Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Whoops. I must have jinxed us. Talking about how few times we'd been caught in the rain while hiking. This was a legit hike in the rain. And all we had with us was a couple of 99-cent emergency ponchos.
We consulted the weather forecast radar map ahead of time and it indicated that areas south of us would be less rainy, so we found a hike off of Carson Pass, which is down by Kirkwood, and headed that direction in the Jeep after church.
This was our first time on Hwy 88 since the Caldor Fire last August to October ripped through the area and crept uncomfortably close to Lake Tahoe. The low-hanging clouds and fog made the massive burn scar areas even more eerie and ominous.
The picturesque, rustic, single-lane road to the trailhead wound between tall trees, rough-textured boulders, and generations of quaint cabins with views of Silver Lake.
When we arrived at the trailhead, the rain was steady. Nothing like downpour rainstorms in the Midwest, but a steady rain by Sierra standards. With temperatures in the 40s, let's just say we were in no hurry to get out of the Jeep.
We eventually mustered up our courage and hurried to huddle under the shelter of the raised back window while we donned our gear, including our high-tech plastic ponchos.
And we hit the trail.
Almost immediately, we could hear the rushing water of falls and cascades in the vicinity.
Although wet, the trail was nice if not a little rocky. Some sections were solely granite surface, which is kind of a fun change of pace.
And I'm always amused when we come across random and unexpected patches of green grass amongst the rocky, mountainous terrain.
Not far in, I got pretty excited because I could hear the thunderous roar of a gushing falls. I picked up my pace.
And I headed toward the edge of the falls. (This is also where I nearly lost my prized choppers mittens.)
And there was even a really nice foot bridge. (Let it be known this was the only bridge on the entire hike.)
Just before we reached Granite Lake, our first destination after that amazing waterfall, we actually crossed paths with a lone hiker, in full-on rain gear. Totally prepared. Clearly on a mission, probably to get back to his vehicle. We thought maybe he was purposely out in the rain test out his gear. We told him we were also really prepared on an account of our rain ponchos. He chuckled as he passed and kept moving along.
Even though clouded-in, Granite Lake was pretty neat with its massive granite rock faces sloping down into the water.
I just loved this little "scene" of Granite Lake.
After Granite Lake, however, is where the trail started to get really sporty. And our shoes started to get really soggy.
From here all the way to Hidden Lake, our final destination of this hike, every couple hundred feet, we either came across a downed tree blocking the trail or a severely flooded portion of the trail that required a great deal of agility for log or rock balancing in order to avoid getting our feet fully soaked.
Oddly, the higher we climbed, the more swampy and waterlogged the terrain.
When I was a kid in the Midwest, my brother and I would often venture out – usually wearing not-so-waterproof snow boots – during springtime when everything was melting and/or getting soaked by spring showers. We'd traipse through all the mud and saturated earth, exploring, looking for waterfalls. One year, we discovered a "hole" at the edge of the farm field adjacent to our house and it had been filling up with water. To us, this significant find looked like a (very) small swimming hole. It earned the name "The Wide World of Waters."
This hike was The Wide World of Waters on steroids.
When we got fairly close to Hidden Lake, everywhere we turned was more water, deeper water, wider water-crossings. We honestly didn't think we'd be able to find a way over this section and get to Hidden Lake.
Even the sign gave up!
After aimlessly and desperately walking around, backtracking, climbing atop boulders, trying to find a way across the water that didn't involve getting wet...
We were about ready to give up and turn around and head back to the Jeep. But then, we found this one large downed tree that we thought could get us across without getting wet. Safely stepping on the loose soil of the root system was the sketchiest part, so we both used a tall walking stick to keep us from falling off and into the water below.
Luckily, we both managed to make it across without incident. It's amazing how cumbersome a thin, lightweight plastic poncho can be when you're trying to be agile. Somehow, we rejoined the actual trail to get to Hidden Lake. Once we got there, we were both slightly underwhelmed. After all that extra effort, Hidden Lake wasn't all that notable. It was pretty and very serene, but other than that, a little unremarkable.
We decided to turn around and head back to the trailhead, but on the way, we wanted to divert slightly to check out the other falls we could hear on our way to Hidden Lake.
This led to more water. So much water. It was flowing and cascading everywhere.
At some point, the rain let up and we would see random peeks of blue sky and sunshine, so we were hopeful – maybe the rain was tapering off. Do we dare take off the ponchos? We did.
As we approached our return trip past Granite Lake, we were pleasantly surprised to get a break in the clouds, so we stopped to take a few more photos of this peaceful lake, with a cloud-shrouded Thunder Mountain in the background.
At this point, my husband wanted to take a slightly different leg of the trail back to the trailhead. So we veered that direction. This alternate route was extremely rocky and we were glad this wasn't the route we took up to Granite Lake. In fact, this section of the trail reminded me of the latter portion of the trail through Shirley Canyon that we've done a few times.
And what would this leg of the trail be without yet another downed tree obstacle?
When we returned to the initial waterfall, with the rain having subsided, I stopped to take another photo.
As we made our way closer to the trailhead, I noticed the stray boulders that look like they were hand-placed in their spots atop the granite moonscape.
The rain held off and we made it back to the Jeep successfully. Thankfully, neither one of us got cold on the hike, despite having extremely soggy feet by the end.
In hindsight, I wish I would have brought my true hiking boots for this hike, because they are waterproof and I think they would have been a better choice than my trail runners. We are rookies when it comes to hiking in the rain, but wearing our cheap ponchos kept us mostly dry, even though they were a little annoying and cumbersome to hike in. The one thing I did not anticipate was how much the ponchos trapped in heat and made us sweat a lot more, despite this hike not being that difficult and it not being that warm outside.
The beautiful Granite Lake, all of the amazing waterfalls, and the childhood memories of The Wide World of Waters adventures made this rainy hike worth it. And it's surely one we'll remember.
Granite Lake & Hidden Lake