Girls’ Weekend in Desolation Wilderness

I think I have a new favorite thing to do. I went backpacking last weekend with two friends and am totally hooked. So hooked, that I have backpacking trips planned for the next two weekends.

The first time I went backpacking was in high school, but I hadn’t done it since. I honestly don’t know why. Being out in Desolation Wilderness this past weekend reminded me how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place and that I need to spend as much time outdoors as possible. The weather has been beautiful this summer in Tahoe and I only have one month left before my life will be re-consumed with MBA work. I am definitely taking advantage of both of those factors.

I had fun shooting some video and taking pics with my GoPro along the way. I am pretty sure that a GoPro is a backpacker’s dream. Well, for anyone who is not a professional photographer. My brother would argue for a different set-up, I’m sure. They are super light, weather proof with the case, and versatile. Check out the video below.

Headed up the primitive trail.

Headed up the primitive trail

This past weekend we originally wanted to hike in from Hwy 89 to Lake Sylvia so we could summit Pyramid Peak the following day. Unfortunately, a forest fire had other plans for us and closed the road that we needed to get there. With a quick change of plans, and some helpful rangers at the Forest Service office, we decided to go into Desolation Wilderness from Glen Alpine Springs to Lake of the Woods. The rangers gave us two options, the 8.5 mile moderate route past Susie, Heather, and Aloha, or the 5.5 mile black diamond route up the primitive trail.

Looking back at Tahoe, Fallen Leaf, and Lily Lake.

Looking back at Tahoe, Fallen Leaf, and Lily Lake

We decided on the more direct primitive trail, as we were feeling up to the challenge, especially since we could no longer summit Pyramid. I would not suggest the primitive route to the faint of heart. The first few miles of the trail are straight up a mountain. You follow a stream bed most of the way and there are a few slick areas, but it was nice to have some water this time of year. There are also quite a few boulders to clear, so be careful. If you do decide to go this path, the unmarked trailhead is about .1 mile shy of the parking lot at Glen Alpine Springs trailhead. The easiest way I can describe it is to drive all the way up to the parking lot, turn around, and use your odometer for distance. Look on the right side (up the mountain) for the small trail that goes up. This trail is not marked on most maps; however, I did see one that had it dotted. I parked in a small shoulder area across from the trail and was fine for the three days.

View from our campsite at Lake of the Woods.

View from our campsite at Lake of the Woods

After weaving through a forest for a bit, you will find yourself starting to go up. Once you get onto the rocky part of the mountain, look for the piled rocks (or cairns) that serve as trail markers. The trail is easy to lose and we lost it once, but were able to find it again after a few minutes. All-in-all it took us 3 hours to get to the top of the saddle. From there, it was another fairly mellow 2 hours to Lake of the Woods. I am sure that you could do this much faster than we did, but we were taking our time, talking to other hikers, snapping pics, and filtering water from the stream. There wasn’t much left of the stream and I would imagine it will be completely dry by Fall, so don’t rely on a water source on your way up.

We got to Lake of the Woods at around 7:00 pm, with just enough light to get camp set-up and cook dinner. When we got into Lake of the Woods, we followed the lake around to the right and found a great spot on the tip of a little peninsula. There were a few other groups there, but it was pretty spread out that you didn’t feel like you were in a campground.

American Lake

American Lake

The next day, we thought we would just try to see if there was a way to summit Pyramid from where we were, but there really wasn’t. At least, not one that was safe. Instead we ventured to Lake Aloha then onto American Lake. We had lunch there and stared up at the mountain that was being blocked by a huge granite ridge and boulders the size of VW beetles. I’m all for an adventure, but there is no need to try and get hurt in the middle of nowhere. I’ll get Pyramid one day from the right side of the mountain!

After a while, we went back to Lake of the Woods, took a dip, and relaxed in the hammocks. It was such a nice afternoon and evening, even if it was a little on the chilly side. I am definitely bringing a down jacket next time.

Lake Aloha from the trail home.

Lake Aloha with Pyramid Peak to the left

The next morning, we packed up and decided to take the other route home. Not only would it save our knees from a brutal descent, but we wanted to go past Aloha and some of the other lakes. We headed out on the 8.5 mile hike on the moderate trail toward Glen Alpine Springs. Although it was a longer route than on the way up, it took us an hour less because it is mostly downhill. I am glad we took this path on the way back to make one big 14 mile loop. We got to see most of Aloha, which is one of the most unique lakes I have ever seen. The views of Heather and Susie are also beautiful. After about 4 hours we were back at the car.

I had such a great weekend and times with friends in the middle of nowhere are some of the best memories in life. It is also a great way to rejuvenate the soul and feel ready to tackle anything in life that comes your way. Unfortunately, I can’t be on the trail all the time, but making the time when I can is something that is super fulfilling to me. Not to mention, completely disconnecting and being out of cell range is a good get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. What things do you do to feed your soul?

2 Comments on “Girls’ Weekend in Desolation Wilderness

  1. Pingback: Week-end Rewind: Backpacking and Squaw Valley Mountain Run | Running Primal

  2. Pingback: Backpacking Lake Sylvia and Pyramid Peak | Running Primal

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