After taking a week to recover from the Sierra Challenge, Richard came up to visit and we decided to take an easy tour of the lakes in Desolation Wilderness — one of the most popular hiking areas in Tahoe, and deservedly so! I chose a route which I hiked in the opposite direction in late May. At that time Aloha, Heather, and Susie Lakes were still mostly iced over and I spent an unfortunate amount of time postholing around Aloha Lake before finishing off the hike in a marble-sized-hailstorm! Luckily the weather was much more pleasant this time.
We started up the Tamarack Trail which is a very steep and poorly maintained trail up the slopes below Angora Peak. The trail starts a few hundred feet below the Lily Lake parking lot and is not easy to find, which is probably for the best — we only met one other hiker on the trail and she vowed on the spot to never take that route again! Despite being a bit strenuous, this trail more than compensates with views of Fallen Leaf Lake!
After climbing about 2,000 feet, the trail started to level out and opened up into a grassy meadow. It was a beautiful and cool day.
We rested at the top for a bit, Richard adjusting to the thin air, and me trying to remember how to hike again. We continued on and soon met the PCT above Echo Lakes, which was readily made obvious by the drastic increase in traffic.
Shortly we made it to Lake Aloha, strewn about with islands and peninsulas. Richard’s goal for the day was to swim in every lake we passed. I wasn’t so keen on swimming in every lake, but I was more than happy to test the waters.
After drying off and having some lunch I convinced Richard that we should head cross country along the south side of Heather lake rather than continuing along the PCT on a roundabout and likely congested trail. I’d been on that stretch of trail before and would rather explore some new areas which might be less crowded.
We came first to Lake LeConte and found a perfect, sloping cliff to jump off of. We started lower down on the cliff and eventually worked our way up to a 10-12 foot take off! Maybe nothing too impressive but the biggest cliff I’ve jumped off yet! We traveled around the lake and down a talus slope to Heather Lake.
At Heather Lake I had mostly lost my interest to swim, but there were a couple big islands in the middle that intrigued me and we decided to swim out to them. Or rather we mostly crawled, since the water was only a few feet deep and thick with mud. We found a nice cliff on the other side of island and drew a nice crowd of hikers across the lake on the PCT while we jumped off.
From Heather Lake we contoured down below Cracked Crag, crossing the outlet of Heather Lake a few times, a small but lively creek with some beautiful meadows and cascades.
We continued on to Grass Lake and, as I had suspected, it was more marsh than lake. I’ve found that this is a fairly predictable state for any lake named “Grass.” We climbed over some cliffs at the southeast corner of the lake before finally meeting up with the trail again.
As we traveled around Grass Lake, something caught my eye and I stopped to look at the small scrub oak near the trail. It had acorns! I was somewhat skeptical when a friend had told me that this plant was called scrub oak, since it looks nothing like the Oak tree I am familiar with, let alone the evergreen Oaks of California. Nevertheless it bore unmistakeable Oak nuts! Between the Coast Live Oak, the Canyon Live Oak, and the Scrub Oak there’s hardly a square mile of forest in California without Oaks — I’ve always thought that “Oakland” would be a much better name for the state!
We continued on through Glen Alpine Resort and along Glen Alpine Creek which was much less wild than I remembered it from April and May this year. We made it back to the car and headed home, happy that home was only twenty minutes away!
GPS Data (planned route):
Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft
Total time: 08:05:56