Royce Peak and Merriam to Steelhead Lake: Bear Lakes Loop Day 6

Royce Peak Southwest Slope
Royce Peak Southwest Slope

The previous day’s early cloud build up had us a bit paranoid about today’s weather so we were up and ready to climb Royce Peak first thing in the morning. It wasn’t a big climb – 2 miles, 2000 feet of gain, and routine class 2. We expected it to take a few hours at a regular pace,and to be back at camp mid-day, long before the typical danger time-frame of afternoon storms. This was us being so smart. I’m sure you can tell where this is going.

Leaving camp around 8:30, the clouds were already starting to build over the ¬†surrounding peaks, but they were light and didn’t concern us. If they built at the expected rate we’d have plenty of time to get up and down the peak. Royce Peak was still under clear skies.

We wandered up the southwest facing slope, one big ramp all the way to the summit. Evidence of wildlife was around – we saw some baby grouse hopping around, and also saw a ‘pika pile’. It is a well-known fact that pikas are the cutest animal in the mountains, looking like some adorable mouse/rabbit hybrid. They spend all summer stockpiling green plants to insulate their den and provide food for the long months they spend under the snow in the winter. We came across a pile of greenery in a dry and non-green pile of talus. It could only have been a pika!

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Jennie Lakes Wilderness

Jennie Lakes Reflection
Jennie Lakes Reflection

Have you ever heard the hypothetical question about a tree falling in the woods? Well, I can confirm that at least a backpacker will hear it. I was snapping a photo of one of the many wildflowers along the trail in Jennie Lakes WIlderness when I heard snapping branches behind me. Thinking it was just other hikers, I turned around to let them by. Instead, a two-foot diameter tree came whomping down across the trail about twenty feet behind me. I definitely heard it, and my heart was thumping for the remainder of the mile and a half back to the trailhead.

It was a pleasant weekend up at Jennie Lakes away from the Bay Area heat. We had some time to scramble up the peak on the backside of the lake and Dave got in a few minutes of fishing (but no fish). Too bad it is so crowded! Photos here: Jennie Lakes