Late on Saturday evening I knew that if I didn’t make plans right then to go hiking the next day that I would likely spend Sunday at home regretting not getting out. I wanted to keep up my streak of strenuous hikes from the past couple of weekends. While panning around a topo map looking for high-elevation trails I noticed several on Flat Top on Thousand Lake Mountain. It was a little farther than I wanted to drive, but after checking for nearby geocaches and seeing that the one at the high point hadn’t been found in four years, my mind was made up. I left home early the next morning and, after a 2.5-hour drive, I was parked near Snow Lake and ready to hike. I wanted to make this a loop hike so I began by walking the road south for two miles before picking up the trail up the southeast side of the mountain from Wiff’s Pasture.
I’d been worried that the trail would be difficult to discern, but that turned out to be unfounded because it appeared to be traveled fairly regularly by cattle. It was mostly forested with a couple of steep and rocky sections. Unfortunately, once reaching Flat Top, the views into the valleys below were mostly blocked by trees.
After passing through a short wooded section it was an easy walk through a large, open meadow to the high point at 11,306′–a whopping 11′ lower than its counterpart on Boulder Mountain that I visited just a month earlier. As I approached the summit a marmot chirped at me, and most of the hilltop was covered in marmot crap. A mailbox was attached to an old survey tower at the high point. Inside were two glass jars that served as summit registers, one of which I signed before walking over to the nearby geocache. I found it in good condition and signed the logbook four years and 23 days after the last finder.
I took a 30-minute break near the geocache and ate lunch. Then, hiking northeast, I hoped to pick up the trail leading down to Snow Lake, but the trees were thick with brush and fallen timber and I had to zig-zag around the worst of it for 20 minutes before finally gaining the trail. The descent was steep and loose at first, having been freshly churned by a herd of cattle being driven off Flat Top about 15 minutes ahead of me. I heard them through the trees but never saw them until I reached the edge of the plateau and could see the cows at Snow Lake. The views into the desert were a little better at the top of this trail.
When I got to Snow Lake I let the dogs frolic in the water before walking over to the Jeep. The total hiking distance was about six miles with 1,000′ elevation gain/loss. There were a couple more geocaches that I wanted to find, and each one was about 1/2-mile drive off the main road to nice overlooks of the valleys to the north, east, and south. It more than made up for the lack of views from the edge of Flat Top.