Desolation Wilderness: Backpacking in the Wild
Surviving and backpacking in the wilderness is rather challenging. You have to go prepared for all of your needs, provide for yourself, and limit your belongings to what is strictly necessary. Travel light. That is the beauty of it. Enjoying the simplicity of life; being in nature, walking and observing, discovering and admiring, with no distractions from society or material things.
All you can bring is a backpack. When you are backpacking for long periods of time- hiking 10 to 14 miles a day- you want to be comfortable. Remember ladies; you are going to be carrying your mobile home on your back, it’s going to weight up to 35 pounds. Choosing the right pack for you is key; it needs to fit your body like a shell to a turtle. Go to your local outdoor shop, and ask for advice to find the backpack that matches your body type and size. These days, women’s backpacks are designed to shape to your particular contour, with specific padding around the hips, breasts and shoulders.
Backpacking allows you to reach destinations that are seldom seen from day hikers. Desolation Wilderness is the perfect place for this. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, west of Lake Tahoe, California, Desolation’s expanse of 63, 960 acres of glacial carved granite, pristine alpine lakes, lush forests, and sub-alpine vistas provides the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts. You need a permit to camp within its limits. Stop off at Taylor Creek Visitor Center heading north on Hwy 89, pick up a map and talk to a Ranger about the proposed route.
We started our adventure in Echo Lakes, the southeast side of the park. You can drive to Lower Echo Lake and leave your car at a free overnight parking. From here you can pay $12 per person for a boat taxi across, reducing the hike by three miles dropping you off at the south entrance of Desolation Wilderness. We decided to hoof it and hike the 6 miles to Lake Aloha. We set up base camp at American Lake, just half a mile further.
The next day we climbed to the top of Pyramid Peak at 9,983 feet, the highest peak in Desolation Wilderness. In the afternoon we did some fishing and caught an incredible amount of trout that we cooked and ate for dinner. The third day we woke up early to hike 14 miles through the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) all the way up Dicks pass. From there we mounted the top of Dicks summit, at 9,974 feet. Dicks Peak stands in the middle of Desolation offering an amazing view of the whole area.
Exhausted after a long day, we camped in Fontanillas Lake (about four miles away from Dicks Lake) with just enough light to set up our tents and make some dinner we gladly devoured before falling asleep. In the morning a thunderstorm hit us, so we couldn’t advance until it passed in the afternoon. We hiked 6 miles through Eagle Falls Trail to come out on Emerald Bay, the most beautiful feature along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe.