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Folger Peak

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Links:

July 4th, 2003

2.4 miles
1150 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:16

Rating: 8/10

Directions: Take Highway 4 east toward Bear Valley. Continue past Bear Valley onto undivided section for about 14 miles. Turn right onto Road 8N01, signed for Highland Lakes campground. Follow road for 5 miles (last 4 miles are unpaved). Enter the western part of the Highland Lakes campground. Head up the hill to the right.   View Driving Map

The trail for Folger Peak starts from the end of a road in the western section of the Highland Lakes campground. I found a campsite at the end of the road. While I was trying to figure out where the trail started, a woman at the camp pointed to her left, saying there was a trail there. So if you're looking for the trail, know that it starts more on the left side, not next to the creek on the right.

Folger Peak

I started up the hill around 9:30am, passing a small patch of snow as I entered the forest. After a few minutes I could see Folger Peak above to the right. As I approached a saddle, I could see a large snow bank on the left. All around me were wildflowers, including some bright pink ones I'd never seen before - they kind of look like scarlet penstemon, only pink.

Hiram Peak

After a 250 foot climb, I reached the saddle. I went a brief ways past the saddle just to check out the view. I could see a trail that continues out to Milk Ranch Meadow. Then I went back to the saddle, and turned north to head up to the peak. There's no vegetation to speak of other than flowers, so you can see most of the route the whole way, even though there's no trail. I say "most" because there are two intermediate plateaus.

View southwest of the saddle

After climbing for about 75 feet, I reached the first plateau. Looking behind me, I could now see Hiram and Airola Peaks dominating the view. Continuing the climb, I found myself staring at a steep slope above a snow bank. To avoid it, I veered to the left. If I had to do it again, I would stick to the center of the plateau, rather than veering to the right as I originally did. Staying on the right gives you nice views of the Highland Lakes below, but is more dangerous.

After another 300 feet of climbing, there's another plateau. More like a saddle, actually. Now the crux of the climb awaits. It's another 400 feet to the top, and this is the steepest part. It's also very gravelly. Every time you take a step up, you slide back down a bit. After a while, I found it helpful to kick-in steps, as if I were snow-shoeing. In other words, I would lead in with my toe and kick into the gravel. This seemed to prevent the sliding.

As I ascended, I noticed some butterflies fluttering about. Two of them (one larger than the other) seemed to be attached to each other. Don't know what that means. They even flew together. Or rather, one was flapping its wings and the other was along for the ride. They were also rather slow -- if I wasn't careful, I'd end up stepping on one of them.

I was still acclimatizing, but eventually I made it up to the top. There's a broad summit plateau with steep drop-offs to the north, east, and west. There's no vegetation -- just rocks. The small summit block lies on the northwest corner of the summit plateau. It's only a few feet higher than the plateau. I put down my trekking poles and clambered up to the 9720 foot summit. There's a summit register there. It's always interesting to take a few minutes to read some of the things people write. One woman mentioned that her three year old daughter came up to the top, holding her dad's hand. I can't imagine a three-year-old coming up that gravel, but it is perfectly safe. I might want a leash to prevent them from walking off an edge, though! (you may laugh, but I did see a woman at camp with a leash on her toddler)

Hiram and Airola Peaks


I signed the summit register (which is really just a bunch of papers stuffed in a glass jar), then enjoyed the view. And another lunch of bagel and peanut butter. Surprisingly, there wasn't too much wind at the summit. While there weren't any mosquitoes, there were lots of flies, white butterflies, and a few bees. Why do flies like summits? I'd encounter flies on Arnot Peak the next day.

Hiram Peak above Upper Highland Lake

Hiram and Airola Peaks

Snow slope below Folger Peak

On the way back down, gravel followed me with every step. I was glad to have the trekking poles. I tried to be careful not to disturb the vegetation, but there wasn't anything I could do about the gravel. When I got down to the upper saddle, I noticed cow pies on the ground. What was a cow doing up here?! There's nothing to eat as far as I can tell. While they do let cows roam the wilderness here, I didn't see any (though I did see their effects).

Back at the main saddle, I decided to take a brief excursion to the south. This area is a broad flat area, extending south until it overlooks Highland Creek. I saw some interesting geology here. There's a lot of layering. There's one rock that looks like a stack of pancakes balanced on its side. There are fields of mules ears and those pink flowers. I was hoping for some better views, but there's not much until you reach the very edge. From there, there are great views of Hiram Peak looming over Upper Highland Lake, as well as Airola Peak. The forested Highland Creek valley extends off to the southwest. I noted that this would be a great place to watch the sunset and take pictures tonight. Therefore, I timed my descent from there back to the trailhead. It took me just 13 minutes, which cemented my plans for the night.

Layered rock

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