I would call this place a hidden gem if it weren’t for the packs of air-headed day hikers roaming through the area. All the same, Lake Winnemucca near Carson Pass on HWY88 makes for quite the overnight trip through Mokelumne Wilderness. Meandering between valleys and through alpine meadows is a serene, relaxing hike, with the only major climb to Round Top Lake near the end. A wide, sprawling meadow greets you, with water to the left and endless valley to the right.

Camped at Round Top Lake
Camped at Round Top Lake

Arriving early at camp, we had to wait a few hours in order to catch the sunset via Round Top. At 10,000 feet, and 1,000 feet up in half a mile from camp, the scramble up was intense. Shale and scree made sure footing was loose and falls were plenty.

Once we hit the summit and took our fair share of always fashionable top-of-the-mountain shots (think Rocky’s victory) we made our way down to rest in the saddle between Round Top and the Three Sisters peak. Reminiscent of a New Zealand cascade with low lying shrub and flowers, the area provided ample room to view a slowly setting sun, amidst a peaceful and intimate valley. The other peaks of the area were grand, but not too far off. The dips and crannies glowed with a purple mist, a fairy tale in real life.

The intimate valley of Round Top
The intimate valley of Round Top

Of course what is a backpacking trip without a few nighttime shots? The skies were clear, but the stars seemed dim to my eyes. High altitude and wind kept me awake, and venturing out into the night by yourself isn’t always comfortable. I only felt like these two shots were worth it, which disappointed me. I would have liked to stay out in the night longer.

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