Nevada History by John C. Evanoff is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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Blue Lakes

July , 2010
By John Evanoff

Camping in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains can be a pleasant way to wind down on a weekend for the average family in Northern Nevada. Residents here are lucky to be so close to some of the most beautiful geography in the world. One of these spots is an old summer favorite of our family. Blue Lakes is actually in California but near enough to folks in Carson City and Reno to call them local bodies of water.

From Reno or Carson City, go south on Highway 395 till you reach the northern outskirts of Minden at the junction of Nevada Highway 88 and then go south on 88 till you reach Hope Valley just below Carson Pass. Highway 88 meanders through the lower Carson Valley and up through the pass on the Old Pony Express route. At Woodfords at the base of the canyon is another junction, Highway 89, which goes to Markleeville and Grover Hot Springs and ends up back at Highway 395 south near Coleville just south of Topaz Lake. But that’s a story for another time.

Highway 88 goes up the hill from Woodfords at a steady incline through the Carson Canyon, past Sorensens Cabin Resort and past the northern junction of highway 89 that is called the Luther Pass Rd, which enters the south end of Lake Tahoe. At the Luther Pass Junction, you are now in Hope Valley. You’ll travel on Highway 88 to the western edge of Hope Valley and take a left on the Blue Lakes Road. From there, you will travel approximately 15 miles through Faith Valley and Charity Valley to Blue Lakes. Hope, Faith and Charity Valleys got their names from Mormon pioneers who prospered as ranchers and traders along this route to California in the 1850’s and 1860’s. The Blue Lakes are made up of two lakes, lower and upper and are manmade reservoirs operated by the California PG&E. Campgrounds at both lakes are fee based and kept clean by PG&E and Forest Department employees. The lakes are situated at over 8,000 feet of elevation and you will need to acclimate yourself. Sleeping at night, camping and hiking in the area is rewarding for the spectacular views and clear blue waters. Many streams from snow runoff filter into the lakes but water in the campgrounds should be your only source of drinking water as well as whatever you bring yourself. I might mention here that there is no store for more than 35 miles and it would be advantageous to bring all your provisions you will need for several days with you for the trip, water being one of them. If you want to have a campfire, it would be best to bring some bundled logs as well although PG&E has some firewood available at their office at the lower lake.

Hiking trails are moderate and many. Trails lead to Hidden Lake and Granite Lake at the Upper Blue Lake and Twin Lake at the Lower Blue Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail goes through the area also, but there are so many places to hike that you could spend an entire month wandering around on trails and never take the same one twice. Fishing at both lakes is regulated and you must have a California Fishing License. You can fish from boat or from the shore for rainbow trout at both lakes. The California Fish and Game Department experimented with cutthroat trout in the Upper Blue Lake in the 1960’s but they never really got a foothold. Most of the fish are planted in the spring every year for anglers to catch throughout the summer and early fall. All the fish in the other smaller surrounding lakes and streams were planted many years ago and consist of mostly brook trout. The best method for catching Brook Trout is with wet or dry flies or lures. The rainbow in both the Blue Lakes which average from 8 inches to 16 inches can be caught on just about anything including salmon eggs, cheese balls, worms and lures. It’s not uncommon to have a limit of fish before noon ready for the skillet at the campground in the evening or for breakfast the next morning. Fresh rainbow trout is an exceptional meal in the high country and with a little cornbread and red potatoes comes in great as a starter for the day’s activities or a night of pleasant sleep looking up through mountain cedar into clear starry skies.

There are also campgrounds in Hope, Faith and Charity Valleys with lots of fishing in the creek which is actually the headwaters of the West Fork of the Carson River. The creek makes for some challenging fly fishing for brook trout and rainbow in the six to eight inch range.

A map of the area comes in handy for hiking and can be purchased anywhere topographic maps are sold. Once you have discovered this area, you will probably end up coming back each summer to visit. Bring your binoculars and cameras. There are too many places you will want to use both. Walking sticks and day packs are important also. Remember that you will be hiking above 8,000 feet and in some places more than 9,000 feet so you may want to take it easy if you are not used to the higher elevations.

A lot of history revolves around this area including Kit Carson’s discovery of the mountain pass and surrounding mountains while working as a guide for John C. Fremont. Fremont thought so highly of Carson that he named the pass after him. Mostly though, the area is just fantastic as a getaway from the valley in the warmer days of summer. Take your friends or loved ones and enjoy the high sierras this summer by visiting this close-by treasure.

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