Carson Pass revisited

posted Jul 27, 2019, 8:52 AM by Paul Wagner

P enjoyed his trail crew trip to Carson Pass last week so much that we went back this week to see more of the area.  And while we ran into huge crowds at Carson pass itself, our hikes into Thornburg Canyon and Castle Point were blissfully lonely.  We only saw a few people on the former, and all but two of them were within 500 yards of the trailhead.  And we didn't see another soul on the Castle Point Trail. 

This despite the fact that the trail has the quickest payoff of any trail we've hiked: within about 300 yards
you get a stunning view of the whole Caples Creek Valley, often including the Crystal Range west of Tahoe in the background.  And from there, you wander along the crest of the ridge, looking down over precipitous cliffs, passing by an amazing collection of ancient junipers, and finding terrific views of Thunder Mountain on the other side.  That's great value in the first mile. 

Thornburg Canyon started with a waltz through a cornucopia of flowers for the first half mile, then great views from the top of the ridge. That's the view in the panorama above. And once we went over the ridge, we were alone.  We camped on a bluff above the creek, in the breeze and above most of the mosquitoes.  And we reveled in the sounds of nature--and nary another soul to see.  Or hear.
 

We topped off the trip with a hike to Granite Lake along the Minkalo Trail--one that P had not seen before.  It includes a lovely 40-foot waterfall, two delicious creeks, a few isolated glacial tarns, and Granite Lake itself.  All this in a mile and a half from the trailhead.  In fact, the most complicated part of this hike was finding the trailhead, which is unsigned for much of the route on the narrow roads behind the Kit Carson Lodge.  There were a few hikers at the lake, but there was also plenty of room for us all. 

Meanwhile, back at Carson Pass, there were hundreds of hikers on their way to Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes, in what must have been a very different kind of hiking experience.  The parking lots were so full that cars were idling, waiting for a spot.  And the USFS information office had a full staff of volunteers manning both the inside office and the table outside.  Quite a contrast to what we saw on the trails a bit further afield.
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