Eldorado National Forest
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.
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.
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.