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Kelly Lake Loop

Day 2 of 2

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Monday, May 25th
Kelly Lake to Hunting Hollow
10.5 miles
1520 vertical feet (ascent)
2660 vertical feet (descent)
6:31


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GPX File

I could hear folks in the distance breaking camp, but I had no desire to do so myself. Condensation formed on the tree near us and dropped water onto our tent fly. But I could tell the sun wasn't out yet. I finally poked my head out of the tent at 8am to find the area enshrouded in fog. I couldn't even see the lake below. Eventually, by around 8:30am it had thinned enough that I could tell most of the tents below were gone.

Kelly Lake in morning fog

There were still a few people left around 10am, but by the time we left at nearly 10:30am, we were probably the last ones at the lake. Most of them had appeared to head out the way we had come in the previous afternoon. We'd be heading the opposite, slightly harder direction. We walked next to the reeds along the southeastern shore. The trail broke out into the open and then turned left and seemingly went up a cliff. Okay, not a cliff, but probably more than a 25% grade. At least we knew this would be the bulk of the climbing on the day - about 700 feet to start the day, followed by rolling hills and mostly downhill.

Kelly Lake from our campsite

Kelly Lake

Heading to the southern end of Kelly Lake

Grasses at the end of Kelly Lake

Beginning the steep climb up the Kelly Lake Trail

About 300 feet up, the grade started to ease to normalcy (maybe 5-10% grade). I began to wonder if I had miscalculated and we wouldn't be doing as much climbing as I thought. Those notions were quickly dispelled as we reached a crest and then immediately started climbing steeply again.

Continuing the climb

Looking back down at the climb

It was noticeably warmer today, the fog having burned off soon after we started hiking today. We finished the rest of the climb, turned right onto the Willow Ridge Crest trail, then immediately stopped for a break. We had great views of the fog flowing over the tops of the mountains to the southwest.

View of the fog from the top

Back on the trail, we encountered our first mountain biker on the trip, coming up toward us. The trail is a wide dirt road, making it inviting for mountain bikers (though they have to deal with the same tough grades that we do). We turned right onto Wagon Road and started a mostly gradual descent.

Coit Lake as seen from Wagon Road

Flowering trees

View of the mountains to the southeast

We followed the trail for about 2 miles to a trail intersection near Wasno Pond. There's a bathroom here - they've built them near most camping spots. Wasno Pond isn't easily visible from the trail, but if you walk over to the pond access trail, you'll see it far below.

The trail sign at the intersection says 2.5 miles to Wilson Camp, and 6.0 miles to Hunting Hollow. So after a snack break we continued down the Wagon Road. We didn't see any other hikers, though we did see a small snake on the trail and some pretty wildflowers. We had great views of the mountains to the southeast. There were a few short climbs, though nothing more than about 100 or so feet at a time. It would all add up during the day, though, to a surprising 1520 feet of climbing.

Snake on the trail

Flower next to the trail

After 1.5 miles, we reached the next major landmark - Rodeo Pond. There's another bathroom here. The pond sits in a small depression among wide-open fields. Doesn't look like the most inviting place to camp. We continued on the Wagon Road for another 0.8 miles to the next intersection. The Vasquez Road trail led to the left. The Wilson Ridge Trail led back to the right, toward Wilson Peak. Now, my original plan was to actually take the Wilson Ridge Trail since it would be the most direct route back to the parking lot. However, the trail sign said to continue past Wilson Camp to Hunting Hollow 3 miles away. So I made the mistake of not checking the map and just blindly followed the sign to Hunting Hollow.

Rodeo Pond

Wilson Camp

So we passed Wilson Camp; we could see it to our right, down below - a couple old farm buildings and a newer bathroom. We stayed on the Wagon Road, which starts to descend. About 10 minutes after we'd passed the Wilson Ridge Trail intersection and before we started a steep downhill section, I started getting suspicious of the route we were taking. I pulled out the map and verified that the route we were taking would end up costing us more than 2 extra miles plus extra climbing.

I suspect that when the trail sign says "3.0 miles to Hunting Hollow" it really means "3.0 miles to Hunting Hollow Road", which is a completely different thing than Hunting Hollow Entrance. I'm sure I'm not the first person to fall victim to this little distinction. In any case, we hadn't gone too far yet, so we backtracked to Wilson Camp. Instead of going all the way back to the intersection, I figured we'd take the Bowl Trail, which leaves from Wilson Camp. It wasn't very well-signed, though. We took a dead-end road near one of the buildings before finding the sign for the Bowl Trail sort of near the bathroom.

In all, our little detour probably cost us about 20 minutes. Relieved to be back on track, we took the narrow Bowl Trail, which is pretty flat. It starts out in the shade but shortly breaks out into the open, with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. After about a mile we turned left to continue on the Wilson Ridge Trail, the trail we would have been on had we taken the planned route.

View from the Bowl Trail

View of unnamed pond from the Bowl Trail

It's pretty much all downhill from here. Well, there's still a bit of flat trail, but then it starts descending, and then it starts descending steeply. A second biker passed us on this section of trail, only the 2nd (and final) person we'd see on the trail today. We sped downhill, turned left onto Middle Steer Ridge Trail, then immediately right onto Hunting Hollow Road. This is a wide dirt and gravel road that parallels the creek. It's pretty flat at this point and was flooded over in a couple places. It was easy enough to follow some use trails onto rocks around the flooded sections.

Hunting Hollow Road

We arrived back at the parking lot just before 5pm, where most of the cars were now gone. Still, though, even at this late hour we could see someone else in the parking lot getting ready to head out backpacking. Perhaps they were headed out to Redfern Pond (less than 4 miles from the trailhead).


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