Silver Cloud Trail
Log for a loop trail from Camp Wolverton to Cloud Canyon (via the Tableland and Coppermine Pass) and back to Camp Wolverton (via Deadman Canyon and Big Bird Lake)
Andy Ishida, John Brownlee, and Tom Stowell
Late Summer, 1971
Campsite: NW shore of Pear Lake
Approach: Via the Pear Lakes Trail; travel time between 3 and 4 hrs. Unless one is in condition, the “Hump” would not be a shortcut to the lakes.
At Heather, Emerald, and Pear, camping is permitted only at numbered sites, designated by signs and patrolled by Rangers. The largest site has room for approx. 8 persons, No open fires are allowed -- there's not much firewood, anyways. Latrines -- closets minus roofs and doors -- are established at each lake, one or two each.
The situation is probably the same at Aster Lake.
Today, as is probably typical for this time of the year, the water-level in the lakes and streams is low, especially in the lower lakes, etc. Weather-wise, no rain, and it's neither very hot nor cold. all day.
Campsite: Southern shore of unnamed lake at the east end of Table Meadows, on a ridge above the so-called “Little Big Bird” Lakes
(From now on, “*” will mean see Triple Divide Peak, CA Quadrangle Map, limited revision 1967). To reach Table Meadows, go north and east from the north shore of Pear Lake. Don't rise too high on the hillside -- stay toward the stream below the 10,000 ft. contour (*), since the rocks above you are not, in many places, stable enough for walking over, and getting back down is difficult. ie, getting above 10,000 ft. would not be a shortcut to Table Meadows; however, you do get a view of Moose Lake (*) if you climb to the top of the ridge which is south of 10695 (*)(according to Andy. He says the flowers - lupine - are nice, too.)
Unnamed lake in lower Table Meadows (*, next to the word “Meadows”): There're no fish -- does this say anything about the water-quality? (We thought it was OK.)
If really necessary, groups of 3 to 5 persons could camp around, here. However, there's little firewood and few trees (say, for setting up tube tents), and it might be muddy here in a rain.
Thru Table Meadows: Stay south of 10695 which is a landmark easily sighted, say for general bearings in the vicinity. Go east (say, along,the stream) across the meadow -- probably no camping here, since the grass is so tall and the land so wet; the stream was stagnant; there were frogs but no fish. Toward the upper end of the Meadow, there are some trail ducks, which you can follow.
For lack of better sense, we camped atop the ridge at the upper end of Table Meadows, next to a small, unnamed lake (NNW of 11598 (*). It's rocky here, and there are no trees. There's room for 20 people where we are and for 5 to 10 more on the north end of the lake. It got cold (but not windy) as the sun set. There were almost no mosquitoes today -- a few at the end of the day. There were frogs and some small red organisms in the lake; we drank the water, anyway. The oxygen up here was, as the saying goes, thin, so that you feel tired even after a night of sleep.
I would not descend to the Little Big Birds directly from here -- the descent is steep. If necessary, however, one may reach either the two lakes or Big Bird itself by starting from the east side of the lake where we're camped and traveling eastward, underneath and south of a formation of three spikes (*)(which is a good landmark for this vicinity), then dropping (to the two lakes) or continuing northeastward to Big Bird -- pick your own route, keeping in mind and sight the cliff (*) above the east side of Big Bird. There are different approaches you might try, toward the north end or the west side of the lake being popular. Tom and Andy spent around 1-1/2 hrs. ascending from Big Bird to the campsite of August 30, so I suppose a descent (to BB from the campsite) should take between 50 and 60 minutes. BB can also be approached from Deadman Canyon, and since this is the way I did it, I will postpone further discussion of BB till later.
It is cold this morning, but neither windy nor cloudy. To get to Deadman Canyon, go south and east, toward 11598. Not dropping or rising, pass behind and underneath 11598, on its side. If you haven't noticed, Moose Lake (*) doesn't seem level -- you get this illusion from other places in the Tableland, too. You might also notice some beautiful flowers and insects - especially butterflies).
Cross over the ridge between 11598 and 11186 (*) and into the meadow-like valley. Drop down into the greenery -- get down from the rocks, but remember that you must climb up to the lake behind 11830 (*). There's a spectacular view of Big Bird from the ridge between 11598 and 11602 (*) -- you just came around 11598, and you can see 11602 ahead of you; the ridge-with-the-view is up and to your left wherethe trees are.
Cross the valley, going toward 11850. We spent 2 hours doing so, crossing around the back side, dropping a little.
You may, instead, decide to go over Elizabeth Pass (from 11598) -- this might be a longer way to Deadman Canyon, but it might also be safer.
There seem to be sites in this valley for camping for a couple of
groups of 5 to 8 persons. Water (*) is probably ample earlier in the year; however, there doesn't seem to be firewood and it might be muddy here in a rain.
The lake beneath 11830 is quite beautiful. Approach it from its SW end. There seems to be room for 10 persons on the NE shore of the lake, and for groups of 2 to 4 persons along the shore opposite 11830. Firewood is available. I think we saw some fish, too. Keep this in mind -- this lake is the first water supply since the campsite above the Little BB's and will be the last until Deadman, unless there's snow somewhere. Furthermore, you ought to be here by early afternoon, if you plan to get to Cloud Canyon (*) today -- ie, you have a 2 to 4 hour walk to go.
To get into Deadman the way we did, go up the slope NE of the lake. Stay to the left of the notch immediately N of 11830; you'll have trouble getting there directly if you insist on trying. At the top of the ridge, you'll have a view of upper Deadman Canyon, which is where you must drop into. You'll have a view of quite a bit more, too -- see for yourself. Walk along the ridge toward 11830, then cross over into Deadman, as the Deadman side levels -- this should be around the notch referred to above. Cross the head of Deadman - underneath 11830, Elizabeth Pass, etc.; this will take about one hour. Don't get too high, but remember that you will be going over Coppermine Pass, which is the patch of orange ahead and up to the right (*) of you. Midway across the head of the canyon, there may be streamlets (good water) trikling away from patches of snow above you.
You should meet a trail (in the patch of orange referred to above) which switchbacks up to Coppermine Pass; it goes by the blown-closed mine entrance. Once atop the pass, notice Tamarack Lake below and south of you. Follow the trail (not on map) toward 12340 (*) into Cloud Canyon; it's tricky -- there are 2 or 3 cutoffs to the left, which you should not take; you should see Lion Lake (*) before jumping the ridge into Cloud.
The descent into Cloud is very steep -- I would not want to climb out of the canyon at this end, even in good weather; I would not want to be here in bad weather.
The trail down into and through the canyon is well-ducked.
Pick campsites at your discretion -- there aren't many to choose from, especially for more than 3 persons, unless you're on the canyon floor; also, notice the rockslides (rocks sliding), the exposure, the altitude, and the absence of firewood and (depending on the weather or time of year) water.
It is cold and windy this evening. Darkness has forced us to camp only a hundred feet from the top of the ridge. The night sky is beautiful.
Again, due to the thinness of oxygen, we wake up unrested. Luckily, we have not slid (too far) down the slope.
Descending along the west side of the canyon, you should, I repeat, follow a well-ducked trail.
One hour passes since departure from our campsite before reaching water; if you haven't stopped since entering Cloud, 2 hours will pass before water. Come to think of it, we haven't seen any people besides ourselves since Pear Lake.
The trail you should be on will take you to the stream in the middle of the canyon; you will have difficulty getting off the trail if you try -- we did.
Notice the tree trunks sprinkled over the canyon floor.
Once you reach the stream, you can follow the stream or the trail down the canyon. The water was running well, and there were holes for swimming -- note fish and leeches (?). As you enter the treed portion of the canyon (*), you will notice that the trail is easy to lose in some places -- but it's there.
There are campsites and firewood from here to Scaffold Meadows (*). We camped at “Grand Palace Hotel,” which is near the trail junction to Colby Lake. There are tables and fireplaces here, but notice, too, that the stream begins to slow down around here, and you may meet people and/or horses, especially further toward Scaffold Meadows; furthermore, we had our first major encounter with mosquitoes here. As far as time is concerned, it would probably take at least 3 or 4 hours (non-stop) to reach here (the Colby Pass trail junction) after entering the canyon (from the upper end).
Colby Lake is beautiful. Andy and Tom spent 2-1/2 hours to reach it from the “Hotel,” and 1-1/2 to return -- the trail is steep and rocky. On the way up (or down), you get a view of Whaleback (*), some unnamed beauties, and the northern portion of Cloud Canyon. On the NE shore of the lake, there appears to be room for 20 people. There's firewood, too. Fishing is supposed to be good here, however, I heard mixed reports about Gallats and Talus Lakes. I also heard differing opinions about the ascent from Colby Lake to Colby Pass.
Scaffold Meadows is 7 miles from the Colby Pass trail Junction. Beside the trail thru Big Wet Meadow, etc. (*), notice the aspens and perhaps some flowers and fungi. Notice, too, the tree-damage done by the snow, and how deep the trail is worn (by man and his stock). Remember to leave the drift fences the way you found them -- closed.
The trail crosses the Roaring River (*) at Scaffold. Meadows. You might say hello to the Ranger (or Trail Crew or whoever is) living
From Scaffold Meadows, I suppose you have some choices -- return to Camp Wolverton via Twin Lakes or via Big Bird Lake, or go to Roads End via Avalanche Pass.
The three of us returned to CW via BB. If you want to do this, too, go south up Deadman and “take a right” at the appropriate drift fence.
The trail junction to Big Bird Lake is not marked on the map, but you'll find it above upper Ranger Meadow (*). The trail ends at BB; from here to Pear Lake, the route is up to you. As described earlier in this log, there are different ways to ascend from BB -- ask around if you have to.
The Pear Lakes Trail will take you back to Camp Wolverton from Pear Lake.
1) 1.5 pints of white gas was enough fuel for the three of us for the 7 days;
2) the trail in Cloud Cannon (the lower half of it, that is) was easy to lose, both during broad daylight and full moon;
3) 7 oz. (1 box) Minute Rice + 6 oz (1 can) tomatoe paste or 1.5oz. (1 pkg) gravy mix, or soup, etc. + 14 oz. (2 cans) tuna or 6 wieners or 1 lb. ground beef, etc. + seasoning, made a good dish for the 3 of us;
4) raw spaghetti noodles, contrary to what you might be told, didn't -- they're a lot of trouble to prepare;
5) Tang mixed better than Start.