Desolation Wilderness

Eldorado National Forest

Day One

Just west of Lake Tahoe at the crest of the Sierra Nevada lies the Eldorado National Forest. Within this magnificent woodland is the Desolation Wilderness, which is a granite wonderland of mountain lakes, fir tree forests, and 9,000 foot peaks. Julia and I spent three days and two nights in this mountain nirvana hiking around 26 miles and climbing some 4,000 feet.

Unfortunately for us two of the three days and our two nights were very windy, cloudy, and rainy. We even encountered hail, sleet, ice, and snow as we climbed over several 9,000 foot plus passes. All we could do, on the below freezing evenings to keep out the cold, was to lay bundled up in our sleeping bags sheltered in our tent. Wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph would occasionally seem to flatten our tent, but it did stay up and even kept most of the rain, hail, and snow out.

The first night we camped at Middle Velma Lake where it rained and then hailed on us all night. The good news was that the cold froze all the water on our tent enabling us to just brush it off in the morning. This kept our tent really nice and dry. We were planning to cut the trip short given the night we’d had, but when we got up in the morning the sky was clear and the sun was shining; so we decided to continue with our original plan.

Day Two

On our way to Gilmore Lake we hiked past: Upper Velma Lake. On our old map there was a trail connecting this route to Dicks Pass, but as it turned out there was no track. So Julia and I bush-bashed for over an hour across the granite fields until by chance we rejoined the marked trail. We were very happy to not feel lost anymore.

From here we climbed up past: Dick’s Lake to Dick’s Pass, which sores up to 9,400 feet. The views were spectacular, but we were feeling a bit spent when we got there. We also encountered several snow flurries as we slogged up the mountain side with our 40 pound backpacks. From here we had several miles of descent down the other side of Dick’s Pass to our camp at Gilmore Lake. The views were amazing, but we really were consumed by the time we had made camp.

That night, it rained, sleeted, and snowed on us and we realized we should have gone with our gut after night one and cut the trip short. The good news was all of our equipment stayed mostly dry and kept us from freezing. In fact we had a good night given the conditions.

Day Three

The next morning it was bright and sunny again, but it stayed this way all day this time as we hiked back to Emerald Bay where we had started our Desolation Wilderness adventure. It was a very long day of hiking with several thousands of feet of climbing, but at least the wind had stopped and the sun kept us warm.

We both slept well that night while we dreamt of the pink, sparkling, granite fields of the Desolation Wilderness.


Desert deserter’s dessert


We set out on a wonder in the desert. We will cross the burning hot sandy Nevada and Utah planes in search of enlightenment and enrichment. In Utah we seek the fellowship of the oracle of Park City where much wine will be drunk and happiness will abound.

Then we return across the scorched earths of Utah and Nevada seeking the pleasures of the deep black skies, starry nights, and quirkiness of these foreign lands.

Wish us well as we go forth into the unknown.

Summer vacation

September 11 – 13, 2010

Oakland to Yosemite

What a wonderful week Julia and I spent touring and hiking through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California; we started our tour of this sylvan wonderland with the granite jewel, Yosemite.

Moonrise over Yosemite

We have both been here many times before, but I never get tired of this place.

When we arrived, we took a short walk at the eastern end of the park to walk off our stiffness from the long drive from home.

Video: Yosemite day 01

The second day we hiked to Stanford Point 6,000 feet up at the western end of the park.

The Yosemite Valley 

The views of Yosemite Valley are the best there. The weather was clear and sunny, but not too hot, perfect.

Video: Yosemite day 02

The next day we hiked 16 miles and climbed 5,000 feet to Half Dome at the eastern end of the park. We started walking at 6:00 am to avoid the crowds that gather to climb the dome.

Half Dome

However, even with our early start we still encountered a human traffic-jam on the last section of the climb. The journey was worth all our effort as the scenery and views are superb. We got back to the car at 6:00 pm, a full 12 hours of walking.

September 14, 2010

May Lake

We took highway 120 east through the mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains taking in the views of the vast granite outcrops.

May Lake

We took a small detour to hike up to May Lake, which is a beautiful high mountain lake. We got views of Half Dome again on this hike, but from the eastern side of it this time.

Video: May Lake

After eating our regular cheese sandwich at May Lake we continued east on high way 120 until we came to Tuolumne Meadows.

Tuolumne Meadows

This is a high prairieland with granite crags surrounding it. The views and air there are invigorating; I must go back sometime soon.

From here, we travel towards the far eastern side of the ranges and watched as the white granite gave way to less sturdy rock and the Sierras disappeared into the Nevada high desert.

September 15, 2010

Mono Lake

We spent a miserable night in a ghastly motel in Lee Vining. We were supposed to stay two nights, but decided the place was just too horrible.

Tufas of Mono Lake

Julia went to return the key and the owner immediately gave her a refund, no questions asked. I guess he must be used to people leaving his hotel early.

From Lee Vining it is a short drive to Mono Lake. LA water supply needs long ago diverted the rivers that feed this lake and so the lake level has slowly dropped. This has revealed the Tufas. A Tufa is a variety of limestone tower, formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from ambient temperature water. Underground springs in the lake bubbled-up water laden with limestone. The limestone slowly built up odd shaped towers of the mineral. When the water level dropped in the lake the gaudy, Tufa towers where revealed.

Video: Tufas of Mono Lake

Next stop after Mono Lake was the ghost town of Bodie. This place is very isolated and reached by an unpaved road, but well worth the trouble getting there.

The ghost town of Bodie

Bodie is in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California. It is located 12 miles east-southeast of Bridgeport, at an elevation of 8,379 feet. Bodie is a National Historic Landmark and been administered by California State Parks since 1962. Beyond all this Bodie is a time capsule of a way of life in America that is long gone.

Video: Bodie

September 16, 2010

Wolf Creek

Near the intersection of highway 89 and highway 4, back in the midst of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.

Wolf Creek

A magnificent hike there follows the Wolf Creek. The hike is framed by the Toiyabe National Forest and tall granite escarpments. Julia and I once again ate our cheese sandwiches in a phenomenal spot. After this hike, we returned to our hotel in Topaz Nevada.

Video: Wolf Creek

September 17, 2010

Lake Alpine and Arnold

We drove back up into the soaring Sierra again this day heading west through the mountains to Arnold were we stayed with Holly, Alex, and Claire our good friends.

Mosquito Lake

Along the way, we stopped off to take a hike near Lake Alpine where we once again enjoyed our cheese sandwiches in splendiferous surroundings.

That evening we all attended the Sheryl Crow concert at the Ironstone Amphitheatre, Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys California; a nice way to end the day.

Video: Lake Alpine

September 18, 2010

Angels Camp

We finished off our summer with water skiing at New Melones Lake.

Not a pleasant site, but it was fun

We were treated to Holly’s and Alex’s prowess on single waterski and wakeboard. And I made my second ever attempt at riding two waterskies behind a motorboat careering along at 30 mph; it wasn’t a pleasant sight, but it was fun.

Video: Angels Camp