Silliman Pass - Pterodactyl Pass

July 2004

by Bill Finch

Day 1

Never having crossed Silliman Pass or Pterodactyl Pass, I decided it was about time to hike over both. The trip started at the Wolverton trailhead. I hiked down to Lodgepole, a rather strange experience since I moved from a relatively quiet area into a very busy one. The trail went down the old road from Lodgepole to Wolverton so it was very well graded and smooth. The trail passed through the densely packed Lodgepole campground which I was very happy to leave. I never left forest on the first day. forest
Forest dominated the first day of the trip with only a few views of distant peaks.

There were lovely wildflowers along the creeks that I crossed. flowers
This lovely bunch of Lewis' monkey flowers was growing along Silliman Creek.

I reached Cahoon Gap in the afternoon and later in the day passed between Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes
This is a popular destination from Lodgepole.

As the sun was getting low, I crossed Silliman Pass Mt Silliman
Silliman Peak dominates the view from Silliman Pass.

and made my way toward a campsite at Ranger Lake. Ranger Lake
Shortly after beginning the descent from Silliman Pass, Ranger Lake comes into view.

I was fortunate to share a campfire with the former mayor of Malibu who had visited this area many times before and shared his knowledge of this lovely area.

Day 2

Early the next morning, I began my trek toward the Roaring River. Ranger Lake
The lake and Silliman Peak were beatifully illuminated in the morning light.

I passed by the Lost Lake turnoff and took the cutoff to Comanche Meadow. The trail passed through an area that had burned just last summer so there were many wildflowers blooming where undergrowth and tree cover had been thinned. burned
Wildflowers were abundant in Belle Canyon where a fire had swept through the previous year.

Soon, I was mushing along the sandy trail to the Sugarloaf. sugarloaf
This granite outcrop dominates the skyline in this area.

I crossed paths with the Roaring River ranger near the drift fence. After passing by the Sugarloaf, I caught up to a couple who were making their way into Deadman Canyon on horseback. As I descended into Roaring River canyon, there was a racket in the brush near the trail. It was a mother bear and her two cubs. bears
Mama bear is watching out for her two cubs who have climbed to the top of a tall tree.

I made it to the Roaring River in the early afternoon where I was entertained by the ranger's young son. He appeared to be part squirrel, leaping and running at varying speeds. His fastest speed was what he called "lightning speed" and he mananged all of his maneuvers without any shoes. After I had finished dinner and washing up, the ranger returned and we shared a pleasant time around a campfire.

Day 3

The next morning, I headed up Deadman Canyon for Elizabeth Pass and Lonely Lake. A few minutes out of the ranger station, I spotted several large bucks who ignored me as I took photos of them. bucks
Three bucks were checking me out as I started up Deadman Canyon.

I saw no other hikers but I spotted several horse parties in the canyon. For the most part, the canyon was very dry, canyon
Toward the top, Deadman Canyon opens up into a series of meadows.

but here and there wildflowers were blooming near the trail. skyrockets
Although it was already fairly dry, wildflowers, like these skyrockets or scarlet gilia were abundant in places.

I passed upper Ranger Meadow Upper Ranger Meadow
In 1988, I climbed this little peak which is a part of Bigbird Peak and above Upper Ranger Meadow.

and continued up the trail toward Coppermine Peak.
Coppermine Peak rises above the upper reaches of Ranger Meadow which were bone dry.

The switchbacks up to Elizabeth Pass had been rebuilt since the last time I had passed through and the trail crew did a great job. Finally, I arrived at the pass and enjoyed dinner with a spectacular view in all directions. I toyed with the idea of staying north of Elizabeth Pass and making a direct approach to Lonely Lake. Elizabeth Pass
Coppermine Peak from Elizabeth Pass

Unfortunately, I hadn't carefully studied the guidebook which describes this easy route over Horn Col. So instead, I was conservative and descended the Elizabeth Pass trail. I left the trail and contoured around to a campsite just below Lonely Lake where darkness forced me to stop.

Coyotes serenaded me that night and the next morning. It sounded like a mother had several pups in her den. Periodically, she let out a howl indicating a kill. A few minutes later her pups enthusiastically yipped their approval at the catch.

Day 4

Although I was just a few hundred feet shy of Lonely Lake, I decided to hike directly home the next morning. I headed to Pterodactyl Pass Pterodactyl Pass
The pass is easy to spot because of the white dike at the top.

and was soon in the Tablelands. Tablelands
Moose Lake and the Tablelands from Pterodactyl Pass - there are no trees up here.

Ignoring my plans to stay high, I headed more or less directly toward Pear Lake. What might have been a fairly painless walk turned into a roller coaster of a hike. However, I was rewarded with some lovely sights and experiences. Chocolate Pudding Tarn
Chocolate Pudding Tarn - The mud at this tarn looked good enough to eat.

Several of the tarns had pollywogs in them polywogs
Several of the tarns supported healthy populations of pollywogs.

and one contained some tiny red shrimp which I drank before I noticed them. shrimp
Tiny Shrimp - I hope I wasn't drinking an endagered species.

Soon, I crossed the ridge on the west end of the Tablelands and headed down toward Pear Lake. I believe I must have taken the most indirect route possible. I had been through here once before but didn't remember seeing any part of the country I traveled through this time. After a dinner stop at Pear Lake, I quickly returned to my car at the Wolverton trailhead.

Back to Lonely Lake

A week later, curious of what I had missed by not visiting Lonely Lake, I returned and explored the area once more. Lonely Lake
Lonely Lake from Horn Col

I "discovered" Horn Col (I still hadn't read the guide book). Horn Col
Horn Col from Lonely Lake - It's and easy walk over Horn Col from Lonely Lake.

I spent a leisurely four days taking photos of flowers flowers
Pearly Everlasting - The Elizabeth Pass trail supports many species of wild flowers.

and scenery stunted pines
Stunted Pines above Lonely Lake - The pines grow all the way up to the ridge line.

and managed to spend a night at the Bearpaw Meadow campground where I had stayed some thirty years earlier during a spring break hike. Bearpaw Mdw Cg
Bearpaw Meadow Campground - There was plenty of split fire wood in the campground. I didn't remember the campground very well since my last visit was in March 1972.

I decided that this area deserves a little more exploration in the future.

Silliman Pass to Pterodactyl Pass Map

One Page Version 22 January 2013