Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Desolation Wilderness - Lake Aloha - June 23 & 24, 2012

Second trip of the season and this time to Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness.  I had been to Lake Aloha years ago but took the trail from Fallen Leaf Lake up to the PCT and this time the route would leave out of Echo Lake on the PCT.  I was excited to get out into the wilderness with a group of hiking gals.  Unfortunately Friday night at Fallen Leaf Lake was a fairly restless one because the wind was blowing pretty hard and I was lucky if I got in a couple of hours of sleep.  When we woke up on Saturday the conditions were absolutely no better....oh well welcome to the Sierra Nevada.  We headed up to Echo Lake, packed up the beasts and headed out on the PCT.  The first 2.5 miles of the trip are very nice as the trail runs besides the lake a few hundred feet up.  The climb is also very gradual which makes this a great outing for beginner backpackers.

Lake Aloha Pictures

When we got to Upper Echo Lake some of our group had spotted the "Taxi" sign...Taxi = Water Ferry.  We walked on until we hit the border of Desolation Wilderness and stopped for a snack break...we were all cold because of the wind but needed a bit of energy.  After lunch we continued on for about another 3.5 miles until we hit the first junction that takes you to the south shore of Lake Aloha.  The north shore of the lake has the best campsites but that side is very exposed and with the wind going the way it was we had to stay in the trees.  We opted to walk a bit further, approx. .8 miles, on the PCT & found a campsite where the PCT meets Lake Aloha.

Since it was still pretty early in the afternoon some of the group decided to brave the winds and headed out on a day hike...we were in two separate groups and our group had the unexpected pleasure of running into a pika!!! I was super excited about this because they are so rare and this little guy just scurried in front of me on the path.  We headed on and eventually met up with the other group who was turning around and we continued to the next junction where the PCT turns and heads north or you can go up Mosquito Pass.  We stayed on the PCT and walked to pretty Heather Lake...I had passed by here years ago and it is a very pretty spot with beautiful views out to the southeast.  It was about 3:30 by this time and we headed back. Towards the end of our day hike we spotted an "army" of marmots :) ....which made me glad that I had stressed the use of canisters...those cute little things can get into everything.  There was lots of yummy food at dinner including a gourmet Korean soup including kim chee and fresh eggs...after seeing the soup I just couldn't bring myself to eat the Mary Jane's dehydrated stuff and went to my tuna.  Everyone turned in very early because of the bad weather and the need to get warm.

The next morning I woke up at 6 and was greeted by a spectacular sunrise...it was still cloudy and windy but the granite behind the lake was lit up orange...I also discovered that my camera battery was dead so I went back for a bit more sleep.  Some of the group headed out very early because they were still cold and 5 of us held back and took our time waking up and getting ready.  We also took a detour on our way out and walked along the shore of Lake Aloha (many good campsites along the way) before making our way to Lake of the Woods.  This lake was was very pretty and there some very nice campsites although given the trees, water and likely crowds on a good weather weekend I'd probably wait until August or September even to hit this spot.  We left Lake of the Woods and got back onto the PCT...the weather started to break and the clouds moved out to nice blue sunny skies...the wind didn't want to leave us but it at least died down so we could enjoy a very nice trip out.

This was a nice beginner trip with easy access to some great terrain - approx. 6 miles to our campsite and a little over 1000 ft gain.