Jeff Dostie is one of the friendly outdoor gear pros you’ll meet over at Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City. Even though Jeff works upwards of 50 hours a week, he’s usually one of the guys you can thank for that extra steep skin track up Jakes on any given powder day during the winter months. When the snow melts, he’s constantly looking for non-snow type adventures. He brings Unofficial this update on the current backpacking conditions of our local gem, Desolation Wilderness.
Last week, Sarah and I decided to go check out the current condition of our raddest local wilderness area. People around town have been talking a lot about deep, hard to pass snowfields covering the high country, and mosquitoes thick enough to pick you up and carry you away. It was an adventure I couldn’t pass up. It was also a good opportunity to test some of this years new and exciting lightweight backpacking gear. The gear reviews will be forthcoming as part of the weekly “Light is Right” gear review series from Alpenglow.
We started at the Glen Alpine Trailhead (6500 feet) in the gorgeous Fallen Leaf Lake Area. I hadn’t been there since skiing the Cracked Crags last month. I pondered what the trail conditions would be, and was pleasantly surprised to find the wildflowers in full bloom. With a beautiful mix of colors, it seems like all the flowers are simultaneously peaking at once.
We hiked for a good ways before snow was encountered at about 7800′ feet. It was only in small patches at this elevation, but because of these patches, the melt is still creating some wet trails, and making for some adventurous creek crossings. As we gained more elevation, we found the snow to be more consistent around 8200′ feet. It is still pretty thick above this elevation, especially for late July, but the snow is dense enough to be easily passable at all times of the day. What’s cool is this is the snow that’s responsible for all the amazing waterfalls in the area. This waterfall spectacle should continue for another week or two, so get out there the next chance you get. It’s fully worth a walk out in the woods to check them out!
Although the lakes are filled with snowmelt runoff, making a dip pretty chilly, the swimming is fantastic. The surface temps are enough to make most of our beautiful high alpine lakes very refreshing, and you really can’t find a more beautiful setting than Desolation Wilderness for a swim.
The bugs were almost as bad as I had heard, but it is not as bad as some espouse. Both mosquitoes and black flies are in great abundance, but they are only out for an hour or two in the morning, and at night. Don’t let the bugs detour you from a great trip in the backcountry, just take plenty of bug spray and a headnet; they are easily tolerable. Desolation Wilderness is in a glory state that locals haven’t seen for many years – pumping waterfalls, high water levels in the lakes, and with the late start to the season, a pretty empty, crowd-free landscape. Now is the time to go for one of the prettier and more enjoyable hikes you’ll have all summer!