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  • Writer's pictureJason Sheck

Antelope Lake, Frenchman Lake, and a lot of Washboard

One of my favorite drives in the Tahoe area is heading north from Interstate 80 on HWY 89, near Truckee, CA. Today we took HWY 89 to Sattley, and then took local roads north to Beckwourth, and ultimately all the way up to Antelope Lake. This is an area that I've been curious about for some time, and today was the day to check it out! Oddly enough, it was gloomy and rainy. It brought back memories of Midwestern weather for Bri and I, where prolonged cloudy and rainy stretches occur more frequently than what we've gotten used to in the Tahoe area. As we worked our way north from Beckwourth, the road was in great shape and we were clearly in cattle country. Eventually the pavement ended and we found ourselves on washboard gravel roads for many miles. We passed through a recently burned area and couldn't help but stop to capture some of the devastation these wildfires leave behind. Antelope Lake is a reservoir, like so many lakes in Northern California. We made a brief visit to an old pioneer cabin, hand lunch on a cold and windy point on the lake, hunkered down between some large rocks to get out of the wind, and watched pelicans, geese, and Mergansers move across the lake. After taking a loop around the lake, we headed back south and went home a different route. We stopped by Frenchman Lake, another place I've heard some about. It was very similar to Antelope, a partially filled reservoir though it seemed smaller. The main road heading south from the lake to HWY 70 had recently been repaved, and the canyons is passed through were beautiful. After all the washboard, we were ready for a smooth road. When we got to Chilcoot, CA, we made a beeline for home.

What did I learn?

The area between Portola and Susanville is rich with cattleman history, consists of a lot of mature ponderosa pine forests, and would be a great place to try out dispersed camping. The main roads are washboard nearly everywhere so traveling with a trailer would require a different route or very slow travel.

I believe these are called these Highland cattle. From Wikipedia "The a Scottish breed of rustic cattle. It originated in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland and has long horns and a long shaggy coat." Seems right, let's go with it.

The scars left by a relatively recent wildfire. For a myriad of reasons, the damage left by many wildfires are infrequently logged. Between the fire characteristics and location, the terrain, and the property owner, the stars must have aligned to log portions of the standing dead timber.

A lot of the old structures we come across in the Sierra belonged to either cattlemen or miners. This one belonged to cattlemen from the Honey Lake area, which is a large, shallow, and dirty lake (in terms of turbidity) that is probably 5 miles east of this area, the way the crow flies. It would take many more miles than that to get to Honey Lake following existing roads.

Our lunch spot, the relatively cold and windy weather made lunch a little uncomfortable but our Coleman stove boiled the hotdogs and vegetables pretty quickly. We actually hid behind some of the rocks along the beach to get out of the wind. Bri even brought cheese and crackers, which was a nice treat. Aren't we fancy?

Probably the most picturesque part of Frenchman Lake...a creek (Frenchman Creek) making its way into the lake from the west. I could see climbers being very interested in this area.

Little Last Chance Creek. A few different folks were trying to fish the creek but they didn't seem to be having any luck.

The road from Frenchman Lake down to Chilcoot was brand new. At this point the Jeep was back on pavement and we were headed south through Reno on US395 and back to Incline Village on Mount Rose Highway.

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Pam Settergren Hauer
Pam Settergren Hauer
May 10, 2021

Thanks for sharing, Jason. Such a pretty area.

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