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Mokelumne Wilderness

Day 1 of 2

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Saturday, July 29th
Drive to Blue Lakes; Granite Lake

For those of you who are wondering, it's pronounced muh-KELL-um-nee. At least that's what the rangers tell me.

Jean and I had planned to leave after work on Friday, but work forced us to abandon those plans. Rather than leave late on Friday night, we decided to wait until the next morning.

Saturday morning we left just past 9am, made a stop for breakfast, and reached Woods Lake off Highway 88 just after 1pm, after about 3 1/4 hours of driving. I'd been to Woods Lake before, on a hike up Round Top, and had read good things about the campground. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the campground was full.

We turned around and considered our options. There are lots of campgrounds in the area, and we settled on going toward the Blue Lakes. After driving over Carson Pass and continuing on Highway 88 for a few miles, we made the turn off the highway. The sign said 12 miles to Lower Blue Lakes. What the sign doesn't say is that the last 5 of those miles is unpaved.

We'd been on rough roads at Jennie Lake earlier in the month. While the road to Blue Lakes isn't as bad, it has the unfortunate feature of being much longer. I don't think my car has ever gone through such a beating before. We desperately need to get an SUV. In fact out of all the cars I saw on the unpaved section of road, I don't recall seeing anything other than trucks and SUV's.

Mercifully, the road becomes paved as it turns into the campground. We arrived at about 1:45pm, just in time to pick one of three remaining sites at Lower Blue Lakes campground. It's a PG&E campground, with additional campgrounds nearby, including Upper Blue Lake up the road. We had no trouble picking a nice site at Lower Blue Lake, though. After setting up our tent, we had a great view of the lake, right outside our front door.

One thing became immediately apparent, however. This place is a haven for bugs. They were buzzing all around. We tried to light a citronella candle, but the wind kept blowing it out. The wind was gusty at times, but generally wasn't a big problem. I've been through much worse at Point Reyes.

Jean decided to take a nap in the tent while I went on a short hike. I drove further on down the road, which unfortunately becomes unpaved again, and parked in the dusty lot just past Middle Creek Campground. Then I set off for Granite Lake.

After I returned from my hike we settled down to cook dinner, which consisted of noodles, vegetables, and some wonderful salmon taken from our last trip to Pike's Place Market in Seattle. After dinner, we explored the shore of the lake a bit before returning to find two deer wandering near our camp site. They jumped away as I took out my camera, though.

While I was washing dishes, I suddenly noticed an orange glow around our campsite. I looked out over the lake to see an amazing orange-red horizon. The sky was on fire with the colors of a beautiful radiant sunset. I jumped up and started toward my camera, but then quickly changed direction and ran over to my car to get the tripod first. I ran around frantically, knowing I only had a few precious minutes to act. I set up my camera and took several pictures, including a few with an innocent passerby enjoying the sunset.

Sunset over Lower Blue Lake

Our neighbors stayed up a bit past the 10pm quiet hour, but not too much longer. Given the fact that we'd had to get up early and the long drive, we had no trouble falling asleep.

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