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I had camped in a lonely clearing in the north end of the Eldorado National Forest west of Lake Tahoe, miles from the nearest vehicle or person. I was up early to tackle (what I thought was) an easy peak to be followed by a few others that were more involved. I didn't quite make it to all the peaks I'd planned, but that wasn't all that important - I was just having fun driving the Jeep around on a bunch of forest roads and tagging what peaks I could manage. Though I had a full day, I only tagged three summits today and one of those was a paved drive-up.
I parked the Jeep out of the way and headed out on foot just after 8:30a. The first part of the trail goes through a granite wonderland of polished slabs, boulders and such. Reflectors have been glued to the slabs to mark the route (helpful if one were to try negotiating it at night), though one could follow the darker streaks where oil has soaked into the granite. The size of the boulders encountered suggest 37" tires as a minimum and even that would have me nervous as hell. There was more than one spot where it was obvious someone had cracked an oil pan or differential case - this is the sort of testosterone-fueled, vehicle-destroying madness that some grown men find considerably rewarding and great fun. Though I have no interest in doing so myself, I have to admit it would have been entertaining to watch someone else negotiate these ramparts to hell itself. Sadly, the only other person I saw was pushing an electric bike on the return - no one was driving this part of the Rubicon today.
After that first mile and half, a junction is reached with a more reasonable (but still difficult) road coming in from the west at Wentworth Springs. This was the same road I had started on the previous evening but turned back. Maybe I could have driven this far, but without further research it would probably have been unwise. I hiked the road east to a bridge going over Ellis Creek where a restroom is found at a second junction. Here I left the Rubicon Trail to head north on a gated road that heads off towards Guide Peak. There are actually two gates within a few hundred yards of each other with signs of traffic past the second gate. It looks like I could have made things easier by driving in from the north around the south side of McKinstry Peak, saving me probably five miles of hiking. I'll leave it to some future peakbagger to explore that possibility. I followed the road until I was almost due west of the summit, maybe a third of a mile away, before starting up. Things looked brushy and I had put off leaving the road as long as I thought I might find something better around the next bend. Not finding the brush-free route I'd hoped for, I headed up, easier at first but soon devolving to a brush-fest. Portions of the steep slope were strewn with large boulders and I found myself gravitating towards these, difficult as they were to surmount, as a way to get out of the denser brush. Upon reaching the summit ridge, the going was all rock and little brush, a welcome break. It would take me about 45min from the road to the summit, slow but not unreasonable progress. I found nice views eastward to the Sierra Crest and south to Loon Lake. Devils Peak lies about a mile to the southeast and a bit lower, a bonus peak I'd hoped to do in conjunction with Guide Peak. Alas, the brush looked too much and the distance too far to keep my interest. I did find the descent off the southeast side to a saddle to be better than the ascent route. Still brushy, but not as bad. Once at the saddle, I was able to thread my way through mostly forest back down to the road with only a modest amount of additional brush. After reaching the road, it was a cinch to reverse my route back to the start, the whole outing taking just shy of 3.5 hours.
This page last updated: Thu Oct 8 14:54:38 2020
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