[Adam is a twit because this SSI is broken] Utica Reservoir/Elephant Rock Lake/Rock Lake/Summit Lake Hike [Adam is a twit because this SSI is broken]

Utica Reservoir/Elephant Rock Lake/Rock Lake/Summit Lake Hike
(Saturday, September 18, 2004 in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, CA)

See also my photo album from this hike.

Sarah & I drove down the Spicer Meadow road to forest service road 7N25, parking at the end of the road along Utica Reservoir. Although I've spent quite a lot of time in the greater area, I'd only been in the Spicer Meadow Reservoir basin a couple of times previously.

We hit the trail at 11:10 under grey and somewhat threatening skies. The trail (signed only as "Mountain bike trail") climbed gently above Utica Reservoir. This was obviously a popular route with equestrians, as the trail was a deep loose dirt, and tracks and poop were visible pretty often. We clambered around some rocks, losing the trail, but gaining some nice views of the islandy reservoir below. Although this is an "official" National Forest Bike Route, I sure wouldn't want to ride it - between the steep rocks and deep sandy soil, it would be a very un-fun slogfest. There was no evidence whatsoever of any bicycles passing through, so perhaps others came to the same conclusion. A group of three equestrians passed us, also looking for the trail.

Once we left the rocky slopes above Utica, the trail was clear enough and we walked through a light forest, viewless, but pretty in it's own right. Before long, we arrived at Elephant Rock Lake and took a spur trail to its shore. This lovely little lake had a few anglers dotting the shoreline and its namesake Elephant Rock towered behind it. For a 2.2mi-shorter hike, one could just drive to Elephant Rock Lake and start this hike from there.

We traced the edge of the lake for a little ways, then came to an intersection and the boundary of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The junction was on my map as a 3-way, but in reality was 4-way, and the signpost had been knocked over, so we spent a minute orienting ourselves. That accomplished, we hiked along the base of Elephant Rock, apparently a climbing destination. This large rock formation, although pretty enough, looked nothing at all like an Elephant - go figure. Some weird reddish dust caught our eye and we pondered what the heck it was. We quickly figured it out as we entered a recently-burned forest (the "dust" was fire-retardant dropped from a plane/helicopter).

It was very interesting hiking through a burned forest, seeing signs of recovery amid the general lifelessness. I wondered if this was the fire that Barry and I had seen from afar the previous year while backpacking at Bull Run Lake, as it was in the right general area, and it looked to my untrained eyes to be about a year or so old. This was the second time I'd hiked through a burn zone (the first being Lookout Point in Yosemite), and again, it felt like we were on another planet.

A woodpecker with a yellow crest was poking away at a dead tree, and we stopped for a few to observe it. Save for that and a few squirrels and tiny chipmunks, there was little life afoot. After what seemed like entirely too long, we arrived at Rock Lake, our lunch destination. We found a nice group of rocks jutting into the lake and perched here to eat our sandwiches and sip our wine. As we ate, a train of twelve (count 'em) equestrians went by - we were glad to be off of the trail at that moment! A group of 4 or 5 teenagers arrived, then left, but overall the lake was very quiet. The looming clouds probably had something to do with this, as Rock Lake is one of Carson-Iceberg's most accessible lakes according to my guidebook. A distant peak and nearby trees reflected nicely in the lake although the wind made for something less than crystal-clear reflections.

Having drunk our fill of Rock Lake, we continued onward, following signs for Spicer Reservoir and Summit Lake as we came to intersections. Although several of the intersections were not on our map, they were at least well-signed! We heard a few gunshots in the distance, reminding me that it was probably smack in the middle of hunting season. We hiked, mostly downhill, through more burned forest, passing a heavily-laden hunter on foot (he must've been hunting fowl, as I can't imagine carrying a deer out on foot in addition to the large pack he was wearing!). Although there were probably numerous wildflowers earlier in the season, we saw just a few late stragglers, and a fair bit of Pussypaws.

As we were stopped under a tree, we looked up to see a medium-sized bird of prey take off, alarmed by our presence. We didn't get a good look at it, so Sarah grabbed our binoculars and we headed towards the trees it flew into. Right as she sighted it, it flew again, denying us a good enough look to make an identification, but if I had to guess, I would guess it was an owl judging from its stoutness. At another intersection (this one on our map), we turned right and climbed a bit. We were starting to tire a little bit - evidence that we've not been doing enough in the way of longer hikes, as we'd hiked just 6 miles so far (and still had a couple left to go).

Our trail ended on the well-graded fireroad that leads to Elephant Rock Lake, and we continued on a short stub trail to visit Summit Lake. We found this lake to be an unremarkable lake in the woods, with a cold breeze blowing across it, so we didn't stay at all long. We walked down the graded fireroad back to Elephant Rock Lake, where Sarah found a horseshoe on the side of the road. Back at Elephant Rock Lake, we retraced our steps along Utica Reservoir for the last mile or so back to the car, enjoying the late afternoon light and stormy clouds.

This was a nice little hike, perhaps a bit on the long side, but the excercise was good. The map from J. Shaffer's "Carson-Iceberg Wilderness" book is definitely required to do this hike - my USGS topo map of the area does not include half of the trails we hiked on.

Hike Stats:
Distance: ~8mi
Total Time: 5h 5m
Elevation Gain: ~500'
Difficulty: 6
Scenery: 7
Trail condition/markings/etc: 7
Overall rating: 7

Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul