Since moving to Northern California about two years ago, I’ve been hearing a lot about the Desolation Wilderness, and Lake Aloha in particular. The Desolation Wilderness is a protected wilderness area on the west side of Lake Tahoe. This area is marked by beautiful blue alpine lakes and exposed granite. It is located on the Pacific Crest Trail and regularly listed as a favorite section for through-hikers.
Because of its popularity, there is a strict permit system in place to limit the number of campers. I forget the exact time, but we reserved permits for a group of 12 people for August 9th-12th, 2019 about 6 months in advance. Unfortunately, Justine tore her ACL skiing in April, so we were concerned that we would not be able to make this backpacking trip. As time went on, and her knee began to heal from the injury and surgery, we decided we were going to give it a go.
The hike from Echo Lakes is about 6 miles if you hike the whole way, but there is also a water taxi that will take you across Echo Lakes and shave off 2 miles. We opted for the boat ride and didn’t regret it at all. Our 4-mile hike was pretty mellow. It was a lot easier than the descriptions I had been reading online. This was ok with us! We were just out to have a fun and relaxing weekend at the lake.
After reaching the lake around 3 pm, we continued walking another quarter to half mile to some nice campsites. We scouted around for a few minutes until we found the perfect place to set up camp. This was not hard to do since they were everywhere.
Friday evening was spent lounging on the rocks next to the water, cooking dinner, and watching the sunset with an awesome group of friends.
That night, the wind began to pick up a little and started to test the durability of our new Nemo Bugout 12 x 12 tent. We picked up this tent before the trip because it was a large and lightweight (relatively) bug shelter that we could set up and fit our whole group under. We were expecting the mosquitos to be out in force and did not want them to ruin the weekend. We ran into an unexpected problem when the winds picked up, the mosquitos went away, but our shelter turned into a large sail, flapping in the wind. We worked diligently to tie it down and secure the walls, but the slightest breeze would lift the walls off the ground and even broke two of our guy lines. After reinforcing everything with rocks, sticks, and an additional 50′ of paracord, we felt like the tent would hold.
The next day we woke up to a dark, overcast sky and more wind. The weather was too cold to jump in the lake, so the guys headed out on a small scramble/hike to the nearest ridgeline to get some photos and check out the views. The girls stayed at camp and worked on some watercolor paintings. The whole day spent exploring or relaxing in camp with friends. And again, we were given an amazing sunset with billowing golden clouds in a pink sky. The day was pretty much perfect, despite the mediocre weather.
Sunday brought back the heat and clear blue skies. As soon as breakfast and coffee were finished, we went down to the lake to swim. The water was crisp and refreshing. I was even able to swim out to one of the small islands. We decided to breakdown camp while air drying so we could hit the trail by lunchtime. Of course, as we began to take the tent down, the mosquitos came out to play.
The hike out was hot but passed quickly. At Echo Lake, we boarded the water taxi with about 10 other hikers and zipped back to the parking lot. This was just the refreshing and chill camping trip that I needed after a busy summer. I am already looking forward to my next opportunity to get back to the Desolation Wilderness.