I cannot believe that it has been almost 3 years since our last backpacking trip. Life on the road, having an elderly dog (who has since passed), Covid, and the CA/NV wildfires had disrupted something that we really loved doing. I was excited when I found a last minute/walk-up permit in Desolation Wilderness. It was for a lake that we have not been to before. We have previously been to Desolation Wilderness on 2 occasions. Once in 2015 and again in 2019 when doing part of the Tahoe Rim Trail. This permit was just for an overnight, out and back trip. Perfect for these out of shape and out of practice 50 somethings.
It was exciting to get our gear out again and prep it. Making sure our sleeping pads didn’t have leaks, did the stove still work, did I have enough fuel for that stove to make dinner and coffee the next morning, is our water filter in good shape (don’t want giardia), the tent poles needed to be restrung with new shock cord (they lost elasticity), getting the bear cans out, and all the other things that have to be packed to sleep out in the wild. Thing is….I actually prefer to stay out for multiple nights. It is the same supplies needed; you just have to pack extra food. It sure is a lot of packing, prepping, and cleanup for just one night. But if one night is all I get, then I will still happily take it!
The trailhead we are hiking out of starts at Echo Lakes. There is a marina with a boat shuttle, if you want to pay to shave off 2 miles of your hike (we did not). Seasonal cabins line the lake that are accessed by boat in the summer months. They have a store with lots of supplies, including beer and ice cream for post hike celebrations. On our hike back in, there was a mom with two little girls that we were leap frogging. I asked if the girls were getting ice cream for a job well done and the mom immediately said the girls were very much looking forward to their ice cream treats. They recognized the store when they drove in and were already excited for their treats before they even started. This trailhead has a fair amount of parking and converges with 2 major long-distance trails; the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail. It allows access to Desolation Wilderness to the north and the Big Meadow area to the south. It is a busy trailhead and it is important to get there early to secure yourself a parking spot.
This area of Desolation Wilderness was affected by the Caldor Fire (The Caldor Fire was a large wildfire that burned 221,835 acres (89,773 hectares) in the Eldorado National Forest and other areas of the Sierra Nevada in El Dorado, Amador, and Alpine County, California, in the United States during the 2021 California wildfire season.) There are warnings about hiking in the area, being careful and aware when it’s windy, etc. It would be a very bad way to end a trip, being taken out by a falling tree. We were curious to see where the fire had reached and how much of the area was affected. We were thankful to see that they did an amazing job preserving the area and structures from any major damage. We definitely saw damage, but it did not reach or seem to affect the areas that we hiked to.
As our permit day finally arrives, we pull into the trailhead before 9am…to one last parking spot! With nervous anticipation, we put on our gear and head down to the trailhead to see what awaits us over the next 2 days…