THERE ARE SEVERAL trails leading to Deer Lake perched high on the pacific crest, and most involve steep climbs from surrounding valleys. However, locals recommended starting at Packer Saddle where the elevation is higher - and that's the route we chose. (A wise decision as it turned out.) The trail was well shaded with only mild climbs winding through forests of cedars, pines and firs.
Eventually we crossed the mountain ridge line and discovered magnificent vistas below us extending to the horizon. Each turn in the trail uncovered a new vista that was delightful! We occasionally saw evidence of rock tailings from century old mines that pioneers dug while searching for their fortunes.
As the trail crossed clearings we found the remnants of spring wildflowers being visited by the butterflies. This time of year most forest animals have retreated further into the wild to avoid human visitors, so wildlife activity was scarce except for butterflies, bugs, and an occasional bird.
The trail continued along a rocky crest where we came upon a stand of young trees that had been harvested and delivered to the sawmills on Yuba River. The regenerated forest was thriving well in its mountain environment, showing gererous evidence of new growth.
We passed through gardens of rocks and plants growing under white clouds and powder blue skies, until we finally came to a trail junction that announced that we were close to our destination, beautiful Deer Lake, nestled in the rocky cirque below.
The trail decended 400 feet down a cliff past mountain elders, manzanita, and a small pond, before reaching the lakeside where we rested and ate lunch. The dramatic backdrop of the Sierra Buttes made this the perfect spot to hang out for awhile.
A shoreline trail circled the lake providing access for swimmers, sunbathers, and backpackers, but we were content to stay where we arrived. How can it get better than this?
I climbed boulders to get better views and was well-rewarded for my efforts. Below me I discovered others who were enjoying the lake.
So, while our discovery hike to Deer Lake was filled with rewarding memories, we found that these treasures can rarely be enjoyed in complete solitude. Word will get out and draw others to enjoy the grandeur, too.