Monday, May 30, 2011

Fallen Leaf Lake - Car Camping - 5/2711 - 5/30/11


          Being Friday on Memorial Day weekend we decided to wait until traffic died down before making the journey to Fallen Leaf Lake near South Lake Tahoe. We left a little after 7pm and breezed all the way up without any resistance.
          We pulled into camp and set up at site #94 which I had reserved months in advance. We have stayed at this site before and like it because of its close proximity to the lake as well as the views of an open meadow right from camp. We were glad to see that there was no snow on the ground at camp for the recent storms had us a little worried. We unpacked our food items and put them in the bear box then pounded a couple of cold ones before heading to bed in the back of the 4runner. Typically there is not that much room for sleeping in the back of a 4runner, however, I removed the two back seats and built a platform which extends the leg room by almost a foot.


          We woke up to crystal clear skies which soon faded to overcast. And by mid morning it had started to lightly snow. We assembled our canopy and set up camp best we could.

          After breakfast we hopped on the mountain bikes and set off on the Moraine Trail which leaves right from the campground near site # 75.
          The Moraine trail starts off as a singletrack that parallels Taylor Creek which is known for its spawning salmon in October. It weaves in and out of trees following the creek to the outlet of Fallen Leaf Lake. The snow continued to fall lightly as we pedaled on. From the outlet we rode our bikes across a narrow bridge where the trail turns into doubletrack and heads along the north shore of the Lake.

Bridge Crossing Taylor Creek @ Fallen Leaf Lake Outlet

          The trail leads to an old run down cabin that looks to have been quite the spot back in its prime.

Run Down Cabin Near Trail Junction

          From the cabin we took a brief ride down a dirt road to the lake’s edge. We stumbled upon an old foundation with a picnic table and the decrepit remains of a stove still standing. This section of the shore was greatly wind protected and offered a very tranquil setting. No wonder somebody had chosen this place for their cabin. The snow fell harder and harder and eventually we decided to journey back. Again we got on the bikes and pedaled back with the snow falling in our eyes.

Riding in the Snow & Lovin' It!

          After the ride we relaxed under the canopy and watched the snow continue to fall. We ended up crawling back into bed and taking quite a long nap. There is nothing like a nice nap on vacation!
          We awoke from our nap and the snow was still falling. By that point the snow had started to stick and the meadow and trees were now blanketed.
          Our canopy provided good shelter and I was thoroughly impressed with its design. Although the Kelty Carport Canopy got terrible reviews, I picked one up on clearance and have to say it worked very well. It has the option of being raised up or lowered depending on conditions. The snow kept falling until just before we went to sleep at around midnight.

Base Camp in the Snow


          I crawled out of bed just after 5AM. Sarah lay asleep as I made my way up to Fallen Leaf Lake for sunrise. The tranquility and peacefulness was indescribable. Besides several honking Geese and the thumping of a woodpecker, the only sound was that of the crunching beneath my feet as I walked along the frozen shoreline. Mt. Tallac, cloaked in white, towers above the lake to the north.

Mt. Tallac Looms Above Fallen Leaf Lake at Sunrise

Sunrise Lights the Clouds above Angora Ridge & Fallen Leaf Lake

          As I walked back towards camp I admired the serenity that is obtained with freshly fallen snow in the quite morning hours.

A Flooded Trail Along Camp Road Offers Snowy Reflections

First Light Floods the Sky Above Fallen Leaf Lake Campground

          I then made my way back to camp to wake Sarah and get ready for our day hike along the Rubicon Trail. As we prepared our lunch and ate breakfast it started snowing again. We ended up getting a later start than we had hoped for and pulled out of camp a little after 8am. We drove northwest along Hwy 89 and as we passed the parking lot for Eagle Falls I was surprised to see it completely empty. I decided we must stop as it is rare to have this tourist trap all to ourselves. The top of Lower Eagle Falls is quite possibly one of the most spectacular views in Tahoe.

A Rare Moment of Solitude Atop Eagle Falls

          After enjoying the views from Lower Eagle Falls we took the short half mile hike to see the less spectacular Upper Eagle Falls. This trail is also very popular; therefore it was nice to enjoy in solitude.

Snowy Solitude at Upper Eagle Falls

          Because of the current snow situation we opted to shorten our planned hike a bit and start at the Vikingsholm parking lot as opposed to Calawee Cove at D.L. Bliss State Park. We left our car at the Eagle Falls lot and walked the short distance to the trailhead at the Vikingsholm lot which was also empty. (Click here to read about our hike along the Rubicon Trail.)
          After the hike we returned to camp, passing by the Eagle Falls trailhead which was now jam packed. Back at camp the snow had let up but it was still quite cold. Not your typical Memorial Day weekend weather.
          I took a walk up to the lake while Sarah stayed at camp. As I strolled along the shoreline I was delighted to feel the hot sun beating down on me from time to time.

Angora Peak Beyond Fallen Leaf Lake

          We relaxed at camp for a while before taking a drive to check out Glen Alpine Falls located at the far end of Fallen Leaf Lake. (Click here to read more about our visit to Glen Alpine Falls.)

Glen Alpine Falls

          That evening as we were relaxing at camp, the cloudy sky light up beautifully and part of me had regretted not being up at the lake to fully enjoy it. By the end of the night most of the snow on the ground and in the trees had melted.


          My alarm went off at 5AM and I gathered my gear before hitting the road. With Sarah still asleep in the back of the SUV I drove to Eagle Falls to catch sunrise. (Click here to read more about my Eagle Falls sunrise experience.)

Pre Sunrise at the Top of Eagle Falls

          Eventually I retreated to the car and drove Sarah and I back to camp. We leisurely packed up camp and gazed out on the meadow. Several bright colored Western Tanagers rustled about in the pine trees.

Western Tanager

          We watched a coyote run through the meadow, then cross the camp road before disappearing into the forest. I tracked it a short ways and was able to capture one good image before I lost its trail.

Healthy Coyote

          After packing up camp we headed up to Fallen Leaf Lake to kill some time and let traffic die down. Although the wind was howling, we were able to lie flat on the shore while most of the wind whipped right over our heads. There was enough sun to keep us quite warm and we both dozed off for a short while.
          Later in the afternoon we decided to hit the road and head home. Traffic turned out to be not so bad. I wanted to stop at Bridal Veil Falls along HWY 50 near Pollock Pines, however, when we drove by there was a wedding party taking photos so we passed it by. I will say it was beautiful and full of water for the split second we saw it from the highway.
With little traffic we made it home without incident.

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