Thursday, June 4, 2009

North Canyon Trail

With daily thunderstorms in the forecast, it seems we are getting up and out earlier and earlier for our hikes so as not to get caught in the rain.  That was the case today, but as it turned out the weather forecast was off by a few hours and is now indicating no rain until this evening.

We were at the trailhead by 8 this morning with the intention of hiking along the Marlette Lake trail for a while then turning around.  Marlette Lake is farther than we wanted to hike today, but we thought it would be nice to hike up through North Canyon for a different perspective from the ridge-line views we have been getting.
Backcountry campsite
We parked just off Hwy 28 at the Spooner Lake section of Lake Tahoe State Park.  We were surprised to find a nice lodge here which is used mainly in the winter by snow skiers.  Our trailhead was 0.8 miles from the parking lot down a very well maintained dirt road.  This was a pleasant walk along the edge of a beautiful alpine meadow.  Along the way we passed Spencer’s cabin.  Mr Spencer had been the cowboy caretaker way back in the day when all this land for as far as the eye could see was owned by the lumber company supplying lumber for the gold and silver mines.  Mr. Spencer is gone, of course, but the cabin is maintained by the park service as a shelter for anyone needing a place out of the weather.  Inside is a wood burning stove, a stack of wood and a couple picnic tables.  It would have been a nice place to wait out a thunderstorm.
We started at this beautiful meadow
When we got to the trailhead for Marlette Lake, we found the dirt road to continue on.  By studying the map closely, we discovered the road to parallel the trail.  About 1.5 miles farther down the road was the North Canyon Backcountry Campground.  We wanted to see that so we stayed on the road instead of taking the trail.  The road walk turned out to be a real education.
Lark spur
We noticed numerous piles of cut trees waiting to be burned.  There is an issue with bark beetles here, so we assumed these trees had been cut in an effort to get rid of these little pests.  Soon we came across the work crew.  They were taking down the dead trees, but their primary goal was aspen grove regeneration.  They were also cutting live furs and pines in an effort to thin out the forest to promote aspen growth.

We also learned from this crew that the road is not just a service road for the park.  It is also a biking trail in summer (hikers are welcome) and a cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trail in winter.  That better explained the lodge and Spencer’s cabin with a stack of wood.

We were very surprised at the backcountry campground when we arrived.  We have spent quite a lot of time in the backcountry and this was the nicest campsite we have seen.  The sites were large with picnic tables, metal fire rings, food storage lockers, and all the cut firewood you would ever need (thanks to that work crew, I’m sure).  There was even a standard issue regulation vault toilet.  A trail from the campground led up the hill 1.2 miles to the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Spencer Cabin
We had a short break here then headed back to the parking lot.  On the way we took a side trail to check out the “Wild Cat Cabin”.  I fully expected something like Spencer’s cabin.  Boy, was I wrong.  This little jewel sleeps four, had a 2-burner propane stove, a wood burning stove, and a million dollar view.  I checked on the internet when I got home and learned they rent for $50 per night for 2 adults and they are available year round.
Wildcat Cabin

View from the porch of Wildcat Cabin
I say “they” because there are 2 of them.  Wild Cat was located about 2 miles from the lodge and the parking lot and about one third mile off the dirt road.  The other one is located about a half mile from the lodge and very close to the dirt road.  By reading the sign a little closer we learned that these cabins are being built by the park service from the timber being cut by that work crew we ran into earlier.  It makes me want to take up cross country skiing just to be here in the winter.

Our plan for tomorrow is a little sketchy right now.  It depends on the weather forecast (if you can believe that).

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