The wind whisked clouds of yellow pollen from the pine trees, swirling them in the air like dust devils. Small clusters of cyclists pedaled past, training for the Markleville Death Ride in ten days. A lone American flag waved proudly on top of a nearby red, volcanic hill, celebrating Independence Day.
Tentatively at first, we began to hike. Sierra's feet, encased in a new pair of Brooks Adrenaline kids trail running shoes, felt great.
We soon reached Kinney Lakes. Kinney Lakes have been the site of many backpack trips to introduce kids to the backcountry because it is a short hike on gently graded trail ending in two large bodies of water. After an easy walk kids can fish, play in the water, or climb trees in the surrounding forest.
But Kinney Lakes was not our destination, so we pushed on down the trail. We soon left the trees to traverse open red, rocky volcanic hillsides. Some of the hillsides were covered with sage and other brush. Others were covered with grassy meadows and a potpourri of wildflowers.
A pair of day hikers warned us that many of the usually reliable seasonal streams were dry. The news didn't surprise me as it was consistent with what we have seen since entering the mountains. But I was surprised when even Raymond Meadows Creek, listed as a reliable, year-round water source in the Data Book, was dry.
Continuing down the trail, I was relieved to see water glistening down the canyon in Raymond Lake Creek, our destination for the day. I was less relieved to discover the steep, narrow canyon had little flat ground. Climbing upstream, we found a flat campsite in a grove of fir trees, and stopped for the night.