Nestled high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 6,400 feet is a gorgeous lake, Loon Lake. Crystal clear water surrounded by forests, granite boulders, and patches of wildflowers. Twenty-eight miles up a windy road takes you off the main highway deep into the Sierra Nevada mountains not far from the Desolation Wilderness. We anticipated meeting a number of fellow kayakers, members of Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK), for a week of paddling, hiking, wildflower hunting, birdwatching, and camaraderie.
We arrived on Sunday evening, June 12, dropping off our boats near the boat ramp and finding campsite 44. We parked, popped the top up on the camper and joined one of our camp buddies, Eoin, who was preparing dinner for our cook group. The next morning, I put my drone in the air to capture a photo of our campsite.
June 13 – Rubicon Trail Hike
Monday we opted to explore the north end of the lake on foot, driving to the Rubicon Trail Staging Area and making our way partly around the lake. The Rubicon Trail is widely recognized as the premiere OHV route in the United States. As hikers, we decided to stay off the jeep trail and try to find a route that was hiker friendly. We ended up off-trail, making our way over bare rock, through thickets of trees and down through a bog. It was spectacular country but slow going as we bushwhacked. After a couple of hours, we managed to cover 2.5 miles.
June 14 – Paddle – North End of Lake
Tuesday morning we were up early to fire up the Dutch Oven and cook a breakfast of mushroom and brie breakfast strada, one of our favorite camping breakfasts. With breakfast out of the way we assembled at the boat ramp. Our route took us along the eastern shore of the lake, noodling along and poking into coves and inlets, passing a small waterfall at one point. We stopped at Pleasant Campground for lunch and then continued exploring the north end of the lake.
With the wind starting to build in the afternoon, we decided to make our way back to our launch point. We covered 10 miles in the five and half hours of our adventure.
June 15 – Paddle – South End of Lake
Having explored much of the north end of the lake, today we explored some of the islands at the south end of the lake, making our way north to a lovely lunch spot on a granite spit. We had fun doing some flatwater rock gardening in a group of rocks. I even managed to get the drone in the air to capture some aerial views, something that I’ve wanted to do for some time, but usually the logistics of paddling take priority over the logistics of flying a drone.
Again, the wind came up after lunch and we made haste back to camp, hugging the shore to avoid the brunt of the wind. We logged 6.9 miles over the course of our paddle.
June 16 – Loon Lake Trail
With two days of paddling behind us it was time for a hike. Our dog Carson had two days in the camper and it was time to give him some off-leash time. We followed the Loon Lake Trail along the east side of the lake, paralleling the route we had paddled two days before. This hike took us through some lovely forests, through glens of freshly sprouted bracken fern, over sections of bare granite rock with occasional views of the lake.
We stopped for lunch just shy of Pleasant Campground on a slab of granite with a view of the lake. There we watched the white caps on the lake and were glad we had done our paddling earlier in the week. We admired many wildflowers along the trail and covered 7.3 miles.
Please view more photos of the trip in an online gallery.