For those who enjoy back-road driving, there are many old logging roads and FS roads in Tahoe, Sierra and Plumas Counties. A word of warning, the back roads are not all ones you can drive in a conventional car, and in many places they are single lanes with few places to turn around. Also, in many places road maintenance crews have created berms or ditches across the roads to discourage use of active logging roads and/or to divert water run-off.
If you are driving a conventional car or a motor home, it is wise to stick to well traveled roadways. Four-wheel drive is almost a necessity on most of the most of the back roads in the area. On July 28th, we headed up Lunch Creek Trail Road, intending to wind up on Gold Lake Road. We did, but not at all where we intended.
When we reached the junction with Sierra County Road 9, we went straight ahead instead of turning right on to 9. The road quickly turned very narrow and it looked as if we would wind up at Haskell Peak. There were innumerable side roads. At one point we took a wrong turn, turning right instead of left, and eventually wound up on Gold Lake Road below the lower turn-off to Frazier Falls. In the 18-plus miles of dirt road we did not see one other car, and several tImes we had to move fallen trees, branches or large rocks off of the road so we could continue.
Most of the time after we crossed Road 9 we were on the east side of the mountain in cell phone range. Knowing that we could contact someone if we got into trouble made the trip far more comfortable. Views to the east were spectacular, but the road was not for the faint of heart. Drops at the sides of the road were often well over 2,O00 feet in places. And, at one point as we turned a corner, we were looking directly up at the FS Mills Peak Lookout a couple of thousand feet above us.
We drove through high mountain meadows full of flowers and past hillsides covered with flowers and flowering bushes. There were literally acres of pennyroyal intermingled with corn flowers, mullen sunflowers, penstemon, buttercups, blue and white lupine, asters, leopard lilies, sierra lilies, asters and some we could not identify. Underneath the taller flowers were mariposa lilies and tiny yellow violets. There was red, blue and yellow penstemon. I had never seen a yellow penstemon before, but it is listed in the Peterson Guide for Pacific States Wildflowers. Manzanita was still in bloom on the high eastern side of Haskell Peak, as were ceanothus, mountain spirea and bitter cherry.
There was one large snow bank at the edge of the road at about 7,000 ft, and several wet areas and seeps at the edge of the road where there were literally hundreds of butterflies. Dragonflies were everywhere. Sphinx moths, butterflies, and multiple types of bees were busily pollinating. It was surprising to see the sphinx moth active during the day.
The highest point on the road was about 7,400 feet, but there were side roads that must have gone much higher. If we were avid mountain bike riders, this would be a great day’s ride.