Dinkey Lakes

by Bill Finch

After seeing the heavy snow pack from the top of Mitchell Peak in late June of 1998, I decided I would have to spend a little time in Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. Since the Dinkey Lakes area is at low elevations, I thought that this "pocket" wilderness might be a perfect early season destination.

I asked the ranger at Forest Headquarters in Prather, how much snow remained in the area. She said the road was not clear to the trailhead parking lot. I found that hard to believe but was soon facing the roadblock that she had described. roadblock
Roadblock - The ranger warned me that the road might be blocked with snow drifts. This one kept me from going any farther, adding a mile or so to the hike.

It was only a mile up dirt road to the trailhead so it wasn't all that bad. I took the signed route as I had in my one earlier trip to Dinkey Lakes. It involved a couple of creek crossings, both difficult because of high runoff. I decided I would have to check out the old route on the way back to see if it was any easier.

Shortly after the second creek crossing, it began to rain. It wasn't a sprinkle. It was a cloudburst that lasted for more than an hour with plenty of thunder and lightning. The creek level rose even more and turned muddy. When the showers ended, I continued up the trail. The meadow near the base of the first switchbacks was flooded with muddy water. Snow covered about half of the trail to First Dinkey Lake. strata
Strata in Snow - Some of the snow on or next to the trail was dramatically stratified.

I found a nice camp spot and pitched my tent a few hundred feet from the lake. tent
Home Sweet Home - A comfy shelter in case of rain.

It cleared up a little and I saw a couple of fisherman near the lake outlet. I visited with them for a few minutes and noticed that there was a party camped on the other side of the outlet. Who knows how they got there. I hadn't seen a safe place to cross the creek for more than a mile before I got to the lake.

I returned to my campsite for some dinner then spent some time taking photos of the lake as the sun went down. Mist built up almost obscuring the view to the other side of the lake at times. mist
Mist Over First Dinkey Lake - Mist collected over First Dinkey Lake in the late afternoon.

Soon the clouds and mountains were tinged with a rosy glow. more mist
More Mist - The air became tinged with a rosey glow as the sun set at First Dinkey Lake.

It was misty the next morning as I made my way up the trail but the mist burned off quickly. even more mist
Morning Mist of the Forest - As I began my hike on the second day, mist drifted through the trees giving the forest an eerie feel.

First Dinkey Lake looked quite different in clearing morning air than it had the evening before. First Dinkey Lk
Mist Clearing from First Dinkey - The mist burned off quickly in the morning sun.

The inlet and upper reaches of the lake were quite swampy. Soon I arrived at South Lake where a noisy cascade tumbled into the far side of the lake from Island Lake which was hidden on the rocks above. South Lk
South Lake - Before I knew it, I was at South Lake admiring its noisy inlet stream cascading down the cliff from Island Lake.

I headed cross country up to Second Dinkey Lake where I got a misty view of Dogtooth Peak. Second Dinkey Lk
Second Dinkey Lake and Dogtooth Peak The least attractive of the Dinkey Lakes I have seen, nevertheless, it has a good view of Dogtooth Peak.

Rock Lake was even prettier than Second Dinkey so I figured that Island Lake would be even prettier since it was a little higher in elevation. Rock Lk
Rock Lake is bounded by impressive cliffs to the east and south.

I travelled to Island Lake cross country. The trail was covered by snow anyway so I wouldn't have saved time by taking it.

Island Lake was two thirds covered by snow when I arrived there around lunch time. Island Lk
Snow covered most of Island Lake.

I pitched my tent near the outlet and took an afternoon nap. This was a really leisurely trip. Later in the afternoon, I took my camera and walked north to get a view of outh Lake and First Dinkey Lake. South Lk
South Lake and First Dinkey Lake from Island Lake - I got this excellent view by walking a few steps north from my Island Lake campsite.

I turned east and hiked to the crest of the little ridge from which I had a nice view of Second Dinkey Lake, Rock Lake and Dogtooth Peak. 2nd Dinkey Lk
Second Dinkey Lake, Rock Lake and Dogtooth Peak. - A short hike up the ridge gave me an outstanding view of Second Dinkey Lake, Rock Lake and Dogtooth Peak.

I readied my camera for what I hoped would be a light show that afternoon and evening. afternoon
Late afternoon at Island Lake - Lengthening shadows at Island Lake.

Rocks surrounding Island Lake began to turn golden in the alpenglow. Island Lk
Island Lake Closer to Sundown - The snow covering Island Lake has a lovely texture.

The beleaguered trees surrounding the lake caught my attention. trees
Island Lake in Dwindling Light - Many trees at this elevation show signs of having survived serious injury caused by heavy snow.

On its way down, the sun's final rays tinged trees and rocks alike with a golden glow. last light
Island Lake in Last Light - The last light of the day cast a golden glow on tree bark and rocks around the lake.

The next morning, I headed out, returning via Swede Lake and Mystery Lake. Swede Lk
Swede Lake - It's easy to see why Swede Lake is a popular destination. Magnificent cliffs and a lovely forest form its fringe.

The trail on the south side of Mystery Lake was covered by snow much of the way. A man and his two young sons and their dog were camped by the lake. They were the first humans I had seen since I had camped at First Dinkey. We visited for a few minutes and then I slogged out to the outlet of Mystery Lake.

Fording the creek was not as big a problem as I had anticipatted since the water level had dropped substantially from two days before. I stayed on the west side of the creek and found it to be a little rougher than the recommended route but not at all difficult. In addition, the trail passed by a waterfall which was really noisy with the heavy runoff. waterfall
Waterfall near Trailhead - I was rewarded for returning on the old trail with a view of this lovely and very noisy waterfall.

Several four wheel drive vehicles were parked at the trail head. Lots of people were coming in. Vehicles which had been unable to make it in all the way to the parking lot were parked here and there where there was enough room to not block the road. I talked to one of the four wheelers and he had needed the help of another four wheeler to get over some of the hardened drifts. The snow was breaking up rapidly and Dinkey Lakes Wilderness was soon to be the densely populated and highly popular destination that it usually is from the time the snow melts to first snow fall.

08 November 1998
One Page Version 26 January 2013
Photos rescanned 6 January 2019