Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mosquito Lake

Mosquito Lake

For our annual end of the summer camping trip I wanted to go somewhere different. Per my mother in law’s suggestion we decided on Lake Alpine. Lake Alpine is about a two and a half hour drive from Ripon up Highway 4 and is my new favorite camping spot. My hiking/camping/outdoorsy friend Lindsey came along for the fun as well.
We love camping!
After working multiple 12 hour night shifts in a row and sleeping a mere 3 hours, I packed what I could for us campers and waited for Danny and Lindsey to get off work. Packing for a camping trip takes a lot of planning. There are multiple meals to be cooked, weather situations to prepare for, possible emergency situations, lighting operations, and toilet questions. This is why I don’t recommend planning and packing only hours before you leave. You are bound to forget something (toothbrushes). At least I remembered the toothpaste.

Heading up Highway 4 is a fun drive. There are cute little towns and beautiful landscapes to look at. I was tempted to pull over and try some alligator jerky from the nice looking man on the side of the road, but Danny just gave me a funny look when I mentioned it in excitement. When passing the sweet mountain town of Arnold, Danny got very excited about a certain diner exclaiming, “They have the best ice cream in the WORLD there!”

Just when we were getting close enough that we were experiencing that, “super excited ready to get out of the car feeling” we came upon a road block. We were forced to wait a while for cars on the left side to pass us, then had to follow a work truck and drive on the left side of the road. We felt rather British.

When we finally arrived at Lake Alpine we were met with disappointment. No we were not disappointed with the lake (beautiful) or campgrounds (clean), but all the spots were filled. There are three campgrounds around Lake Alpine and all three are first come first serve. When I had heard that the campgrounds were first come first serve, my miniscule amount of OCDness was alarmed, but we had a backup plan: Mosquito Lake.
Lake Alpine
Mosquito Lake is approximately 5 miles past Lake Alpine, but feels a bit longer as you have to drive on a very narrow, windy, slightly, scary road. The gods of outdoor fun were looking out for us as there were a couple of wonderful camping spots open. Mosquito Lake campground is very small. There are about 12 or so spots. The location is perfect. It is right across from the lake, close to hiking/backpacking trails, and close enough to Lake Alpine for more recreating. The cost per night is a whopping $5. There is no running water (the bathrooms consist of outhouses) so make sure to bring plenty, or one of those super cool water purifiers. If you are a camper that must shower every day, there are showers back at the Lake Alpine Lodge.

Mosquito Lake
We picked an excellent campsite near some fun boulders with a view of the lake. After setting up camp and realizing that Lindsey’s air mattress is far superior to my regular bed, we made dinner. Danny and I had bunless hot dogs with a slew of garden vegetables. Lindsey had her hot dog normal style with extra miracle whip. Eww. After dinner and dishes, (the worst part of camping) we sat around the campfire and listened to Lindsey’s interesting mix of I Tunes music and played my favorite game Catch Phrase. We also happened to be camping during a meteor shower. As if the stars in the sky aren’t amazing enough when you are out of the valley smog, the heavens certainly put on a great show.

We roasted marshmallows and made smores. I have a rule for camping. My rule is that no matter how healthy you are trying to eat, always make smores. You never know when a bear might attack. While you are being gruesomely attacked, at least you can find solace in remembering your delicious chocolate treat during your remaining minutes of life.
Fire Starter
Going to sleep that night was difficult. I had worked the night before and the first night back to “normal” sleeping hours is always difficult, plus I always forget how cold it gets at night in the mountains. I was forced to wear socks while sleeping, which is just plain horrid.

The next morning we woke up to the sun. Which is far earlier than I normally wake up, but I was grateful for its warmth. It turns out Lindsey couldn’t sleep either. Of course Danny who falls asleep without any problems ever, had a great night’s sleep. Breakfast was bacon, scrambled eggs, and fruit for Danny and I and a couple bites of oatmeal for Lindsey who is not a breakfast person. I tried to explain to her that it is the most important meal of the day, but she would have nothing of it.

Start of our hike
We planned on taking a hike up to Lake Heiser that morning. There are tons of little lakes in the greater Lake Alpine area. Most have trails going to them. We chose Lake Heiser because in total it was a 5 mile hike and we wanted to go to Lake Alpine for some rafting later in the day. The hike begins at Mosquito Lake and has a sharp incline in the beginning. The hike started out interestingly enough with a shirtless hippy man wearing a wide brimmed hat, skipping down the trail. With such an incline at such high altitude (8,000 something feet), I was fairly nervous (although it didn't seem to phase the hippy). The last hike I had been on was at Pinecrest Lake, which doesn’t even compare to this one. Danny, who is in incredible shape, even remarked that it was more of a hike than he had anticipated.

Unfortunately Lindsey started feeling sick. She was throwing up…which is never pleasant especially when your heart is already racing a million miles a minute and it’s difficult to catch your breath. Lindsey decided she would go back and get better, while Danny and I ventured on. I would like to once again take this time to point out to Lindsey, the importance of eating breakfast.

Lake Heiser

We forged on without Lindsey and somehow I made it. Actually I felt pretty good. My hiking Half Dome preparations have been paying off. My heart rate and breathing did increase, but I recovered quickly. The hike to Lake Heiser is beautiful. We passed ponds, breathtaking views, and wild flowers. When nearing the destination Mother Nature gives you a glimpse of Lake Heiser, which is a sweet little lake, surrounded with large granite rocks, tall trees, and more wild flowers.
Ta da!
The hike back went by in a flash. We got back to our campsite to find a much happier Lindsey. We ate a quick lunch, then packed up Lindsey’s inflatable raft and headed to Lake Alpine. Lake Alpine is similar to Pinecrest Lake in size, scenery, and boating rules, but less crowded. Lake Alpine is the perfect lake for Lindsey’s raft because motor boats are only allowed to go at a slow pace.

Lindsey’s raft is a class “3” water craft. What that means, I do not know. I can tell you that there are multiple places in the raft that need to be inflated with air and it comes with oars. We carried the class 3 water craft from our parking spot to the lake, which was much more difficult than it sounds for three able bodied people. I ended up supporting the middle of the raft with my head. Turns out I won’t be winning any awards for my incredible ability to balance things on my dome.

We rowed across the lake. I sat in the middle of the raft and was deemed useless in my rowing abilities by Danny. I blame it on the oar as I was given the lesser one. Once we got to the other side we got out and waded a bit. The water temperature was pleasant until a breeze kicked in. The trip across the lake went faster as we rowed with purpose and I tried not being so lame in my rowing skills. Deflating a raft is much more difficult than it should be. I found that sitting on it while squeezing the air port was the best method.

On the way “home” we stopped by the general store, per my request. I have a small fascination with small town general stores. You can always find something exciting on the shelves. At the Lake Alpine general store I did not see anything very exciting besides the young foreign man behind the counter who hasn’t quite mastered the English language enough to tell jokes.

Once we got back to the campsite Danny started heating up the BBQ. Lindsey and I left Danny in his manly domain and went on a little adventure. She showed me where she had camped before by Mosquito Lake. Because it is such a cool spot and I want to be sure that it is available for our next camping trip, I am going to leave it a secret. I will tell you that there were two adorable ponds with a little duck family residing in them. There were fun rocks to climb that allowed us to see all around without trees obstructing our view.

We then walked around Mosquito Lake. We were interested in the four or so boarded up mystery cabins. We took a questionable bridge across the lake. We discovered a storage building built out of stone with a “D” carved in the door. Lindsey thought it was for food storage or perhaps an outhouse. I think the “D” stands for Dungeon and it’s where the owners of the mystery cabins keep snoopy campers like Lindsey and I. We quickly moved on from the creepy cabin area.

D is for Dungeon

Mystery Cabins
After our adventure, we ate dinner. Dinner was steak and sweet potatoes for Danny and I. We learned that Lindsey had never had a sweet potato before, so we offered one of ours. I am happy to say that the slightly picky eater, Lindsey, enjoyed her sweet potato. Dinner was followed by more sitting, campfire music, smores, and Catch Phrase. We went to bed early, exhausted after our long day. Despite our noisy teenage neighbors, we were all able to sleep soundly.

Lindsey, chopping wood since 2010
We woke up, ate a quick breakfast, packed, and hit the road. The worst part about the last day of camping is taking down the tent and unpacking at home. The best part has to be taking a long hot shower and sleeping in clean sheets.

Next time you want to sleep a little closer to the stars, go on a hike, or wander through wild flowers, I suggest the Lake Alpine area. It is clean, has many things to do, and is not over crowded. The area is beautiful and offers multiple camping and pseudo camping amenities. From backpacking to cabins, there is  something for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds lovely. I have two favorite places to camp: Wawona campground in Yosemite, by the river. You can camp and then drive to the Wawona Hotel and have most excellent meals in the 100 year old plus historic landmark. The other favorite is D.L. Bliss in Tahoe with a most excellent hike along the water to Vikings Home (or is it Vikingsholm?). From there you can get most excellent meals at the casinos and anywhere else you like. However, both places go late September, mid-week for having the place to almost just yourselves and the bears..