Our destination is Lake of the Woods in the Desolation Wilderness area of the Tahoe Lakes Basin. It is situated off the Tahoe Rim Trail and Pacific Crest Trail just south of Lake Aloha. Previously hiking by Lake Aloha in 2015, we have high expectations for this small lake nestled right by it. It is early in the season and we are not quite sure what to expect for trail conditions. From doing some hiking in the Mammoth Lakes area a few weeks prior, we are prepared for wet or possible snow conditions. We had both!
By 9am, the marina and store are already brimming with activity. Hikers coming in for resupply or people heading out on their adventures. It’s a perfect weather day with blue skies and highs in the 60’s. I make us take our standard start of the hike photo and then off we go! The start of this trail is just as we remembered it. A gradual, steady climb right next to the lake. This section is not too technical and we enjoy looking at the houses lining the lake with boats occasionally buzzing by.
As we climb higher, we come across large sections of trail that are basically hiking through a creek. With warmer days, the snow is melting quickly now. Water is always going to take the path of least resistance and that means running right down the trail. The trail also changes to mainly talus instead of dirt. The combination of the water and the talus makes things a bit slower going. When I hike, I like to let my mind drift off and go down a million different rabbit trails, but with the trail like this, I have to stay mentally present and focused.
Near our junction for Lake of the Woods, the terrain changes again to large patches of snow and marshy conditions. We make our way up and then down a steep embankment to reach the edge of the lake. This lake is under a special management area, which means designated campsites are strongly encouraged. Finding a site that is not too wet or covered in snow is challenging, but we find one and set-up camp. There are streams from snow melt all around us and the sound is so peaceful. It is fun exploring the area with our “maszkcots”; taking pictures of them in different situations and getting a good chuckle.
After our dinner of Knorr pasta side dishes, I feel my stomach start to rumble. I was really hoping that I would not have to go #2 on an overnight trip, but with all the fresh air and now some food, my body has other plans. I had already scouted out an area and had a hole dug, as I have learned from experience to have at least 1 hole dug so you are not scrambling to dig one when the need arises. As I am finishing my business, I hear a loud shriek right next to me. Like a foot away. I jump up and try to run with my clothes around my ankles. Only getting a few feet away, I come to my senses, turn around, and confront a very angry squirrel. It continues to loudly shriek at me as it climbs up a big tree a couple of feet away. Ugh. Ok little buddy, give me 5 minutes and I will be on my way. He was extremely impatient with me and did not stop shrieking until I moved an appropriate distance away. As I get back to camp, I tell Gannon about my wildlife encounter and warn him about the evil squirrel in the area.
By 7pm, we are snug in our tent watching a show on my phone. By 9pm, we are reading our books on our phones. By 10pm, we are ready to get some sleep. Until Gannon finds a leak in his “pee bag”. Over the years he has used Gatorade bottles or zip lock bags so that he can have the luxury of not having to climb out of the tent to take care of business after he is all settled inside (advantages of being a guy). Having 3 back surgeries has made it more and more difficult to get in and out of the tent. We have all sorts of tricks and gear to help him continue to enjoy backpacking for as long as possible. Anyways…. apparently, this bag has a leak. It’s leaking on his side of the tent, his hiking shorts, his sleeping quilt, and some other gear. We don’t have a lot of options for cleaning up spills of any kind, so he proceeds to use one of his socks! And yes, he has to wear that sock again in the morning. Lovely way to end the day. But I’m too tired to care anymore. We will deal with it all tomorrow.
Miles hiked: 6.32
Total elevation gain: approx 1200 ft.