ROAD TRIP: Big Meadows Trail offers pleasurable distractions
Directions: From the North Shore take Hwy. 89 South through South Lake Tahoe and continue on 89 to Luther Pass. (You’ll have to make a left turn after the agricultural station.) Park at the lot on the left side about 4.5 miles after you turn. The trailhead is across from Hwy. 89.
Features: Big Meadows (.6 miles), Meiss Meadow Trail (2.5 miles), Dardanelle Lake (3.5 miles), Round Lake (3.1 miles), Meiss Lake (west route 4.6 miles, from Meiss Meadow Trail is 4.9 miles) and Pacific Crest Trail (5.4 miles).
After spending most of a Sunday a few weeks ago passing time in various pursuits, a friend and I decided to head to South Lake Tahoe in search of an nice afternoon hike to round out the day. We chose this particular trail because of its promise of seeing The Dardanelles, volcanic cliffs which loom above Round Lake (the cliffs seemed quite impressive from the picture in the guidebook we were using – “The Tahoe Sierra”).
Hiking on a cool fall afternoon, Shannon and I were first greeted on the trail by the rhythmic sounds of a nearby frog.
To one side of the trail, a line of aspens in subtle hues of gold and yellow traversed the boulder-strewn terrain. We were soon lead off the trail by the sound of a nearby creek, only to discover the sound was the wind rustling through the aspens.
Once back on the trail and around the next turn in the trail, my eye was caught by a group of boulders a short hike up the mountain. I immediately set off to investigate, leaving my friend on the trail with only “I’ll be back in a minute.” After passing the first few lichen-covered boulders, I discovered several dozen granite boulders up the mountain. Of course, I spent what I considered only a few minutes scampering about the scene.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I was nearly 100 feet above the trail and it had been quite a bit more than a few minutes since I left my friend. It took several calls to get an answer from her, which came from above me. I scolded myself for not waiting for her to begin with.
Back on the trail, I was again sidetracked by a pair of Rustler jeans laid atop a small boulder. While dirt-stained and slightly torn, there appeared no good reason to have abandoned the jeans along the trail (I even checked the pockets for some sort of clue, but to no avail). I left the jeans as I found them to confound the next hiker.
Further up the trail, we passed a stock gate which puzzled both of us for quite some time since we couldn’t make any sense of how the peculiar setup worked. I dismissed the contraption as broken when Shannon, an experienced equestrian, couldn’t figure out its design.
A few more minutes of walking and the forest opens into a large golden meadow – Big Meadow. Aptly named, the meadow is ringed by pine trees and is nearly the color of wheat this time of year (in the spring, the meadow is filled with blooming wildflowers). One corner of the meadow is cut by Big Meadow Creek, a breeding ground for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. Following the trail across the meadow, we spied a large flat, square rock in the distance. Curiosity getting the better of me, I set off across the meadow and found myself in marsh. Shannon turned back, being clad only in her running shoes. I continued on, climbed the curiosity and was happy with the spectacular view of meadow, forest and the distant Waterhouse Peak (9,497 ft.).
We continued along the trail for a little longer before deciding to turn back as dusk began to set in. We never made it to The Dardanelles, having traveled only a little more than a mile in our several hours of hiking; curiosity getting the better of our desire to see the volcanic cliffs firsthand.
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