Powell Lake ideal for canine hikes

July 23, 2013 

Denali is our 8-month old German Shepherd. She's playful, intelligent, curious, and friendly. She's growing up quickly and a couple of weekends ago we decided it was time for her to start learning to hike and swim.

There are a lot of places where dogs aren't welcome. National Forests and wilderness areas within National Forests are usually a good bet. I picked Powell Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness as a first hike/swim destination.

At just over four miles round trip with a moderate climb for the first mile, it's just challenging enough to feel like you've accomplished something. There are some great views across the wilderness as you climb the trail, and the lake itself is in a really pretty setting with Cooper Peak, Castle Rock, and The Three Chimneys in the background. The trail has some rocks, but it is mostly dirt and sand — easy on the paws. The trailhead is at 8,640 feet and the lake is at 8,809. This puts it well above normal rattlesnake range.

Another plus is that the water is cool this time of year, but not frigid. I was able to walk into the water up to shoulder depth and stand there for a few minutes while coaxing Denali to join me. Once she got in, she swam like a champ. I swam with her as she made a pretty good circle. Then she wanted to get out. She took two more swims while we were at the lake, growing increasingly more comfortable each time.

There are few things more enjoyable than watching people and animals enjoy the outdoors, especially when they are having new experiences and discovering new things. It takes a lot of work to raise a puppy, but it's times like these when you feel the rewards.

Powell Lake is accessed via Crabtree Road in Cold Springs, an easy right turn if you're headed east on Highway 108 towards Pinecrest. The first six miles of the road are paved, the remaining six aren't. Follow signs for Aspen Meadows.

Once you arrive, follow the signs for the Giannelli Trailhead and you'll find your destination easily. The unpaved parking lot is a bit rough, but any vehicle can handle it if driven carefully.

Powell Lake is a great destination for a short backpacking trip. Because of its proximity to the trailhead and its popularity, camping is limited to one night. You can get permit at the Mi-Wok Ranger District office in Mi-Wuk Village: (209) 586-3234.

On the way home we stopped at Mia's in Cold Springs for pizza. Mia's is one of our favorite spots for pizza and pasta, and it also allows dogs to join their owners for patio dining. Although it was still over 100 degrees in Merced when we sat down to dinner, it was in the low 70s in Cold Springs.

If you're looking for a good trail for your dog, stay away from national parks and state parks. Although they are usually allowed in campgrounds, in paved areas, and in vehicles, they are not welcome on trails or in visitor centers or historic sites — basically most of the special places you would come to one of these parks in order to visit.

For dog friendly trails and campsites, stick to National Forest lands. Some of the best lake and riverside campgrounds that allow dogs and offer great adjacent hiking trails include:

• Highway 108: Campgrounds along the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus: Clark Fork, Sand Flat, and Fence Creek

• Highway 4: Alpine Lake and Highland Lakes

• Highway 88: Caples Lake, Silver Lake, Blue Lakes, and Woods Lake

• Highway 395: Virginia Lake, Lundy Lake, and June Lake

• Coast Range: Mt. Madonna County Park

Dogs are welcome at many foothill reservoirs, including McClure, Don Pedro, New Melones, New Hogan, Camanche, Pardee, Eastman, and Hensley.

These campgrounds are usually most enjoyable during the moderate temperatures of fall and spring. Because this is prime rattlesnake habitat, it's a good idea to get your dog vaccinated against rattlesnake bite.

Rattlesnake venom is far more toxic to dogs than it is to humans and a vaccinated dog will still need to see a veterinarian after being bitten by a rattlesnake. The purpose of the vaccination is to help the dog survive long enough to been seen by a vet.

No matter where you go, check the county's leash law. Generally the rule for forest and wilderness areas is that dogs must be on leash or under direct voice control, but local ordinances can vary – especially for popular destinations.

Adam Blauert is a correspondent to the Sun-Star. He's an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, backpacking, and exploring the western states. He can be reached at adamblauert@yahoo.com.name hereADAM BLAUERTOUTDOORS

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