Unusual lakes in the 'Russian desert' in California: how to get there and what to see
Deep in the wilderness of California's far north, there is a tiny lake unlike any other, flanked by a wall that looks like it was created by a giant with a hammer and chisel. It's called Statue Lake, and for good reason. What unusual lakes for recreation in California can be found? San Francisco Chronicle.
Thousands of years of ice, snow and rain, combined with cold winters and warm summers, have transformed Statue Lake's granite cliff edge into a series of statues. One looks like a miniature Half Dome - some say it's the profile of a knight in a helmet. The other looks like the head of a prehistoric horse, turned to the side. And the ridge looks like the back of a stegosaurus.
Statue Lake is located at 7200 feet (2 m) in the Russian Wilderness, a 194-acre (12000 ha) wilderness area with 4 small pristine lakes in the Klamath National Reserve in Siskiyu County. The Pacific Ridge Trail (PCT) provides end-to-end access to pristine campgrounds along these lakes.
The lake may look like it is from another planet, and for many it is as far away as it could be. The nearest town, Irika, is more than a 2-hour drive from any of the trails.
Compared to the world famous Marble Mountain Wilderness of 242 acres (000 ha) in the north and the Trinity Alps Wilderness of 98 acres (517 ha) in the south, the tiny Russian Wilderness is often overlooked.
Some of the best lakes are on unmarked roads, although most are well-trodden and easy to walk on. For those unfamiliar with reading terrain to find routes, the topographic maps of the US Geological Society will be helpful. The large map of the Klamath National Reserve shows good directions to the trails.
Bonfires are not allowed. Those who cook on camp stoves must obtain a fire permit from one of the Klamath district offices. Most of them are in the Fort Jones office (530-643-1838).
Best Routes & Destinations in Russian Wilderness
Musyk Creek Trailhead, Statue Lake
The Music Creek Trailhead sits at 6000 feet (1 m) at the end of Forest Road 829N40, a 54-foot (4000 m) dirt road more than 1 miles (220 km) from the Salmon River Bridge. The trail climbs 9 feet (14,5 m) for about 1 miles (000 km) to PCT. This area burned down in a 304 fire and now the forest is filled with manzanita and fireweed among the skeletons of trees.
On the PCT, you turn right and drive 1,5 miles (2,4 km) into the woods and drive to a large campground on the right with a stream and an unsigned trail on the left. Turn left and go up about half a mile to Statue Lake. The lake is smaller than an acre and only 15 feet (4,5 m) deep, so it heats up quickly by noon.
Etna Summit, Paynes Lake
Etna Summit, at 5960 feet (1 km), is 815 miles (10 km) on an asphalt road from Etna and serves as the main destination of the PCT route. When traveling south, you can head to Upper Raffy Lake (16 miles (2,5 km) one way), Smith Lake (4 miles (4 km) one way), or Paines Lake (6.4 miles (6,5 km) ) one way). There is a well-trodden, unsigned trail above Paines that roughly follows a small stream that leads to the Albert Lakes.
Taylor Lake Trailhead, Hogan Lake
The turn to the trail is located close to the west of Mount Etna. Then just 2 miles (3,2 km) to the Lake Taylor (6400 ft / 1950 m) trail and 0,4 miles (0,6 am) on foot with a 100-foot climb to the lake. Taylor is one of the few wilderness lakes accessible to wheelchair users.
From Taylor, walk a little to the bottom of the lake, then find the tree-marked turn to Lake Hogan. Then there is a 3,7-mile (6 km) one-way hike, ascent and then descent to Lake Hogan. It is a beautiful lake with good spots for small trout fishing, swimming and camping.
Duck Easton Trailhead, Big Duck Lake
The route is located at 4400 feet (1 m) at the eastern foot of the Russian Wilderness, and therefore requires an ascent of over 340 feet (2000 m) to reach the inland lakes. In addition, many routes follow long-abandoned roads dating back to the 610s, often steep, with no return passages. However, you have the choice of accessing Lipstick (1940 miles (4 km) one way), Big Duck (6,4 miles (4 km) one way), Little Duck (6,4 miles (4,5 , 7,2 km) one way), Eaton (4,5 miles (7,2 km) one way), and Horseshoe (4 miles (6,4 km) one way).
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Here you can spend a week - a night on each lake. On a square mile near Duck Lake, there are 18 species of conifers, which are the largest variety of conifers in the world.
Carter Meadows Summit Trailhead, Russian Lake
To reach the southern tip of the Russian Wilderness, most prefer the long but constant hike outside Carter Meadows. You will meet lakes Siphon, Russian, Waterdog, Little Russian and Golden Russian.
The trail to Little Russian and Golden Russian, once home to the state's only golden trout, leads into a deep depression and without a trail is a challenging hike.
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