Sunday, June 17, 2007

Angora Lake and Echo Peak

Today I got in my first real hike. Mostly in preparation for both the overnight I'm doing this week, and the 4-day hike with my Dad in August. But also, because it was a gorgeous day and I would much rather spend it outside and in nature than cooped up in a coffee shop writing my screenplay.

I woke up around 10am this morning. Rolled out of bed, ate a chocolate muffin and packed up a few things for my hiking trip. I'm all out of bread, so I decided to stop at the store and grab some fruit for my trip. The only fruit that looked good were the plums and cherries, so I picked up a couple plums and a bag of cherries.

After groceries and filling up on gas, I rode over to Fallen Leaf lake. Instead of hugging the lake, I took the rode up towards Angora Lake, which is where Stacey and I hiked a few years back. It is a short mile-long walk up to Lower Angora Lake, then another 1000ft or so to the larger Angora Lake. The place is pretty unique, because it is a hike-in lodging destination. So people rent out these cabins along the two lakes for a week at a time, and get to experience nature, but they also get showers and nice beds. I prefer to just tent-camp and go without a shower for a few days, but I know some people who just won't camp unless there is a shower around--so it is a nice way to get those people outside. They are booked through Summer 2008.

Here is a picture of the first lake, Lower Angora Lake. The cabins aren't too imposing, which is nice. They probably only line 1/10th of the lake at most:

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Lower Angora Lake is a pretty small lake, and although there were a few kayaks around, nobody was swimming in the lake. I was burning up wearing the big, sun-blocking hat Ellen got me, a long-sleeve shirt, and jeans (from the motorcycle ride over). There was a nice, shady tree along the trail by the lower lake, so I took off my jeans, but decided to keep the long-sleeve shirt on for sun protection.

Made my way up to Angora Lake, and I couldn't help but feel a little snobbish in my ways. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I think of "camping" or "hiking" as a trek through the wilderness. No phones, no shelter, water filters, the only food is either food you brought, or food you caught--and lots of switchbacks. At Angora Lake, I'm pretty sure there are phones, there are lots of cabins, there is a gift shop that sells lemonade and food. The gift shop also rents out sea-kayaks for the lake. I just had to tell myself that this wasn't really hiking or camping--it is just chilling in the wilderness. I snapped a few photos at Angora Lake:

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Although I bitch about the Californication of the wilderness, I already knew Angora Lake was like this, because of my previous hike with Stacey. When we went a few years ago, I don't remember anyone else actually being at the lake. I'm not sure if we got there too early in the morning, or if we made the trip sometime other than the summer. But today, the place was absolutely packed. On our trip a few years ago, I remember seeing a sign for a longer hike, but I remember it being a bit longer than we wanted to do at the time. Today, I had all day, and after snapping those pictures at Angora Lake, I went in search of the trail.

I walked around to the south side of the cabins, where I thought I remembered seeing a sign a few years back. There weren't any signs, but I found a trail that looked a bit unkempt compared to the rest of the area, but I decided to take it anyways. It was a crazy trail. It pretty much went straight up the side of the mountain, to Echo Peak, which is the peak looking over Angora Lake. There weren't switchbacks, it was pretty much a climb from trail-marker to trail-marker. They weren't forest-service trail markers, they were hiker-made trail markers--the universal sign for "trail this way!"

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I stopped quite a few times on the hike up, and I wasn't really sure how high up I was going to go. When I was thinking about the hike, I was planning on hitting up Aloha Lakes, which is on the other side of Echo Peak--but I thought there might be a trail around the peak. From the looks of things, I either wasn't on the right trail, or the trail led up and over the peak. I was huffing and puffing climbing straight up the side of the hill, getting blasted by the sun for most of the hike.

The incentive were the amazing views back at Lake Tahoe, which I couldn't get enough of. The higher I climbed, the better the view. After my fourth stop in 30 minutes, I contemplated picking a shady spot to relax and eat my cherries. I gazed up at the peak, which looked a long, long ways away, then asked myself, "When are you going to get another chance to climb this peak?" And it was settled. The peak would be climbed today!

The closer I got to the peak, the more I had to break out my rock-climbing skills. The small, loose rocks and pine needles were replaced by larger rocks, which made for some fun climbing. About 300ft from the summit I remember thinking, "I'm pretty sure my Dad wouldn't like this hike." I had to pull myself up in a few spots, then turn around a lower myself after hitting an impassible rock face.

Here are a few shots from the climb up and the "trail"

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Eventually, I made my way up the tough part, and found an amazingly barren plateau (butte?) at the top of the mountain. Of course, I also found a nice, sandy path I could have taken--but I had lost the path a dozen times, and actually enjoyed the rock-climbing. there were little wild flowers all over the place, and I was a bit confused as to whether or not I was above the tree-line, because there was just one little path of wind-blown trees near the summit. The view from up there was just as amazing as I thought it would be. In one of the pictures below you can actually see four lakes. The closest is Angora Lake, then Lower Angora Lake, then Fallen Leaf Lake, and finally Lake Tahoe. There are even a few snow fields still around up there :)

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Million-dollar views from up there. I wasn't really looking forward to hiking back down the way I came up, so I was hoping to follow a path down the north side of the lake. I lost that trail in about two minutes, and ended up taking just as long hiking down from Echo Peak as it did hiking up. Most of the hike down was spent off-trail scampering from boulder to boulder or sliding down small, loose rocks. I found myself stuck in a weird spot, with a cliff below me, and thick foliage the only way down. That is where I decided to put back on my jeans and tromp through the bushes. There were lots of spiderwebs and ants, which made for a blitzkrieg pace. I felt bad about stomping through nature--I usually try to stay on the trails, but I couldn't FIND the trail 90% of the time! My reward for making it down alive was finding a nalgene out in the middle a big patch of foliage. My guess is that it was left by a skier in the winter, because I couldn't really figure out how it could have gotten there otherwise.

Made it back down to the lake, and was ready to take a dip! I shed my clothes (save my shorts) and walked out into the ice-cold water. Quite a few people were up on the cliffs overlooking the lake, and a few were jumping--so I decided to get my camera (and hat) to snap some photos of the crazies while getting used to the water. For the most part, the people up on the cliff were just looking over the edge, then backing away. A few did jump, and it had to be at least a 60ft drop. They'd hit the water with a THUD. After snapping a few photos and getting tired of waiting, I headed back to the picnic bench and ate the cherries I had forgotten about while up at the peak.

The chipmunks and bluejays were amazingly friendly, and they pretty much took over the picnic table next to me. In the picture below, can you find the second chipmunk??? One chipmunk got interested in the cherries I was eating, and while I was sitting down on the bench, it actually started climbing up my outstretched leg, which got a squeal of laughter from the kids next to me.

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On the way out, I stopped by the little gift shop. I was interested to see how much the sea-kayaks were to rent, for a future outing. I didn't figure that out, because I got side-tracked by some other pretty neat info. I saw a Topo map of the area, and Echo Peak was listed as 8895ft. Angora Lake is at 7400ft, and Lake Tahoe is 6200ft. 1,500ft elevation gain with no real trail is tough! Also, hundreds of people break bones cliff-jumping every summer--just hitting the water. Not touching bottom, not hitting rocks--just the momentum and hitting the water. Ouch!

Jen is leaving us in a few weeks to head back to Mount Shasta for the rest of the summer, so I think we might head over to Angora Lake next Sunday for a little going-away party. I'm bringing a floaty!

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4 Comments:

Blogger katitude said...

nice pics MHG! looks like a great day.

2:17 PM  
Blogger meanhappyguy said...

thanks! can't wait to see your weekend pics as well :)

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i spent many summers at our old cabin located further up from fallen leaf lake. Our cabin was located at lilly lake. lived there every summer. pictures are beautiful bring back memories of untouched by man, where nature still can be viewed, takes away the city blues. I seeking to go back up to tahoe basin on a dime. pack what i need and go. keep up the trails it will keep you young and healthy mental wise and physically, the air is fresher too thanks for the pics. I hope to be up around the Tahoe basin soon-too much city can get one down. thanks again

4:55 PM  
Blogger KatiLuv63 said...

Hello, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing such wonderful photos of your hikes near Lake Tahoe. I was looking for a photo of a lake that my family & I had hiked to a few years ago, but I couldn't remember the name of the one I was thinking of. My Lake Tahoe "Outdoor Family Guide" had a few pictures attached with the descriptions of each hike, but in black and white. I wanted to find the hike that had the water taxi. I couldn't remember or figure out which lake had the cabins all along the edge. It was so beautiful and the little cabins were alone and privately owned. It wasn't lake Angora, but I think the Echo Summit Upper/Lower lakes. I loved the views from the water taxi. The hike was beautiful. You have awesome pictures and your blog is great!!

9:41 PM  

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