On Wednesday we will be leaving on a backpacking trip that will have us above 10k for six days, so we decided to head to the mountains this past weekend and get in some hiking and sleeping at altitude. Our Saturday goal was to hike the duo of Sonora and Stanislaus peaks, a 12 mile round trip hike with big views, a county high point, and a scrambly summit.

Trip Report

Unfortunately, the Big Meadow Fire in Yosemite quickly put a stop to those plans, as halfway up Sonora Peak (the first one, and only ~2.5 miles in) the smoke began to burn my throat and eyes. Once on the summit, we decided to scrap the remaining hike to Stanislaus Peak and spend the rest of the day at lower elevations doing a decidedly less strenuous activity – fishing.

Smoky view towards Stanislaus from Sonora's slopes

Smoky view towards Stanislaus from Sonora’s slopes

Down near the intersection of 108 and 395 is Kirman Lake, a nutrient-rich lake with supposedly enormous brook and cutthroat trout. From 108 it’s a 3 mile walk along rolling ranch roads, and we took our time on the easy walk so as not to irritate our already smoke weary bodies. Upon arriving at the lake, we were surprised at the shoreline grasses. In retrospect, it makes sense – the nutrients that these grasses provide are what helps the fish grow to such enormous sizes – but we were only prepared to fish from shore and the grasses made this very difficult. Neither of us got so much as a nibble, but we watched two fly fishermen on float tubes pull out some fishies.

Fishing at Kirman Lake

Fishing at Kirman Lake

We left the lake around 6 pm (fishless) and got to enjoy the walk out amid the glowing yellows and greens of the pre-sunset high desert. The smoke in the air only enhanced the colors.

Kirman Lake Sunset

Kirman Lake Sunset

Sunday morning came with a smoke-free sky. We drove up 395 through Walker and grabbed a greasy-spoon breakfast, followed by a visit to the Golden Gate mine ruins. There is still a stamp mill standing, complete with the enormous stamps and ore bin. We explored for a while, but it was getting hot so we drove up Monitor Pass and down to Silver Creek to fish some more. Finally we had some luck – I pulled several rainbows out of the creek, but they were a little small to keep. David got one that was decent sized so we brought it home and he’ll make a good dinner tonight!

Golden Gate Mine mill

Golden Gate Mine mill

On our way down 4 we stopped at the Snowshoe Brewing company in Arnold for a small lunch, then stopped at Twisted Oak winery in the Rubber Chicken National Forest of Vallecito – a must stop! Good wine with a great sense of humor – an experience that can’t be missed.

In retrospect, I really should have saved my lungs from the smoke and stayed home this weekend to catch up a bit on life before my next week long backpack, but as far as I’m concerned any weekend spent in the mountains is a good weekend, smoke or not.

Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Mountain sports addict. Dog Mom. Craft beer drinker. Tech nerd. The best days are those spent above 10k ft. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +


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