Desolation Wilderness Backpacking Trip
August 8 - 14, 2022

Bob and Jennifer: 6 Nights, 7 Days, 22 Miles Backpacking, 11 Miles Day Hiking

Highlights/Memorable Events, Diary, Maps/Routes/Elevations

Favorite Photos/Videos

For any of the following Favorite photos, click on the image to bring up the full resolution version. Day by day photos and narrative follow these.

Wildlife we saw:

Highlights/Memorable Events


Day 1, Monday, August 8

In the morning Bob drives to Oakland to pick up Jennifer. She has taken a test that was ambiguous. She has gotten a more reliable COVID test from her daughter and Bob waits outside while she takes the test. The test is negative. Bob had packed her bear canister and we take off.

We drive to Echo Lake, briefly stopping at Subway in Placerville for lunch. This is not Jennifer's favorite place, but she does find something she thinks she might like, while Bob gets his usual veggie Subway sandwich. We eat in the car while driving. Jennifer discovers she does not really like the lunch much.

We get to Echo Lake - actually, we get to the Echo Lake upper parking lot, gather all our trash to throw away, put on our backpacks, and start backpacking down to the Echo Lake store. There, a helpful Australian points to where the trash can is. We throw away our trash and begin backpacking, starting by crossing a concrete path to the trail.

Bob's backpack includes all food and both bear canisters, so it weighs about 38 or 39 lbs. Jennifer's weighs about 28 lbs. We hike 3 1/2 miles to Tamarack Lake with few problems. There are lots of people on the trail and at the lake. Having said that, the scenery is beautiful, the weather is perfect, the trail is well maintained and totally enjoyable. And we even got to see succulents growing.

Dinner: Potato soup with spinach (Jennifer had prepared and dehydrated at home all the dinners we would eat on the trip)

After dinner in the dark of night Bob "uses the shovel" and leaves and loses his down coat.

Day 2, Tuesday, August 9

Bob gets up early and in the light of day finds his down coat immediately. Before we start backpacking the ducks in the lake entertain us.

We backpack the 2.4 miles from Tamarack Lake

to Aloha Lake,

set up our tents, and Jennifer takes a nap. Then around 2:30 we start a day hike on trail that goes beside the lake. Lake is huge and amazing with "islands" of rock throughout. We meet several hikers, one having started in Canada - the trail we are on is the PCT which goes from Canada to Mexico.

We see a fast running mammal that is light brown, not a marmot, similar in shape perhaps to a weasel. [After doing research at home afterwards, it appears to be a pine marten, which is relatively rare in the Wilderness].

After a couple of miles we reach a junction heading to Heather and Susie Lake. Going up on rock we can see Heather Lake in distance.

On the way back to camp Bob sits alone for a bit looking at lake and suddenly the pine marten runs by along the trail, looks at Bob, then scurries off along rocks.

We get back to camp, Jennifer prepares dinner of Japanese noodles with tuna, mushrooms, and hot peppers. Bob feeds a poor starving chipmunk who begs for food.

Bob see black mole (or some small mammal) run through campsite. Large group of young people had moved nearby. Bob cleans dishes and we get in tents. Bob sees a frog crawling up on the outside of his tent, but frog leaves before Bob can get a picture.

There were high winds all night, and overcast skies, but the wind died down in the morning and the clouds which came and went over the course of the day never resulted in rain.

Day 3, Wednesday, August 10

We first backpacked along Aloha Lake for a while, going up a gradual rise.

Then the trail went down some but stayed above Heather Lake until reaching the end of the lake where the outlet stream flowed. We went further down to and around much of Susie Lake. As there would be for much of the trip, there were many wildflowers in bloom.

Then the trail headed up to Gilmore Lake.

Along the way we met a guy who lived in Blacksburg, Virginia and was associated with Va Tech (VPI, Virginia Polytechnic Institute). Bob began college at VPI before transferring to University of California, Berkeley. We also met people who had attempted to go up Dicks Peak and got close, but decided going to the very top was too hard. They did say going up towards Dicks Pass was quite beautiful.

To get to camping areas we had a difficult time at a crossing of logs and a broken down concrete dam. Bob made it across with his backpack and a guy without a backpack helped Jennifer get across the last part of the dam.

We then followed the trail through the forest near the lake, having to go over a large, smooth tree trunk, then on to a very nice, very large campsite. Initially, there were two women at the site, but they said they were moving to another, so we were welcome to have it.

After setting up camp, Jennifer rested and Bob took short walks. Then Jennifer and Bob walked some distance along lake shore. We saw people in the water. During our lakeshore hike Jennifer found a much easier way to cross the stream, rather than using the broken dam. Yay!

Dinner: Chicken Tiki Masaka (Bob ate almost all the broccoli)

Day 4, Thursday, August 11

Day packed up Mount Tallac and got to see Lake Tahoe and surroundings.

The lower part of the trail includes so many colorful flowers.

The last part of hike up Mount Tallac is quite difficult - a trail of rocks.

Both going and coming back we saw grouse (probably blue grouse) on the trail who seemed little concerned about us. They simply stepped off the trail and watched us pass by a few feet from them.

We got phone reception near the summit and each of us talked with our family members. We also heard the people just above us say they saw a chipmunk actually catch a butterfly and eat it. Who knew!

It was a sunny, cloud-free day, probably in mid-sixties, sometimes quite windy.

Back at camp after dinner as sky darkened we sat on a log at lakeside and watched bats skimming over water, presumably catching insects. You can even watch this 5 second video, which you might want to play at 1/4 speed.

For dinner we had spinach and veggie encheladas.

Day 5, Friday, August 12

We hiked to Half Moon Lake

and on the way back hiked part way up to Dicks Pass, where we got cell service (which we had had earlier off and on). We both found out very good job news about our children.

The weather continued to be beautiful with blue skies and no clouds.

Going to Half Moon Lake we followed the trail which went around one side of the lake where it was brushy, lots of extra distance as we went up and down, to and from the lake.

So coming back we went off trail on the other, rocky side of the lake. We used Jennifer's GPS to confirm our direction and had a shorter hike back to the main trail where it first gets to Half Moon Lake. There was however, some rocky trail to go over.

For lunch we had Tabouleh and for dinner Pad Thai.

Day 6, Saturday, August 13

We backpacked from Gilmore Lake to south end of Aloha Lake and in late afternoon we day hiked to ridge above Lake of the Woods. Bob got phone reception above Lake of the Woods and texted Shirley, but Jennifer did not get reception.

As we backpacked from Gilmore Lake headed towards Aloha Lake we again came to Susie Lake, then Heather Lake.

Just before reaching Aloha Lake we saw some berries we have not previously noted (Bob thought about test eating some, but decided that was not wise), along with yet another grouse. Aloha Lake was as always so scenic.

During our backpack we were twice stopped by Rangers, one near Susie Lake, one at Aloha Lake. The Susie Lake Ranger simply asked to see our wilderness permit, then went over rules, commented we were doing a long trip. The Aloha Lake Ranger also looked at our permit, then said we were too close to the lake to be thinking about setting up camp and would have to find another place and that he would be checking back there to ensure we did. He said there would be a substantial fine if we did set up camp that close to the lake.

We then found another place to camp, further from the lake, set up camp, then day hiked to a ridge where we could look down on Lake of the Woods. An alternative for the next and final day was to follow this trail before getting back on the PCT, but looking at what an elevation drop and then gain we would have to do, it was obviously not the best choice. It was still of course quite pretty to look down upon.

We returned to camp and ate a dinner of spinach and pasta with marinara sauce and mushrooms, prepared of course by Jennifer.

After dinner at night we sat near the shore of the lake. We saw amazing sights. First, we saw a very, very bright, orangish meteorite go some distance over the sky (we heard someone a ways from us shout "Oh my god, look at that!"). It was spectacular.

Then we saw a star-like light appear a bit above the horizon on the other side of the lake and it moved straight up. We assumed it was a satellite. After it had gone up for a few seconds (3-5?), another one appeared where the first started, and it followed directly up behind the first one. Then a third, then a fourth did the same. The separation between each was a bit less than the separation between the 2nd and 3rd star of the Big Dipper, which was some distance away. We saw 20 to 40 or more such points of light appear and follow in the same straight line up until they were over our heads, after which they disappeared.

We met a guy who said his son believed the line of lights was Elon Musk's Starlink system. When we got home, it did appear that in fact that is what we saw. Starlink satellites, put up by SpaceX, include thousands of satellites providing internet connectivity around the world.

Day 7, Sunday, August 14

Bob took pictures of the moon setting over Aloha Lake in the morning and a bit later we began backpacking out of the wilderness. Some of the backpack was through forest and we saw interesting plants, and much of the trail was a rock path in the sun. We had decided not to spend another night at Tamarack Lake. We were pleased when we saw the Echo Lakes ahead of us.

However, along the way back, we decided to follow the upper rather than the lower trail as it passed by Lower Echo Lake. We had taken the lower trail when we started our backpack trip. We discovered the lower trail was much easier, much less climbing. We never-the-less successfully made it back to the Echo Lake parking lot, where we both dropped our backpacks and Bob went to the upper parking lot, took off his boots (putting them in a large plastic bag), donning his loafers and driving the car down to the lower parking lot. Jennifer had checked out the Echo Lake store and found nothing desirable to eat. We put our backpacks in the car and started the drive home.

At Placerville we stopped at Subway for Bob, then having learned our lesson, drove through Placerville to the other side where there was an In-N-Out Burger with food sufficiently tasty for Jennifer.

After dropping off Jennifer at her home in Oakland, Bob noted his gas tank was getting pretty low, but figured he could make it all the way to Santa Rosa where he lived before filling up the gas tank. Bob was right, there was at least a whole gallon of gas left in the car when he filled it up in Santa Rosa. A successful end to a very nice backpacking trip in the Desolation Wilderness.


Photos, videos and narrative were contributed by both of us: Jennifer and Bob
Here are all of the backpacking trips Jennifer and Bob have taken together.

Other Websites
By Bob:

Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
August, 2022