Schneider Cow Camp/Showers Lake Loop
Drive or ride to Schneider Cow Camp (barn). Continue up the dirt road about another mile and look for the trailhead on your right (uphill), right after a small creek crossing which could be dry, just rocky. The trail climbs a little bit, then traverses across the hill. This is where the views open up. The hill is ablaze with yellow and green mule's ears in spring. All of Caples Lake glistens a vibrant blue. As you climb, you'll be able to see the runs at Kirkwood Ski Resort.
Continue up and you'll be crossing back and forth through many barbed wire gates. Always be very careful when going through these gates. There is lots of broken barbed wire laying around. As you circle around Little Round Top, you'll be able to see Pyramid Peak, Lake Aloha and part of Desolation Wilderness. Closer in front of you is Sayles Canyon. There will be at least one small creek from a spring on the north side of Little Round Top. Usually choked with beautiful wildflowers. Remember that even though it may be a hot, summer day, this water is COLD snow melt, and to gauge your horses' intake accordingly.
You'll come to the Pacific Crest Trail at 3.80 miles. Turn right toward Showers Lake. The trail winds through high alpine red heather which blooms in July. One more Texas gate to go through, and then the trail drops towards Showers Lake which is two miles further. Take a minute here to look at your map and pick out Heavenly Valley, Freel Peak, Waterhouse Peak, Stevens Peak, and Red Lake Peak (looking from left to right). All of Meiss Country is at your feet. Locate Dardanelles Lake down the drainage to your left. Meiss Lake and Meiss Meadows are below.
If you are squeamish about narrow trails—get off and walk down the next section. Soon, you'll be in 3 - 4 foot high Lupine flowers with Indian Paintbrush 1- 2 feet high! Enjoy the columns of rocks up the steep bowl to your right. If it's early in the season following a heavy winter year (June), the next few gullies you cross could still be choked with snow. If not, they may be cascading torrents of water. Basically the footing should be good if you stay directly on the trail.
Showers Lake is the next stop. The trail skirts down around the exit creek (north side) and climbs a little back up to the lake. It's perfect for lunch and a swim. Do not attempt to ride around the south side of the lake (where all the green willows are); as it's very wet with deep mud.
Out of Showers Lake, you want to be sure to take the trail that goes steep up to the ridge (this juncture is not marked). If you start to drop to Meiss Meadow, you've gone the wrong way. From Showers Lake to the top of the ridge is over two miles of steep climbing. Your horse should be in good shape to haul you up this 700 foot elevation gain to 9,300 feet! It's okay to stop often, though, because the views just continue to get better! You soon see Mokelumne Peak to the south and then Reynolds Peak out by Ebbetts Pass. Then, as you gain the ridge, you'll see Caples Lake and Schneider Cow Camp once again. An incredibly gorgeous tour! Descend the trail back to camp. There'll be one more gate to pass through at the bottom.
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