Day 1: Off Trail in Golden Trout

18 May 2022
Horseshoe Meadow to Dutch Meadow to the PCT to East Potholes to Freckles Meadow to Overholster Meadow
(14 miles, + 2,000/-2,900 feet)

It’s been an exceptionally dry winter in the Sierra, so I have been eyeing the weather to take advantage of the premature snow melt. The southern Sierra always melts first, so at the first warm spell I decided to head to the Golden Trout Wilderness.

I have done the Pacific Crest Trail and Cottonwood Lakes in this area, but I have not explored much else. The Tom Harrison Map of the Golden Trout Wilderness is full of interesting features that are begging to be explored like “Freckles Meadow” but many of these are off trail. So I decided to plot a route that would get me to some of these exotic off-trail locales.

A 6 hour drive got me up to the Horseshoe Meadows recreation area, which looks like it was just recently opened. It’s so dry, that I was able to take off from my car and head across Horseshoe Meadow directly towards the Mulkey Pass Trail.

JimmyJam with Trail Peak
Horseshoe Meadow

About halfway up to Mulkey Pass I turned east to follow a use trail to Dutch Meadow

Upper Dutch Meadow
Middle Dutch Meadow
Lower Dutch Meadow

After Dutch Meadow I joined the PCT and headed south, crossing paths with about two dozen thru-hikers. More than once they yelled out to me “Hey! Southbound!”

Mulkey Meadows

The Sierra is usually full of water so I never carry more than a liter. Well today that was a mistake! I was completely out of water a couple of miles before leaving the PCT to head off trail. Fortunately, I found some in a ravine on my way down.

East Potholes

I originally planned to head down to a feature on the map called “Four Canyons”, but as I dropped below 9,000 feet, the manzanita, willows, and boulders joined forces to make it a slog.

Cross country not so easy here….

So I decided to stay above 9,000 feet, heading due west towards a spring that was marked on the map south of Freckles Meadow.


From there, the walk up to Freckles Meadow was beautiful and easy.

Meadow near the spring
Desert green gentian

Whenever I got lost on the way, I usually found bear tracks to follow.

That’s a big one!
Willows in the lower meadow
Spongy grassy goodness
Sharknose Ridge
Freckles Meadow
Skunky monkeyflower

After walking through bone-dry meadows all day, it was wonderful to find Mulkey Creek.

Flowing and Gorgeous

I followed the creek up to near Overholster Meadow and set up camp right before the creek petered out. It made a gentle burble that I hoped would woo me to sleep.

Camp ‘n’ cold soak
Sunset on the willows

One Comment Add yours

  1. saminland says:

    …that pesky manzanita – always fun and an adventure to have to move through that! Sometimes I’ll scout off trail stuff in Google Earth, you can pick a year / season with no snow and sometimes sniff out those brushy areas….thank you for the pics and commentary !

    Liked by 1 person

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