Mile: 1101.7 to 1120.4
New trip bird: Evening Grosbeak.
New Eldorado County bird: Cassin's Vireo.
New Placer County birds: Evening Grosbeak, Osprey, Williamson's Sapsucker, Warbling Vireo, American Robin, Orange-crowned and MacGillivray's Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Cassin's Finch, Pine Sisken and Common Nighthawk.
The high snowy pass mountain gods had their way with us one more time. At 9,400 feet elevation, Dicks Pass will be our last time over 9000 feet on the trail. The short climb up from camp was pretty with great views. As a south facing slope the snow was minimal to the top. But at the top everything changed.
The north side was completely snow covered down to about 9000 and intermittent after that until we were at Dicks Lake. The traverse at the top was very challenging with some exposure, many trees and lots of big rocks. We carefully picked our way down aiming for a large switchback in the summer trail below. The snow was soft on the surface and mostly held a shoe edge as we kicked in steps in the traverse for a while. Finally it was over and we were on dirt trail again.
The next lake down in the basin was Fontanillis which was pretty enough to hold us for an early lunch. With only 6 miles done at 11am we would have to work hard in the afternoon to make our miles.
A short ascent out of the canyon got us to Middle Velma Lake and the start of a long stretch of relatively viewless woods walking. The fir and lodgepole forest was pretty enough but can get old quickly. By late afternoon we were down to 7000 feet and passing the small forested Richardson Lake. Still needing a couple more miles we moved on and crossed into Placer County. Susan hasn't birded mountain habitat in this county so quickly tallied a bunch of new county birds. Virtually the first bird in the new county was also a new trip bird - Evening Grosbeak. We stopped at a small creek with good water and camping even if there are a few more mosquitos than we would like. Tomorrow we continue our northward trek along the west side of Lake Tahoe passing through some of the ski mountains. Two nights in a row we've been bedtime serenaded by the loud PEENT of Common Nighthawks right over the tent. Very cool.