Hope you had a happy Fourth of July weekend! (We sure did!) We decided on a relaxed backpacking trip in one of the few wildernesses in the Northern Sierras we hadn't yet visited, Mokelumne Wilderness. On the first and third day of our backpacking trip we hiked to and from Grouse Lake, and during the second day we climbed the nearby Deadwood Peak and enjoyed the beauty of the lake.
Day 1: Trailhead to Grouse Lake (6 mi)
After picking up our permit at the Amador Ranger Station, we made our way to the trailhead. Like all good destinations, the road wasn't paved the whole way; however, this road was relatively tame compared to others we've been on. Once we arrived at the trailhead at Upper Blue Lake, we had a leisurely lunch before getting on our way.
About a mile in, we reached the edge of the wilderness (no snowmobiles allowed!) and soon after we passed a striking unnamed lake. Two miles in we reached Granite Lake. At Granite Lake we saw people wading in the lake, friendly dogs, and, of course, granite.
The unnamed lake along the way
View behind Granite Lake
Enjoying Granite Lake
The first part of the trail feels like a typical forest with a soft trail and a shaded path; however, after we passed Granite Lake, our surroundings started to change. The forest gave way to granite boulders and gravel. The granite and gravel eventually mixed with the alpine meadow below Deadwood Peak as we got close to Grouse Lake.
About five miles in, we finished crossing the alpine meadow and made our way down the valley to Grouse Lake.
Day 2: Grouse Lake to Deadwood Peak (2.9 mi)
Since we had planned the middle day of the trip to be a day of leisure by the lake, we slept in and took our time with breakfast. After eating we decided to climb Deadwood Peak. To get to Deadwood Peak from Grouse Lake, we began climbing back up to the alpine meadow we had crossed the day before. Once we arrived at the alpine meadow, we left the trail and began hiking cross-country towards the peak. Once we arrived at the saddle we continued towards the right as the peak on the left is slightly lower and unnamed. (We named it "Fake Deadwood.") Past the saddle there is a false summit and then the final climb up to the peak. There is no survey marker or register to sign; however, there is a nice rock pile you can sit on.
Final push to the summit, view of Round Top and the Twin Sisters
On our way back to camp we stopped by the spring in the alpine meadow closest to Grouse Lake. After filling up on water, we made our way back to the lake chatting with a ranger near the lake.
View near our alpine spring
After returning to Grouse Lake we prepared lunch and began to play cards. (We like Rummy 500.) Mid-afternoon we decided it was time to soak in the lake. While climbing the peak I had tossed around the idea of using my inflatable pillow as a kickboard. As Bryan pointed out, it was part of the infamous "pack raft" purchase and was designed for water usage, so I went ahead with the plan. While Bryan relaxed on the edge of the lake, I completed what I dubbed my "Tour de Lac." The water was quite refreshing, and the tour was a rousing success. Grouse Lake is nice for swimming since you can get in and out via rocks and the water is pretty clear. We didn't see many mosquitos in the middle of the day; however, there were many electric blue dragonflies mating.
After an early dinner, Bryan decided to go explore the nearby creek while I relaxed at camp. After he returned we enjoyed our pudding at the far end of the lake which had a great view of both "Fake Deadwood" and Deadwood Peak.
Day 3: Grouse Lake to Trailhead (6 mi)
We enjoyed our lakeside oatmeal before making an early (7:30 a.m.) start. It was significantly cloudier out and we didn't need sunglasses until we were in the alpine meadow below Deadwood Peak.
In the meadow below Deadwood Peak we found geological interests like the long thin pink line running through the granite, water to filter, and more. Along the way back to Granite Lake we found more that we had forgotten (deliberately or otherwise) including what we think must have been a sign in the past, the seemingly never-ending down on gravel over granite, and a few non-descript meadows close to Granite Lake.
Admiring the view beyond the "Pink Line"
Filtering Spring Water
When we arrived at Granite Lake we saw a large group leaving and stopped for a snack, but the mosquito population forced us to cut it shorter than we'd have liked.
Everyone's favorite unnamed lake!
When we returned to Upper Blue Lake we found it to be much less crowded than it was at the beginning of the holiday weekend.
While enjoying the wilderness we saw many many varieties of flowers. We enjoyed seeing some standards like the paintbrush; however, we saw some flowers we'd never noticed before. Water was plentiful enough for us to spot them both along the trail and in it. The prettiest flora we saw was in the valley near Grouse Lake; however, flowers were everywhere.
Day 1 (& 3):
Trailhead Elevation: 8182 ft
Elevation Loss: 1370 ft
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1487 ft
Peak Elevation: 9857 ft
Elevation Gain/Loss: 4750 ft
Camping Elevation: 8570 ft
Maximum Elevation: 9857 ft
Grouse Lake was great! It seemed to be a pretty popular destination: on our second night there were at least 10 people camping around the lake. I really enjoyed using my inflatable pillow as a makeshift kickboard but was quite envious of the man we saw swimming laps who brought goggles. The next time we plan to backpack to a lake those will definitely be on the packing list!
On a good day Deadwood Peak has some great views! Compared to other peaks we've done where summiting involves going off-trail, this peak was much less sketchy to climb and descend. There is some scree near the top, but overall it was a great climb. You can also do Deadwood Peak as a long day hike from the Grouse Lake Trailhead. If you do that, there are lots of campgrounds nearby you can camp at.
This is a good destination for drier years like this one. Water is less of a concern as there are three springs in the alpine meadow near Deadwood Peak and the destination is a lake.
+ Beef Jerky and Cheese
+ Dried Pineapple