Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Freel Peak - August 2016

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We were back to our old ways. School has started. The weekends call.
"Can we go somewhere this weekend?" the Lady asked.
"Sure," was my easy answer.
"Where?" she quickly asked.
She knows I usually have something up my sleeve. I suggested Freel Peak, the highest peak in the Lake Tahoe Basin. As many years as we've lived here, we have not been up on Freel. We'd get to it someday.
"I believe we can find a dispersed camp site on the back side, off of highway 89 above Hope Valley," I continued. "Let's leave late Friday afternoon. The drive should be around an hour."

We enjoyed dinner at Kirkwood Inn. in the early evening. The place was quiet, relaxed, and filled with the simple charm of an old log building. A short while later camp was set up above the unsigned trailhead to Armstrong Pass.

For our evening walk we climbed up to Armstrong Pass and headed east on the Tahoe RimTrail. The last light swept across the granite. Western White Pines, Red Firs, and Junipers dotted the high arid slopes.

It was the Lady's idea of a perfect evening. Mine too.

Saturday morning we retraced our Friday evening's walk and continued on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

The peaks of Desolation Wilderness - many of them familiar ski summits for us - rose up to the west of Lake Tahoe.


After a few miles, the trail tops out on a pass on Freel's north ridge.

Massive Lake Tahoe stretched out to the north.

A short spur trail leads to Freel Peak.

It switch backs up the ridge and offers wonderful views.

It works along the edge of the glacial cirque on Freel's north slopes.

It is an easy hike to the summit.

Lake Tahoe Draba is a  rare plant that only grows in a few scattered places around Tahoe.

We soon were on the summit of Freel Peak, 10,881 feet.

The view to the east into Nevada was dominated by two mountain tops, Jobs Sister (second highest in the Tahoe Basin at 10,823 feet) on the left and Jobs Peak (fourth highest at 10,630 feet) on the right.

With her see mores, the Lady quickly spotted 6 people on the summit of Jobs Sister. She also noted the well worn use trail. "We can go to the top of Jobs Sister too today!" the Lady exclaimed. "I bet we can find a way down from there back to camp. We can do two peaks today!"

It is a steep drop down to the saddle between Freel and Jobs Sister.

Besides the vast panorama surrounding us.............................

..................there were also wildflowers at our feet.

The Lady was unstoppable.

In short order we were on the summit of Jobs Sister. The Lady looked back at Freel with Desolation Wilderness' Crystal Range behind.

The view of Lake Tahoe is better from the top of Jobs Sister.

As on Freel Peak, we were alone on Jobs Sister. We stretched out and enjoyed the views. Here is Hope Valley and Freel Peak.

Jobs Peak was to our east.

The six people (2 groups of 3) we had seen on the summit earlier were below us, dropping steeply down to the saddle between Jobs Sister and Jobs Peak. This did not go unnoticed by the Lady. She scanned the terrain with her see mores, once again spotted a use trail.
"I bet they are heading over to Jobs Peak," the Lady said while scanning. "We have time. We can go over to the top of Jobs Peak and do all three peaks today!"

We snacked, drank water, took in the vistas, and I contemplated my fate. I was brought back to reality when the Lady called out, "Hi!" We were no longer alone.

It was fun to watch him dance in the sky and play in the updrafts.

It is a serious drop down to the saddle between Jobs Sister and Jobs, 1000 vertical feet in very short order.

It does the heart good to have a "top of the world" outlook all day long. Nevada's Carson River Valley stretched out below us.

We reached the saddle and then had the final "up" to Jobs Peak ahead.

It was somewhere along here that it happened. I knew the Lady would figure it out.
"You knew all along we were going to do all three peaks today!" she turned to me and said.
I smiled. "I knew as soon as you saw all the peaks lined up you would not be able to resist. It's the Tahoe Trifecta, bagging all three in a day. I thought it'd make a nice surprise for you."

We caught up with the groups ahead  on the top of Jobs. We scrambled up to the summit rocks to give the others space and to give ourselves some. We took a long break, watched everyone else leave, and we had the summit to ourselves.

The other two summits and Lake Tahoe were to our northwest.

Carson Valley and Nevada was below to the east.

The Lady loves summit registers. Jobs Peak's is in a mailbox.

The trail home stretched out before us.

Our camp was far below us in Horse Meadows. We had no reason to hurry. "Would we rather be here or back at camp?"

We live close to Lake Tahoe and we tend to stay away from our area during summer because of the heavy use. Our local National Forests are now - within the management guide lines of the USFS - designated as "Urban Forests" meaning that they are close to and used by major population centers.

Maybe we should have stayed away this weekend.

We just wanted to do this simple day hike, summit three peaks. Our access was out of Hope Valley on the dirt USFS Willow Creek Road on the Toiyabe National Forest. As I said, we found a nice useable campsite about a half mile above the Armstrong Pass trailhead early Friday evening. We'd start the hike from there and relax after completing the hike Saturday afternoon and spend another night. The road continues up past our campsite.

Our hike route was a circle and our route back took us back down the road above our camp. At the end of a spur road was a group of young people with tents and an ez-up, cases of beer, smoking cigarettes (fire restrictions prohibit smoking outside a vehicle with the windows up), and some young people over playing in the shallow creek. The Lady, the middle school teacher,  estimated their age around 16. No vehicle was parked. They had been dropped off, to hold the area maybe? This was approximately .75 mile above us.

Vehicles started driving in shortly after our return to our camper. The first group was 6 including pickups loaded with tables and equipment, not the usual camping stuff piled in the back of a pickup. The vehicles continued coming in. There were some very nice cars driving by. Mom and Dad are doing well or carrying a great deal of debt. It was unmistakable that a party for kids was planned. A big party. The last car went up the road around 3 am. I'd estimate 30 plus vehicles, all packed with kids. A couple of groups parked lower and walked up.

Full on festival sound system. It could strip the needles off of pine trees, maybe did.

I expect this event was promoted over social media with the possibility of a cover charge and this was a money making event.

The people doing the sound appeared experienced insofar as they drove out with two loaded pickups at 6 am Sunday morning, ahead of when they thought authorities might show.

If you're curious about the location, copy and paste these coordinates into Google Earth -
38°50'20.82"N 119°53'05.8"W (using the historical imagery icon move to 6/15/2013, the location will be easier to see).

Welcome to our urban forests.

Next time we do the Tahoe Trifecta we'll drive from home in the morning and do it as a day trip.

Oh, one last thing you may be curious about - the third highest peak in the Lake Tahoe Basin?  Mount Rose sits on the northeast side of Lake Tahoe with an elevation of 10,776 feet. We have climbed and skied from the summit of Mount Rose.

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