Monday, November 3, 2014

Loon Lake Chalet! (Oct 17-19, 2014)

hip hip hooray! for google awesome and waking papa up before sunrise!!!
The area west of Tahoe, between I-80 and hwy 50 has been on my list of places to explore for a while now.  This year with the completion of the Tahoe Sierra 100 bike ride, and this trip into the Crystal Basin, I feel like I've finally scratched the surface.

Loon Lake Chalet is set up as a year-round hut, in the winter the Chalet is the focal point of the Loon Lake Winter Recreation Area.  The second floor of the chalet becomes the "warming hut" for backcountry skiers and is open to the public from mid-December to mid- April.  The chalet is located at 6400 ft, approximately 30 miles north of Hwy 50 on Ice House Rd.  I'm not sure where you park in the winter time when there is snow, as all the information I can get is "plowing is done on an intermittent basis."

In the summer time there are plenty other campsites available around the lake, with 3 group sites and a few walk in sites.  Loon Lake is a popular spot to go anglin' for trout or bass, so you'll see plenty of fishing boats, but I'm sure you'll see some powerboaters out there mid-summer when it's hot out.  There's even a boat-in campsite on the far end (eastern) of the lake.

Another attraction to Loon Lake is the trailhead for the world famous Rubicon Trail on the northern end of the lake.  So along with boats, you'll also hear plenty of motorcycles and jeeps rumbling around.  On this particular weekend, I'd say at least half of the cars we saw were towing jeeps or motorcycles.  Although there were hardly any campers, there were plenty of day trippers on the Rubicon Trail.  George, Tamara, and Maya went to the Rubicon Trailhead to hike around on Sunday and ran in to a guy that lives partly up the road.  He was lowering the tire pressure on his jeep and told him it takes 45 min to drive, and 35 min to hike... wowza.  Check out the trail...   If you wanted to "get away from it all"  you better visit during the winter.  There has been conflict between skiers and motorists in the winter...

There's also access to the Desolation Wilderness from Loon Lake, so this would be a good spot for a party after a Trans-Desolations run.

Loon Lake reservoir is part of SMUD's (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) Upper American River Project, which was constructed in the 60s.  There's a cool map of the project here.

This lake wasn't that low... I was expecting to see more shoreline and a longer hike to put our canoe in.  Below is the reservoir levels, from a low of 6374 ft to a high of 6409 ft... 35 ft fluctuations... over the last 3 years.

for comparison, this is what Folsom Lake looks like for the last 3 years.  From 462 ft to a low of 357 ft... so 100+ ft difference.

Here's the vid... with Kai's snowdance at the end...

Next time:
  • This place would be really fun to go in the winter time and ski in .  This would be a perfect place to go as Kai and Nikko's first backcountry ski tour... but I'm not sure how far up the road is plowed, etc... I'm assuming last year they never had to.  
  • It's be really fun to ski from Loon Lake to Van Vleck hut... or just hike from hut to hut in the summer time... 
  • Another very do-able trip would be Ludlow to Loon Lake to Van Vleck ski tour.... 
  • And the longest hut to hut trip I can think of in CA... Peter Grubb to Clair Tappaan to Benson to Bradley to Ludlow (that'd be a long day) to Loon Lake to Van Vleck to Robb's Hut? to Sly Guard?  ... how sweet would that be?  And how much of a logistical nightmare...
  • Have a party out here in the summer.  There's a nice firepit outside, plenty of space for cornhole, etc... but I hear mosquitos can be bad... so maybe late Aug - Sept would be ideal?
  • Go check out some of the mountain biking options near by.  
  • Run up some of the near by peaks... 
... and here are the pics to tell the rest of the story.  Another good thing about going camping with just another family is that you aren't so busy, and can take more pics.

Kai & Kimbo on the 3rd floor sleeping quarters. It sleeps "20"... meaning you can squeeze in 20 pads up top.  
on to the amenities... microwave, fridge.  The fridge is small... 
4 burner stove + toaster
electric heaters... although I'm 99% sure these didn't work...
Coffee Maker!
nice thermostat
pots  and pans
a dryer.  A nice touch for the "warming hut" in the winter.
plenty of utensils... they told us to bring our own... 
but there's plenty
Fireplace, couches, and a baby monkey.
emergency phone.  We didn't have any service here... but Kimbo did get a tiny bit of service out by the weather station.  She'd stand out there for like 20 min to get updates on Auburn football scores.  
also... no farting.  
we took the boat out for a sunset paddle!
Snuggle monkey time... one of my favorite times of the day.
A bunch of folks bailed on this trip, so this first night it was just us until late night when George, Tamara, and Maya arrived.  The good thing when this happens is that I get to spend more time taking pics.  
Kai feeding Nikko dinner...
The next morning Nikko wanted to wake up early!  At least he's smiling... 
The chalet from the outside.  There's like parking for 30 cars.  And the bottom floor is just an outhouse and the staff room.  
George has some high arches.  
Kai teaching Maya the snow dance on the alter
after a leisurely breakfast we geared up and got on the water.  
There was a notieable breeze (which I hear is much worse in the summer), but the paddling wasn't bad.  We soon landed on an island for a short snack break and took shelter behind some boulders.  
it's not noon yet?  Well... in that case I'll just drink Day Time.  
Kimbo displaying good parenting technique...
lounge time.
I took Nikko on a short walk around this funky island...
which turned out to be perfect for crawling around.  
alien encounter
George acting like a cairn
click to enlarge
Nikko's first boulder problem... 
Kai doesn't care about staying warm.

After we got back to the Chalet, I put the kids down for a nap and went on a short run.  I ran into a few hunters and ran past this hide... I guess it's hunting season... 
Nikko testing out George's boat
Family pic
We caught the sunset near by. 
another beautiful night.
The next morning we went for a short paddle (before the winds picked up), then drove home while the kiddos slept.  When we got home we hopped on our bikes (Kimbo on her e-bike, and the boys on the xtracycle with the Strider) and went to Jack London.  
And stopped at the Telegraph for some beers and burgers to cap off aother fantastic weekend!

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