It’s time to get the kayaks out and do a paddle on Van Norden Lake. With this very dry year, the water level is already dropping below the spillway and the seasonal lake will be drying out very early this year. You can pretty easily traverse the spillway and put in for pleasant paddle out to the back bay of the lake. Best to get going early to miss the winds that can come up in the afternoon.
This is breeding time for the water fowl and shore birds in the wetlands and you should see pairs of Mallards and Mergansers and hordes of Western Toad tadpoles. I even saw a pair of Cinnamon Teal when I was out there last week.
Keep your eyes peeled for Osprey and Bald Eagle that love to hunt the waters of this shallow lake. Last week there were four Osprey all hunting together and we saw one pull out a small Bullhead Catfish for lunch. Make sure you make the effort to paddle back to the back bay area where Shooting Stars and Small Elephant Head flowers are currently in bloom.
I especially urge you to get out there this year in view of the possibility that the lake and wetlands may not be out there much longer if we can’t prevent the Truckee Donner Land Trust from draining the lake (see SAVEVANNORDEN.ORG for details). It is really magical to be out in the middle of the blue jewel of the lake surrounded by the scenic beauty of Donner Summit Valley.
We had a great hike last week along Razorback Ridge and up to Rowton Peak. The weather was perfect and many of the wild flowers were out. Now is the time to get up there to see the last of the Pink Star Onion and the Mariposa Lilies and Scarlet Gilia are just starting up. Thanks to Curt Oldenburg for the great photos.
I finally climbed up to the top of Castle Peak this week after 15 years of having a cabin here on the summit. I know, all you old timers are thinking “what a tenderfoot”. It’s funny how every year I planned to do it and every year something happened to prevent it. My chief requirement was that the weather and visibility be perfect because I didn’t want to miss the great pictures I’ve included here. There were years where we had forest fires mucking up the visibility. Other years there were other hikes to do. But this year I made it my top priority and last week we had the perfect day for it.
We climbed the west shoulder route up the the west turret. I know the east turret is the highest, but we are only talking a few feet. As you can see from the trail map below, the climb is all up. Since we did it this early, the Forest Service hadn’t opened the gate yet and we had to walk the extra mile or so versus parking farther up the road when the gate is open.
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The route is pretty easy to follow up the west ridge approach. We hit a couple of small patches of snow but nothing we couldn’t handle.
I highly recommend that if you haven’t done this climb, you should. The view is probably the most spectacular on the summit. If you’re going to do it make sure you watch the weather and pick a good clear day with very little wind. Like any good climb it gets steeper the closer you get to the top. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will be rewarded with spectacular views.