The end of September may be a cold time in Sierra Mountains, so when we were planning the trip on Sep. 25/26 weekend, we were unsure about the weather and the conditions. Fortunately, the fall season in Sierra was unusually warm, and we spend a great weekend going through the 4WD trails, hiking trails, shooting for fun, and having good campsite talk.

This is the map of our travel. The trail is a half-circle to the south-east from the Kirkwood ski resort on highway 88. We left the 88 road at the bear River reservoir exit, and we returned to the highway at the Tragedy Springs exit.

This is my third time on the trail, the same route as I did first time back in 2004 in a semi-stock Rodeo. The trail is definitely getting more and more difficult every year, detiorating to the "interesting" condition. My second time was in 2006 (see Pardoe 2006 ), in slightly lifted and front-locked Axiom. Now my Axiom is lifted more, and it is fully locked. Every time I return to the trail with a more capably vehicle but I am having more difficulties. Either my driving skills are declining, or the trail is detiorating.

We did the route in two days. The trail can be done in one day, but we wanted to enjor the nature and do something else, the trip was not about just driving.

We had two vehicles, 5 people and 1 doggy in our group. This is my Isuzu Axiom, I was traveling with my wife Vera and my doggy Sunny:

The second vehicle was Sergey's MB 500. he was with his brother Vlad and son Ilya:

The trail is going through a usual high-elevation Sierra landscape. Plenty of rocks, pines and greats views around.

Some volcanic rocks in the highest places still have sharp edges. It means that they were located above the glacier level. Those rocks were like small islands in the sea of ice.

The most difficult part of the trail was the "Rock garden" approximately in the middle of the trail.

This is me, figuring out the line:

More "Rock garden" images:

Sunny as a spotter:

Near small Pardoe lake, at the top of the ridge, we decided to set a camp. This is Vlad, resting:

Sergey and Ilya setting the tent:

The evening was a camping-style entertainment: food, shooting, drinks, fire, talks.

In the morning, we took a hike to the lake. Along the trail, we found somebody's bones:

Me with my wife Vera:

A local frog:

The lake is gorgeous:

The group approaching the lake:

Vlad at the man-made dam on the eastern end of the lake:

We are at the dam:

'Natural" population in Sierra high-elevations lakes are frogs, tritons and bugs. There is no "natural" fish in high-elevation lakes. The lakes with fish are artificially populated. This lake was in more-or-less "original" condition, no fish was present.

Sunny found something:

Racoon tracks:


After the hike, we resumed our driving to the 4WD trail exit at the Tragedy Springs. We passed a site of the 19-century trading post, and an old ranch. The old emigrant trail proceeded east to the dead end at the Squaw Ridge, but we turned north-west to the highway. We decided to take a longer route through the Mud Lake, to see this pretty place. Here are the pictures of the Mud Lake:

We decided that we have to return, sometime, to Mud Lake. It is so pretty that it deserves longer stay.

On the last trail leg to the highway we saw a large lake deep below the trail level: