Loch Leven Trail…Donde you are?

Every year, in an effort to introduce the children to the notion of hiking and backpacking, my sister Lenora organizes a “baby” (now “kid” trip).  When the two littlest ones were tiny, the hike involved a two mile roundtrip hike in Yosemite. Later, when she decided to get married, the trip became an overnighter at Cathedral Lake (Yosemite) complete with pack mules, wine and a wedding dress.  The kids up until this point were mostly carried, with some walking.   Eventually, the trips grew to include friends and their children, again, for the purpose of teaching them how to hike successfully and in keeping with all of the safety rules etc.

This June 2016, the trip was scheduled to happen on the Loch Leven Trail near Truckee, CA. Just two weeks prior we all watched the nightly news following the story of a young man and his dog lost and eventually found alive and well on this trail. Coincidentally, he is the son of a high school classmate of mine.  Needless to say, it doesn’t take much to get lost in the wilderness. But we are very experienced backpackers…what could go wrong?

We started out excited, three children and 7 adults all decked out and packed to the gills with food, tents, etc.  Having reached the trailhead,  we set off for our weekend adventure. We hiked for about a half hour and decided we’d lost the trail.  Really?


The exact moment we lost the trail. Go left we said….

We checked our maps, looked online (cell service not a problem) and wondered, how far off could we be?  We crossed tracks; check! We saw the bridge…. wait, where was that wooden bridge?

Ok, just keep following the “trail” up the hill…. Hey, theres a couple…clearly we are going the right way.

Oh, you are lost too?

They gave up and decided to head back to the trailhead and go home.  Since ours was planned to be a two night trip, we decided to keep looking.  We stopped walking when we found a pretty cascade and perfect spot for camping.


The perfect spot for an unexpected detour. Actually it was clear others had camped here as well, adding to our confusion that we were not heading the correct way. There were footprints after all.

The kids had a blast jumping around, exploring and later, making s’mores.  We, the adults started searching for a clearer map and called home to get help looking for where we went wrong.  It wasn’t long before we had a clear satellite image texted to us, with a blue dot indicating where we were, and a read circle around the lake we were targeting.  Yup, we went north when we should have turned south on the initial trail.


The first of many foot shots!

The next morning we packed up and headed back to the tracks, knowing we just had to follow them north until we found the trail again.


Back toward the trail….all our ducks now in a row.

We eventually found our way to the Upper Loch Leven Lake and made camp.  It is indeed a lovely spot, and while we were there, there were only two other groups around.  We were not able to see them, although sometimes we could hear their laughter.


Upper Loch Leven Lake

The lake, cold as it was proved perfect for washing up and filtering water.  We ate well, and rested easy.  Some swam, while a little blond thing simply fell into the lake. That’s okay.  That’s what camp fires are for; s’mores and drying clothes.

The next day we were able to have a fellow camper take a group photo of us and we headed out.


The next generation of hiker, Oliver, MaryEllen and Ava

On the way, the skies darkened and we felt the wind pick up a bit.  Did I mention that I chose not to purchase a rain poncho at REI because they were way too heavy?  Yeah, I probably shouldn’t mention it at this point of the story since the weather seems to be taking a turn (15% chance they said) and I’m carrying an expensive camera.

Now we adult women have been caught in torrential down pours in the easter sierras, at higher altitudes with granite all around. So, we weren’t necessarily worried, especially finding day hikers still entering, while we were exiting. But, nevertheless, wet granite is wet granite.

Yep, my foreshadowing is a little too obvious.

As we hastened our pace, me holding my camera under my shirt with one hand and using my trekking pole with the other, the rain became a steady, yet gentle event. Mind you, my cousin Celi well known for her fear of lightening and its thunder had taken off like a horse heading to the home barn after a long day. It took a while, but we finally caught up to her just in time to see her leave the trail, and take a SHORTCUT over a granite boulder.  You guessed it, she slipped and landed with one knee under her and her pole off the the side.

To digress for a moment you should know we normally hike as a group of women only. This is for a variety of reasons; as many reasons as there are women in the group. Mostly though, we hike without men or family because it reduces the amount of silly bickering that comes with stressful or physically demanding situations. Don’t get me wrong, we still snap at each other, but for some reason, we don’t hang on to those feelings, and usually, by dinner it all over.

And so it was that my other cousin, Flor (Refer to the movie Spanglish for the proper pronunciation) standing on the trail with the 6 year old yells out, “You need to come this way!” using her pole to point to the trail ahead.

Celi looks up at her and says, “Yeah, you think?” and grunted herself back into an upright position.  Shaking her head, she continued onto the trail and headed toward the trailhead in silence.


Almost out…..

Eventually we made it out safely, if not a little damp and we chalked it all up to lessons learned. Rest assured, I’m buying that rain poncho before our next trip…which is coming up soon by the way. Oh, and also know that we carry solar panels, water filters, emergency kits and blankets, etc. just for occasions such as this. In all, I am proud of us for getting lost and finding our way back.

Siempre adelante.




About Caro

I am a social worker by training and a peace officer by profession having worked with California’s delinquent youth and young adults for 28 years. I firmly believe that our development as humans depends on our environment and that sometimes we get stuck. As such, I write about those things we sometimes ignore or fail to see until we are forced to pay attention.
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