Camping is absolutely in my top five all-time favorite activities to partake in. I adore being surrounded by nature. I love the ability to spend time with those I love free from all the hustle and bustle of every day life. It is one of the few times you immerse yourself in pure joy and happiness, carefree about all things bogging down your brain. Just you and Mother Nature… One. Matt and I wanted to go camping. A chance to get away, spend quality time together. We had no idea where to go. So many options, but very few campgrounds were first come, first serve. All we wanted was a little 2 night stay or even an overnight getaway. Good luck with that. I was looking at north of Lake Tahoe when he had mentioned south of it. Hope Valley area. Mountains, trees and absolute beauty. A few weeks prior to our camping trip, we had made the 1.5 hour trek down to Hope Valley for an amazing True Beauty photo session I was doing with my awesome friend Felicia (you can see that shoot here). Matt had never been there before, and for me… it’s been 20+ years. If you look at my session, you can see the landscape in which we fell in love with. Our kind of scenery.
After spending more than enough time on Google Earth trying to look for campgrounds near lakes and trails, I stumbled upon Woods Lake. I did some research, finding out that it was a first come, first serve campground. Another perk… 200yds from the campground was it’s own alpine lake. More perks… It has a 4.5 mile trail loop that goes to two other lakes. Oh yes, we are going here.
We went grocery shopping and packed up our things to leave the next morning with the pups. Saturday morning rolled around and we were off! Both excited to get some nature time in one another and explore yet another place we’ve both never been to.
We pulled up to the campground, drove through once to check it out. No spots available. Stopped by the camp host to find out that someone JUST left and there was one open spot. We drove over to it to check it out. It was the crappiest one in the whole place. Forget it! No! I’m not gonna pass up this spot to hopefully find another one at a different campground. It wasn’t that hard to convince Matt of it. So we unloaded the truck and set up camp! We had the perfect view of Round Top Peak from camp by our camp fire.
After setting up camp, we walked down to Woods Lake with the pups. This place was packed with people, I mean, after all, it is summer still. We got to the water’s edge to look for a place for us to spend a few hours at. We spotted a rock with a platform and made our way over there. We crossed through the stream runoff that was 3 feet deep, and had we known there was a bridge 50 yards down, I wouldn’t have froze my butt off quite yet! Walked about 200 yards to the rock we found and set up towels, our bags and the cooler. It was the perfect area.
Woods Lake is absolutely gorgeous. This tiny blue gem is surrounded by mountains reaching to the sky. Boulders and islands along the water’s edge glow warm and gray in the high-altitude sun. Small cabins surrounding the lake are great getaways for outdoor enthusiasts. The water is so pristine, you’re afraid to ruin it’s purity.
That evening, we sat back, relaxed and drank around the campfire. We went to bed early so we had plenty of time to do the 4.5 mile hike in the morning before camp check-out. And just in case you didn’t know, two people and two dogs (lab and beagle) do not go well in a tent on an air mattress. What a disaster! I still laugh about it to this day.
The next morning I woke up around 6am. Matt wasn’t awake, so I laid there until he did. Packed drinks and snacks in our packs, put the dogs on leashes and set off on our way. I had no idea the first mile of the trail was going to be up a steep mountain; I just about died.
Once to the top of one mountain, there was an area they call Lost Cabin Mine. There is no cabin there, just a bunch of old vehicle parts and some mining equipment. There are some really pretty flowers by the creek that runs by it (but they came out blurry). I liked the creek and one of the bare trees that was off to the side of the trail.
We continued on up the trail towards Round Top Lake, which was about 2 miles away still. There were so many flowers and was green in every direction you looked. They called this area the Mokelumne Wilderness.
About 2.5 hours later, we made it to the Round Top Lake junction, where you could either go up to Round Top Peak (10,381ft), down to Fourth of July Lake (4 mile round trip from junction) or over to Winnemucca Lake. Round Top Lake is another alpine lake except with a green glassy surface. The mountains surrounding it still had a fair amount of snow on them for being August. The main thing that intrigued me while at the lake was the way some of the trees grew. They looked like they stemmed from one central area, then grew up like a giant mugo.
After walking around Round Top Lake, it was up for debate which way to go. We both wanted to go to the top, but I just didn’t have the energy or strength in me to do a 1,000ft elevation gain in such a short distance. So we opted to just go down to Winnemucca Lake. We took a detour first to climb up on some rocks to overlook the area. We were able to see Caples Lake, South Lake Tahoe and Winnemucca Lake all from where we were sitting.
After our half hour snack and rest break, we headed on down to Winnemucca Lake. There were several flowers in the areas surrounding the lake, followed by a creek flowing from the lake and down the draw. It was just like the other two lakes, pristine and gorgeous.
Down the trail we went from Winnemucca Lake back to Woods Lake. I was in awe of the variety of colors of the Indian Paintbrush. I picked one in every color and made a bouquet for my mom. I am always picking wildflowers for my mom. I think it’s the little girl in me. Anyways, we got down to the bottom of the mountain and found the bridge that crossed the creek from Woods Lake.
We moseyed on back to camp at about the time it was to checkout. After packing up and taking off, we were exhausted. Once home, the dogs were passed out for hours.
It was an amazing time and an adventure I will cherish forever. And neither of us would know what our next adventure would take us…