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Camper Flat Lakes Loop, CA
mini location map2018-06-30
15 by photographer avatarchumley
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Camper Flat Lakes Loop, CA 
Camper Flat Lakes Loop, CA
Hiking avatar Jun 30 2018
Hiking10.87 Miles 2,166 AEG
Hiking10.87 Miles   4 Hrs   57 Mns   2.42 mph
2,166 ft AEG      27 Mns Break
1st trip
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On Saturday afternoon, after we had set up our night 3 camp, we decided to hike to Schmidell Lake. I then lobbied for the full loop, promising an 8 mile loop that was all downhill for the final 6 miles.

The climb up to Schmidell was steady and moderate, crossing first through an exposed granite slope before entering woodlands where we encountered some snow, and plenty of runoff resulting in muddy conditions and tricky stream crossings.

After the big climb to the lake, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and jumped in for a refreshing swim. It was nice to cool off and rinse some sweat and deet from my skin after a couple of days in the wilderness. There were a couple of other groups camped near the lake but we didn't linger long enough to chat.

Next is a very steep trail that climbs up above Schmidell. There was one snow-filled chute that had water running under it that we smartly decided to bypass. The upper sections were a mixture of muddy grass, muddy mud, muddy water, and just plain water! As we crested the saddle, the view to the north revealed the Leland Lakes, and quite a bit of snow in the first couple hundred feet below the pass. The trail was lost in the snow but we found easy routes through the granite and grass until reconnecting lower down.

The Leland Lakes are very scenic and appear to get minimal visitation. Hauling a backpack up via Schmidell wouldn't be very fun, so that might explain things! Next up was McConnell, which was more of a grassy bog than a lake. I wonder if this was once dammed or if somehow it has just filled in over the years. Next up was the scenic Horseshoe Lake as we continued downstream toward the Rubicon River.

This is where my superior map reading skills somehow failed me as I neglected to notice that our turn did not continue downstream, but in fact, turned upstream and began an unplanned 1.5 mile climb. While 400 feet isn't a big deal, it was unexpected and therefore a bit annoying. Additionally, the trail in this area more tended to disappear and route finding was much more challenging than expected. All the other trails we had hiked on this trip were in excellent condition and easy to follow.

Finally we topped out at the 4-Q Lakes where once again we found some route-finding challenges. The primary one being that both the topo trace and the recorded routes I had loaded into Route Scout led directly through the lakes. At this point we were both a bit fed up and gave up on any attempt to stay dry. Apparently the water is usually lower and dry crossings are available, but that wasn't the case for us, so we sloshed across.

From the 4-Qs the trail heads down through an exposed granite section before crossing the creek that drains Lake Schmidell and returning us back to camp. Through all that, we ended up hiking at least 2 miles more than the already aggressive afternoon hike plan, and it took about 2 hours longer than I had anticipated! Doh!

Nonetheless we were back at camp in plenty of time for dinner, and my final beer was retrieved from the ice cold Rubicon and enjoyed thoroughly!!

If I were to do this loop again, I might try an off-trail route from the northern point directly down the drainage to the Rubicon and the established trail there. It's half a mile and drops steeply but might be a good exit option. Additionally, I'd like to check out the side trail to Lake Zitella and Highland Lake, which looks especially scenic. But neither was in the cards for an afternoon hike today!
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