Ski Mountaineering

Desolation Wilderness

July 18-24, 2019

Reiner Stenzel

This summer trip went again to a beautiful part of the Sierra Nevada, the Desolation Wilderness. It is a long drive from Los Angeles, but a few hours drive from the Bay Area where I have been located now. Last year I got the taste of the area but missed the northern ends of the Desolation Wilderness. Since I like to finish loose ends I returned this year to hike the park from the south to north end to visit its many beautiful lakes. Mid-summer should have been a good time, but the best plans of men and mice may call for a third try. This year the Sierra had a 200% snow depth which does not disappear in summer. The passes were snow covered and worse, the rivers were swollen. There are more than six stream crossings between Aloha and Rubicon, and once more for the return, such that an old solo hiker is likely to get into trouble. But each problem has a solution: I broke the trip into two parts, an entry from the south (Echo Lake), followed by another start from Loon Lake in the north. The first few days revisited the pretty area of Lake Aloha, the second northern end (Loon Lake) was new to me and I got the best impressions.

For two nights I camped at Lake Aloha, enjoying the scenery and warm summer time. I climbed over Mosquito Pass (8,400') where snow and mosquitoes awaited me. The first lake north of the pass was still half covered with snow. Abundant snow-melt water formed waterfalls into the lake and subsequent a gushing stream down along the Rubicon Trail. What was an easy crossing last year was a danger this year. Reason overcame ambition and I reluctantly returned.

The ferry across Echo Lakes is a fast fun. At the store I met and chatted with a PCT thru hiker, easily identifiable by drinking gatorade and eating lots of ice cream. In the afternoon I drove down the fast US 50 to Icehouse Canyon road which, after 20 miles of curves, ended at Loon Lake. I hiked along the lake to a nice campsite (Pleasant Cpg). Next day I hiked from lake to lake, camping eventually at Rubicon Reservoir. The scenery and weather were great. Mosquitoes were no problem since the air was dry and hot.

Next day I relocated to another lake, Spider Lake was some distance off the main trail and nobody was there. In contrast Buck Island Lake was busy since there is a challenging jeep road to the lake. Music, roaring engine sounds, even fireworks were quite a surprise.

Spider Lake was really pretty. There were flat campsites and granite slabs for getting into the lake which was not ice cold like Aloha. Ponds of blooming water lilies made great pictures. There was wildlife such as Canadian geese, birds, harmless water snakes, unfortunately only small fish near the shore, the bigger ones only jumped in the middle of the lake.

The Canadian geese provided free entertainment. Normally, they keep away from people, but these were not very shy. I sat still and observed that they came ashore and headed toward my tent. After a while it dawned to me that they were looking for food. A few bread crumbs created a friendly bunch of big birds in front of my tent. When the bread ran out they did not want to leave. They opened their beaks and hissed at me, which brought back memories from childhood that male geese can be agressive. But when the food was gone they left peacefully.

Forgot to mention that on the hike from Rubicon to Spider Lke big clouds moved through. It thundered and rained for a few hours which was actually refreshing. Next morning there was not a cloud in the sky. That's summertime in the Sierras. Enjoy the pictures.

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