to forget two dogs. Our daughter Isa organized the trip and picked a fine location with a minimum of driving. The destination were two lakes (Grouse and Bear Lke) in the Stanislaus National Forest, Emigrant Wilderness. It is reached from the Sonora Pass road (Hwy 108) via Pinecrest and a forest road to the Crabtree Trailhead. We were surprised about the many parked cars and hikers, but that was due to the close access and the holiday weekend. We started our hike by midday and reached Grouse Lake after 3 hours of climbing and enjoying the views.

The Grouse Lake had two parts, a large deep one and a smaller lake with lots of waterlilies around the shore. Upon recommendation of a ranger we camped at a plateau above the smaller lake with a beautiful view. But at the evening hour the mosquitoes visited us and we survived with spray, nets, facial masks and finally disappearing in the tents.

In the morning the calm lake was a perfect mirror. Our son went fishing and caught two trouts for breakfast. We discussed the route to Bear Lake. One option was a long loop, another was a cross country shortcut hike. After some concerns the vote was for the latter. Grandma did not yet know what was coming up. We started climbing with full packs over slabs parallel to Lily Creek which should get us to Camp Lake. The notion came up that it was safer to follow closely along the creek. My previous experience was that there is brush and XC hiking is better away from the dense vegetation. But to no avail the group headed down to the creek and experienced the bushwhacking and log crossings. We heard the sound of cows, headed toward them but kept social distancing since they had calves. We knew that where cows are there are cow trails. We followed them, occasionally stepping into their trail markers, and it did not take too long until the cow trails joined the main trail leading to Camp Lake. After a last uphill climb we reached the trail to Bear Lake. Everyone was relieved that the adventurous XC hike was a success. Now the youngest hikers asked how many miles till Bear Lake. The seniors answered always "one" mile which works for a while. Indeed in an hour we reached Bear Lake and happy hour started. The lake was indeed beautiful.

There were many tents and occupants at Bear lake. But we found a reasonable private spot for four tents and our large crew. After setting up the homes the kids wanted to go swimming. There were smooth gentle slabs leading into the lake. Even better, one slab formed an island, a temptation to swim there. It was not too far but still called for watching the kids. The fastest swimmer was the labrador dog. The swimming crew dried in the sun and enjoyed life on the island after our XC hike. Later, Daddy Andreas caught another rainbow trout. We relaxed until dinner time. All at once mosquitoes reappeared and we had to retreat or intoxicate our skin. It was a great day ending with a full moon rise over the lake.

The last day was very warm without wind or any clouds. The trail was supposed to be all downhill but trails, like life, have ups and downs. We enjoyed the many wildflowers near the trail. Early summer shows green meadows, fields of flowers with different colors. We arrived around lunch time, then spread out in three cars and were in about 4 hours in the Bay Area. This trip was a great adventure.

Trip pictures (click for large version):

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