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Keddie Ridge

Backcountry Travelogues, by Phil

djacent to both Lake Almanor and Mountain Meadows, between the towns of Westwood and Greenville, is a seemingly forgotten piece of backcountry; Keddie Ridge – aka Ridge World – where ancient rocks of the Sierra Nevada grace us with one final appearance before disappearing beneath the Modoc Plateau. This area is the northernmost exposure of Sierra Nevada granite!

The nearest town to our trailhead is Greenville in the Indian Valley, and just one mile north of Greenville is the Greenville County Park Campground. Rather than spend a primitive night at the trailhead, my cohort John Matkoski and I spent the night here before donning our packs and departing for Deerheart Lake the following morning. We recently found the campground open to dispersed, off-season camping…free of cost…no water or trash containers…campfire permit required…and if you stay, please note there’s an active shooting range nearby. Members of both the Sharpshooters and Indian Valley Gun Range start shooting early in the morning and continue until late in the evening.

Greenville located on Highway 89 just south of Lake Almador. Photo by Phil Akers
I love towns that time forgot, like Greenville located on Highway 89 just south of Lake Almador. Anna’s Café on the main drag is an excellent choice for tasty home-style grub. Try their sausage, biscuits, gravy and country taters…hard to spit out!
Pliny Elder bottle in the woods, photo by Phil Akers
I also love sharing a respectable, double IPA with excellent company, like John, who shares similar adventurous passions

Recognizing its rich gold history, Greenville hosts Gold Digger Days the third Saturday each July. The celebration starts early with a pancake breakfast, followed by a parade, then all-day attractions galore including barbeque, tons of other food, arts and crafts, and other scheduled events such as large softball and horseshoe tournaments – got my attention. Come evening, the town really lets the hair down with a street dance until midnight, next year again featuring the popular country-rock band Northern Traditionz. At the park next to the campground I counted 18 competition horseshoe pits! I’m marking my calendar and plan on pitching shoes and dancing in the street next year!

Indian Valley, photo by Phill Akers
Early morning views of Greenville and the entirety of Indian Valley, peacefully resting beneath an inversion layer.
Homer hills and landscape, photo by Phil Akers
Homer Lake no longer lives up to past reputations. It was a legendary rainbow trout fishery back in the day. It has now become dependent on plants which are sparse these days.

Protected by miles of rough travel, unmarked roads and trails, Keddie Ridge’s main attractions are hiking, hunting, peak bagging, photography, swimming, and…of course, fishing…that‘s what lures me. It is home to three remote alpine lakes – Homer, Hidden, and Deerheart Lakes – all sitting above 6,000 feet/elevation. Fishing is possible and Keddie peak is a rewarding peak bagging destination. The original trailhead is located at Homer Lake but this is no longer accessible by vehicle. The road is now closed ~2.5 miles before Homer Lake so plan on hiking an additional five miles roundtrip just to reach the original trailhead. Once at Homer, it’s a 5.2-mile roundtrip hike to Deerheart Lake. Halfway between Homer and Deerheart, Hidden Lake is perched 300-feet above the trail, reached by a spur trail to the left as you’re going in. Inviting backpacking campsites can be found at both Homer and Deerheart lakes.

Trail to Deeheart Lake, photo by Phil Akers
The trail to Deerheart Lake takes you through forest of Douglas fir and Jeffery pine, areas of wide vistas, and skirts boxed areas of lush vegetation. In this photo, you can faintly see the trail going left-to-right up the ridge.
Mountain Meadows Reservoir, Photo by Phil Akers
Gazing down on the drained Mountain Meadows Reservoir. This vista is much nicer when the reservoir has water.

As mentioned above, Keddie Ridge is the farthest reach of the Sierra Nevada, and Deerheart Lake is the northernmost lake of the Sierra Nevada. The rock here is very old, obviously older than the Cascades and volcanic tablelands of the Modoc Plateau to the north, and even more ancient than the granite slabs and domes of the southern Sierra. The geology here is fascinating!

Scouting Deerheart Lake, photo by Phil Akers
Scouting Deerheart Lake, trying to gauge depth and structure
Deerheart Lake by Phil Akers
Deerheart Lake

Deerheart Lake provides fast action for brook trout which are native to eastern North America. Introduced to California in the 1800’s, these fish have been planted seemingly everywhere. Wild brook trout – “brookies” – in the Sierra still occupy hundreds of lakes and hundreds of miles of streams. They’re hardy and very aggressive eaters. Like other char, they spawn in the fall and don’t require clean gravel beds in flowing water to spawn. Brookies are capable of natural reproduction in the substrates of many high mountain lakes. They prefer colder water though, and don’t do very well in California waters lying much below 4000 feet/elevation.

Brook trout, photo by Phil Akers
The fall is when brook trout display vivid spawning colors. Many concede that pan-sized brook trout from our high mountain lakes have the finest flavor of all California trout.
Brook terout, photo by Phil Akers
In addition to normal trout possession and bag limits, there’s a “bonus bag limit” for brook trout. In the Sierra and North Coast Districts, anglers can keep an additional 10 brook trout less than 8-inches total length. South of Interstate 80, an additional 10 brook trout less than 10-inches may be kept in addition to the normal five-trout limit. So don’t forget the frying pan!

Hopefully I’ve provided another destination you may want to plan a trip to. I certainly recommend this little hideaway, especially a late fall trip like John and I just did. If hiking to Deerheart Lake remember the road to the trailhead is closed, has been for years and looks like permanently. This adds hiking mileage to your trip. Also, please note the last few miles of roads are unmarked, and although the trails are discernible, none of them are marked either. The road is blocked at an intersection where you park and begin your hike on the road bearing left. Plan well, be safe, and enjoy cooking up them succulent brookies from Keddie Ridge.

Phil “Flip” Akers is a diverse angler and outdoor adventurer. For over 20 years he has backpacked, packed llamas and fly-fished the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, venturing into the farthest reaches of our wilderness areas pursuing quality trout and solitude. He enjoys sharing his experiences including tips, techniques, outdoor cooking recipes, and storytelling. He is certified in wilderness first response and rescue including swiftwater rescue, technical rope and technical animal rescue.

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