My wife, Robin, and I have been camping, fishing, and hiking in the Lakes Basin area, near Sierra City, since we met. These days, our usual home base is a tiny log cabin at the edge of Packer Lake, pictured here. From trailheads around Packer you can hike to many other lakes--Saxonia, Deer, Lower and Upper Tamarack, Young America, Upper and Lower Sardine. Most of the hikes are relatively easy, and on some trails you'll rarely encounter other hikers. In early October 2007, a brief, unseasonable storm passed through and carpeted the area with an inch or two of snow, which made for an especially invigorating walk along the Pacific Crest Trail to the lookout at the top of the Sierra Buttes.
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The Sierra Buttes Lakes Basin
This is Packer Lake, http://www.packerlakelodge.com/, which lies near the center of what is called the Lakes Basin recreation area in Northern California's central Sierra, about 50 miles north of Lake Tahoe. The hike to the top of the Buttes, in the distance, takes two to four hours, depending on your starting point. Also within hiking (and/or short driving) distance are dozens of other lakes, great for trout fishing and swimming, with such names as Gold, Deer, Tamarack, Salmon, Sardine, Goose, and Haven. I've taken versions of this photo over the course of five decades; it only gets prettier. And the number of visitors to this area--off Highway 49, just west of where Highway 89 traverses the Sierra Valley---seems to have barely increased over that time. Closest towns: Sierra City and Downieville.