As usual Sarah and I got off of work a bit early and we hit the road around 4:00PM. We sat through traffic all the way to Sacramento and from there it was a hop skip and a jump to Pollock Pines where we took Sly Park Rd. past Jenkinson Lake to the Sly Guard Cabin.
When we pulled up to the cabin just before dark it was still about 80 degrees out; Which was a good thing because earlier on the drive up Sarah realized we forgot to pack blankets or sleeping bags.
There was a DVD player in the cabin so we listened to some tunes and had a few drinks before we turned in for the night.
With all of the curtains drawn in the cabin we were able to sleep in quite a bit. When we got up it was already hot outside, luckily the cabin is situated to be in the shade most of the day and remains much cooler then the outside temperature.
We packed up a day pack and jumped on the mountain bikes. We took a dirt road heading downhill which soon turned to singletrack. The trail then forks and we veered left. I believe the right fork descends steeply to a swimming hole at Sly Park Creek. The left fork goes down a rocky section with some steps and lets out on a dirt road that parallels the creek and heads towards the lake.
The road is hard to follow as countless other logging roads and spur trails intersect from all directions.
There is a series of cylindrical concrete vents for an underground water tunnel along the road that let us know we were on the right track. The dirt road continues to climb and descend eventually leading us to Sly Park Creek and the bottom of the spillway from the lake.
From here we ran into a local on a dirt bike who directed us on the easiest way to get to the lake. We went up a path which connected to the official trail that circles the whole way around the lake. This singletrack goes over a bridge crossing the spillway and up several switchbacks. On the second switchback Sarahs’ flip flop strap broke. Not the best mountain biking shoes to begin with but were now rendered completely useless. Sarah continued to make her way up the hill despite the extremely awkward now floppy flip flop. The trail let us out at one of the dams along the Mormon Emigrant Trail. From here the sun was really beating down on us and our priority was to go swimming. We locked the bikes up and found a nice partially shaded spot along the shoreline to relax and get wet. The water temperature could not have been nicer at about 70 degrees. The views of snow capped Crystal Range in the distance made a nice backdrop for beautiful Jenkinson Lake.
While we were on the shoreline I MacGyvered Sarahs broken flip flop by piercing a hole in the sole and running the strap through it, then tying a knot on the bottom of the sole. It worked great and Sarah was pleased!
We spotted a couple Osprey souring high above us, scouting the waters for fish. After the sun took its toll on us we rode the bikes back along the Mormon Emigrant Trail to Sly Park Rd. and then back to the cabin. Although there is a nice trail that parallels Sly Park Rd. we were beat from the sun and took the easy route on the pavement. The trail that we opted not to take starts 1/3 of a mile past the junction of Sly Park Rd. and Mormon Emigrant Trail and ends at the fire station right across the street from Sly Guard Cabin
The cabin was awesome and a great place to beat the heat. We made some Cuba Libres and prepped our ribs for the BBQ. The backyard has a great horseshoe pit and we took advantage of it.
As the sun dropped in the sky and the temperature cooled to the high 80’s we rode off on our mountain bikes to check out the Cedar Park Trail.
This paved trail loops through a section of forest undergoing U.S. Forest Service fire prevention treatments. These treatments have left sections of the forest completely cleared down to the soil with tractor tracks and house size burn piles the only thing left in their wake. NOT PRETTY! We are all for sustainable forest management and appropriate clearing and control burns to keep forests “healthy”. However, the clearing we saw here seemed to be taken to the extreme. Neither of us had ever seen burn piles so big! Sorry no pics. Nevertheless the trail was still enjoyable to ride. Great for all ages and abilities.
For dinner we BBQ’d some ribs and corn on the cob.
The food was delicious.
While relaxing on the back stoop we heard live country/ folk music coming from across the street at the Environmental Education Center. It was a great vibe to be in the woods and have the gift of live music. After enjoying the music and the calm surroundings of the cabin we went to sleep.
With checkout time at 1:00PM we wanted to get the most out of the cabin. We cooked pancakes for breakfast despite me breaking all but one egg the previous day; We still managed. Sarah enjoyed her morning cuppa on the back porch and I had an iced coffee. Again we rode the Cedar Park Trail this time stopping at the wooden viewing structure for an attempted photo.
We packed up our gear, checked out of the cabin and drove over to the dam at Lake Jenkinson. We found a nice spot in the shade to park the car and use as a base camp. We rode the mountain bikes west along the Mormon Emigrant Trail and across the spillway to the next segment of the lakeshore singletrack. The trail goes through several group camps which are clearly marked NO ENTRANCE on almost every tree. It then snakes back down to the Mormon Emigrant Trail and the lakes’ second dam. After crossing the dam we linked back up with the singletrack which now closely follows the shoreline. This is the undeveloped shoreline that you can access without having to pay a fee at the Jenkinson Lake Recreation Area. Several people had their beach towels and picnics set up along the shoreline. We continued onward to try to find a nice secluded spot of our own.
The trail was really fun and it would be nice to try the whole lake loop in cooler temps. We eventually stopped at a spot with a great view and what seemed to be a decent enough beach/shore for swimming.
As we laid our bikes down, the mosquitoes started to swarm and we realized it might not be such a good spot after all. After several minutes of toughing it out with the mosquitoes we retreated back the way we came.
Once at the car we had lunch in the much needed shade. With good food and great views in front of us we literally had it made in the shade!
We spent the rest of the afternoon sunning and swimming.
Although we brought our inflatable raft we did not feel compelled to put it to use on this trip. Perhaps some time in the future! More of a reason to come back sooner. When it comes to water temperature, this lake is one of the nicest we’ve been to in a sub alpine / Sierra environment. With hiking, biking and water activities at your door Sly Park is a great place to spend the weekend or better yet a whole week.
Without traffic the drive home was a breeze. After passing Sacramento and the thermometer reading over 100 degrees, we were delighted to see that the fog was in as we entered the bay area. Although each vacation is such a treat, sometimes it makes coming home just as enjoyable.
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