For this series, we invite our readers to share their favourite adventure. Our guest writer today is an outdoor adventure, nature and culture lover. His name is Angel Moreno, he’s a certified Wilderness First Responder and like us, he is always looking for new crazy things to do. Along with his girlfriend Michelle, he writes the adventure travel blog Anywhere At Home . Without further ado, Angel, show us your adventure!
Imagine a place where you can experience every feeling known to mankind: fear, anxiety, frustration, hope, joy, love and trust. Imagine a place where there are more answers than questions to ask. Imagine a place where there is more beauty than what your mind can comprehend. That place has a name, it’s called Desolation Wilderness.
Michelle and I took off on a three day backpacking trip into Desolation Wilderness. It is a great destination for backpackers during the summer, but since we desired to enjoy the wilderness aspect we headed there during winter. It’s far less populated in the winter. There are plenty of trailheads to start from, but we started from Bayview Trailhead, overlooking Emerald Bay.
Route Name: Bayview Trailhead
Location: South Lake Tahoe, California
Duration: 3 days minimum
Length: 22 km / 13.8 miles
OVERVIEW OF THE TRAIL
Desolation Wilderness is located just across from the majestic Lake Tahoe. With an elevation of 6,225 ft (1,897 m) and depth of 1,645 ft (501 m), Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the Sierra Nevadas. It’s the second deepest lake in the United States, after Crater Lake.
On the right, we had the beauty of an alpine lake, and to the left we had the exquisiteness of the Sierra Nevadas. The trail is easily accessible, all you have to do is drive and park your car. The beginning of the trail was mostly flat, but after the first mile the trail got steeper, and the view got even more pleasant. Have in mind that you will be working out those leg muscles.
OUR EXPERIENCE IN DESOLATION WILDERNESS
We had the same experience in Desolation Wilderness, yet our takeaway was vastly different. With mountains rising high above the neighbouring terrain, it was very challenging to keep a steady pace while hiking. The vast, sharp and cold snow didn’t make it any easier to reach our final destination – perhaps our ambitions didn’t meet our gear preparedness.
The first day of hiking in Desolation Wilderness we put our fears, frustrations, and hopes to the test by trying to hike even with no trace of trail, a trail that was covered beneath the white powder around us. All we had were strong legs, navigations skills, and will. But even then, it wasn’t enough to achieve the planned miles to hike.
As we moved forward, we were graced with snow covered rocky landscapes, frozen crystal lakes, and milky clouds across the blue sky. As the time to set up camp came quickly, we found a beautiful spot for the first night, where we could gaze at the red fire circle as it disappeared beneath the horizon.
On the second day, we woke up to have breakfast and we realized we hadn’t spent the night alone. No further than 20ft away from where we camped, there were Mountain Lion footprints. Wildlife had made its way through without any harm – we were blessed.
As we made our way through Desolation Wilderness, we had to completely rely on our navigation skills. The snow-covered terrain kept lacking of easy trails to follow. Our goal for the day was to make it to the Pacific Crest Trail. But more than our goal, it also served as our motivation. The Pacific Crest Trail, known for its 2,663 miles (4,286 km) across the United States, from Mexico to Canada. We were excited because we could hop on the Pacific Crest Trail, even if it was only for sliver of the trail. After a climb that probably took us a couple of hours, we finally made it to the PCT.
We celebrated and we moved progressively, but Desolation Wilderness wasn’t merciful to us. We were high enough to suffer from altitude sickness. Not only that, but the white powder kept smearing down with every step we took. We felt like Dick’s Peak was threatening us to retreat. There were some close calls with our footing, sliding down with every couple steps. We retreated, not because of fear, but because we wanted to continue a life of adventures. So we headed back on our steps, and set up camp on a nearby rocky peak. Needless to say, we got a view that would leave anyone speechless.
Unfortunately it was time to end our journey through Desolation Wilderness, and it was time to hike out. But we were glad that our journey had built us up more than our destination.
VIDEO: DESOLATION WILDERNESS
WHAT WE LIKED THE MOST
- We saw barely any people throughout the hike.
- It was definitely a challenge during winter.
- A view like no other of Lake Tahoe.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE THAT MUCH
- We were not as prepared as we thought (snowshoes would have been a good idea to bring).
RECOMMENDATIONS – TIPS
- PARK AT THE BAYVIEW PARKING LOT instead of the Eagle Falls parking lot, it’s free.
- GET A PERMIT, you don’t want any citations.
- Make sure to LEAVE A PLAN as specific as possible with a family member, so in case you get lost, they can contact search and rescue or the proper authorities.