Hiking and Botanizing in Summer 2021

by Bill Finch

Dinkey Lakes 27-28 May 2021

I got on the road early enough to make it to the Forest Service office in Prather by 8am. Good thing it wasn't earlier, because my permit was not in the box like last year. Thus began the process of getting used to the new walkup permit system.

Traffic was normal for a Thursday, that is, light. I met no one on the way to the Dinkey Lakes/Willow Meadow Trailhead on the increasingly narrow road from Tamarack Ridge. One car was parked at the Swamp Lake 4WD road when I got to the end of the road. Three fishermen were going in to catch their lunch. After they started back to their car that afternoon, I had the entire wilderness to myself.

Old and out of shape with a 35 pound pack, it was slow going. I finally made it to First Dinkey Lake at about 1:45. There was a fair amount of snow on the Three Sisters.

first dinkey lk
First Dinkey Lake with Three Sisters on the skyline

At about 2:30 I was at the base of the trail that ascends to Second Dinkey Lake. The flower I am surveying, Lewisia leeana, is highly concentrated along this stretch of trail. There wasn't a single plant blooming. But it wasn't only L leeana that was not blooming, nothing else was, either. I saw only a few flowers on the trip.

I don't know what I expected, but I thought there might be more than there were. I saw way more flowers than this on a May 26 dayhike in 2013, another drought year. A little after three, I was at my campsite at Second Dinkey Lake.

first dinkey lk
Second Dinkey Lake

That night, I slept cold until I figured out how my sleeping bag was made. The design was the old fashioned head to toe tube type which requires the user to shift the down up and down the tube. Using it the previous two seasons, I had never been cold and I hadn't needed to shift the down. Once I adjusted it, sleep came more easily.

Since there were very few flowers, I headed back home the next morning. I met half a dozen groups on their way in for the Memorial Day weekend. I dreaded the rough parts of forest road 9S62, but even though I met a couple of cars on some of the nastiest sections, we all survived just fine.

Coyote Lake Day Hike 17 June 2021

June was booked with trailer rallys, birthdays, and medical appointments, but I managed to squeeze in a day hike. My goal was to see if there was Lewisia leeana in the Coyote Lake area. Before I got to First Dinkey Lake, I started making observations of flowers for iNaturalist, including one of L. leeana. It and many other flowers were blooming .

turnoff the 4wd
First Dinkey Lake. Note the lack of snow on the Three Sisters.

At First Dinkey Lake I took the faint trail to Coyote Lake. I had been up the trail once before when it took me to a survey of the ridge north of First Dinkey Lake. This time when I got to the top, I dropped down to the northwest toward Coyote Lake. I found my first L. leeana at an elevation a little above 9,400 feet. I saw the last one before Coyote Lake at about 9,200 feet.

I was impressed with the size of Coyote Lake. It's about two to three times larger than any other lake in the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.

Coyote Lake
Huge Coyote Lake with Red Mountain in the distance

The return up the slope was easier because I was able to stay on trail most of the way toward the top. I was back at the trailhead before six that evening.

17 June 2021 Observations

Dinkey Lakes 7-11 July 2021

7 July - Day 1

The plan for this trip was to establish a base camp near Coyote Creek and explore the area southeast of Coyote Lake. I had a great first day but coming off my first Lupron shot, I didn't feel as energetic as usual so I stayed at First Dinkey Lake. That evening I was rewarded with some lovely alpenglow on the Three Sisters.

1st dinkey alpenglow
First Dinkey Lake and Three Sisters in alpenglow

7 July 2021 Observations

8 July - Day 2

The next morning I crossed the ridge toward Coyote Lake and hiked down Coyote Creek until it came to the surface. The water was cold and delicious and I found a nice campsite away from mosquitoes on the ridge to the west. For the most part, this is very dry country - a lodgepole/western white pine desert with little growing under them except where the water table comes close to the surface.

camped in pine desert
Camp area on bench west of Coyote Creek in a pine desert

I explored the area west of the creek until it was time to set up camp.

8 July 2021 Observations

9 July - Day 3

The next morning, I got an early start, crossed Coyote Creek, and headed to the lakes in the north. I wish I had taken the photo in afternoon light because this one turned out blurry since it was handheld at 1/30 second.
Coyote Creek
Coyote Creek in early morning light

I headed north to what looked like small lakes on the map. L. leeana petered out at the first set of small ponds. Some of the ponds had already dried up.

small ponds
Small ponds north of Coyote Creek

The next body of water turned out to be a full fledged lake. It is not named on any of my maps so I'll call it Lake 9,212. I didn't see any fish jumping so I'd bet not too many people have been here.

Lk 9212
I could see no signs that this little lake had been visited.

I continued north to Point 9304 then descended west to the trail. After a short walk, I got to a signed trail junction. I took the trail toward Rock Meadow and missed the shortcut to the South Fork of Big Creek. Once I crossed Big Creek, the trail pretty much disappeared. There were signs that the area had been grazed by cattle, but in this drought year there wasn't enough feed to support them. As I got closer to Rock Meadow, the trail became more distinct.

Rock Mdw
Rock Meadow with volcanic Black Peak at its edge

I hiked across Rock Meadow, up the west flank of Black Peak and returned to a campsite at First Dinkey Lake. Despite the party at the camp next door, I had a good night's sleep. It had been a big day.

9 July 2021 Observations

10 July - Day 4

I hiked up to Second Dinkey Lake and took a rest day. On the way up, I noticed that it was close to the end of the flowering season. I read a book at one of my favorite campsites near the north shore of Second Dinkey Lake.

11 July - Day 5

After taking a couple of photos on the way up to South Lake, I ran out of batteries for my camera. My phone would have to do the duty for the rest of the trip. I'm happy to say that the phone did just fine. There was lots of L. leeana on the way to and around South Lake. I found it on both sides of the pass to Swede Lake.

Swede Lk
I was really proud of myself for taking this picture of Swede Lake with the pano feature on my phone

The descent from Swede Lake seemed much steeper than when I took my daughter on it in 1994. Finally, the trail flattened as I arrived at the meadows of Mystery Lake. I was surprised to continue seeing L. leeana all the way past the lake and almost to the trail junction.
It had turned out to be a great trip but I knew it would be my last botany outing for the year. Flowers were on the edge of drying up so I didn't use the permit I had for later in the month.

11 July 2021 Observations

6 September 2021