Desolation Wilderness California - The night we had arrived to Cedar House Mike and Patty held a gear check for us and we practiced setting up the tents we rented and made sure we had all the components. Our target pack weight was 28-30 pounds.

Desolation Wilderness California

The night we had arrived to Cedar House Mike and Patty held a gear check for us and we practiced setting up the tents we rented and made sure we had all the components. Our target pack weight was 28-30 pounds.

Desolation Wilderness California: 1 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Removing our boots for a deep creek crossing in chilly meltwater was a welcome refresher for our feet.

Desolation Wilderness California

Removing our boots for a deep creek crossing in chilly meltwater was a welcome refresher for our feet.

Desolation Wilderness California: 2 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We stopped to get a big-picture sense of where we were and what was around us by looking at an old school paper map.

Desolation Wilderness California

We stopped to get a big-picture sense of where we were and what was around us by looking at an old school paper map.

Desolation Wilderness California: 3 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - The Desolation Wilderness is wide open slabs of granite. Some sections of the trail are indicated by stone borders or cairns.

Desolation Wilderness California

The Desolation Wilderness is wide open slabs of granite. Some sections of the trail are indicated by stone borders or cairns.

Desolation Wilderness California: 4 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We passed several beautiful lakes along the way, but did not linger. Soon the trail became rocky and steep, and it was a long way to the campsite.

Desolation Wilderness California

We passed several beautiful lakes along the way, but did not linger. Soon the trail became rocky and steep, and it was a long way to the campsite.

Desolation Wilderness California: 5 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - After we had packed up the pared-down gear, the bear-bag, food, clothing and water we submitted to the scale. Even with the better, borrowed gear distributed amongst the four of us, our packs had initially ranged from 34-44 pounds. Choices had to be made.

Desolation Wilderness California

After we had packed up the pared-down gear, the bear-bag, food, clothing and water we submitted to the scale. Even with the better, borrowed gear distributed amongst the four of us, our packs had initially ranged from 34-44 pounds. Choices had to be made.

Desolation Wilderness California: 6 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - It’s beautiful, and not an easy climb. 

Desolation Wilderness California

It’s beautiful, and not an easy climb. 

Desolation Wilderness California: 7 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Some of the “rocks” were Volkswagon-sized.

Desolation Wilderness California

Some of the “rocks” were Volkswagon-sized.

Desolation Wilderness California: 8 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Our celebratory summit pic at the the red fir tree at the top of Rockbound Pass: 8650 ft

Desolation Wilderness California

Our celebratory summit pic at the the red fir tree at the top of Rockbound Pass: 8650 ft

Desolation Wilderness California: 9 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - There are beautiful stone steps here, but we only saw a couple of them. Snow made the descent to Lake Doris slick and slow. 

Desolation Wilderness California

There are beautiful stone steps here, but we only saw a couple of them. Snow made the descent to Lake Doris slick and slow. 

Desolation Wilderness California: 10 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Lake Doris

Desolation Wilderness California

Lake Doris

Desolation Wilderness California: 11 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - A bear canister for storing your food is required when camping in Desolation, and we came prepared with an Ursack, made of a specially designed bear-proof material that is lightweight and easier to fit in your pack than a big canister. The point of it is to hang the bag high in a tree and on a branch far enough from the main trunk so the bear can’t reach it from the ground or from on the tree. It came with instructions on tying a bear-proof knot. Wait…bears can untie knots?!

Desolation Wilderness California

A bear canister for storing your food is required when camping in Desolation, and we came prepared with an Ursack, made of a specially designed bear-proof material that is lightweight and easier to fit in your pack than a big canister. The point of it is to hang the bag high in a tree and on a branch far enough from the main trunk so the bear can’t reach it from the ground or from on the tree. It came with instructions on tying a bear-proof knot. Wait…bears can untie knots?!

Desolation Wilderness California: 12 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - I started wondering how we smell to bears as we walk along the path, even during the daytime. Was it safe to carry any food at all? I watched 4-5 YouTube videos on choosing an appropriate hanging spot for the bag and more knots to know (thank you Girl Scouts!) for tying the bag to the tree. There are also YouTube videos of bears going after canisters campers had left on the ground or inadequately hung. The bears are very persistent! They usually succeed in demolishing the food supply and teaching a lesson to the hungry campers.

Desolation Wilderness California

I started wondering how we smell to bears as we walk along the path, even during the daytime. Was it safe to carry any food at all? I watched 4-5 YouTube videos on choosing an appropriate hanging spot for the bag and more knots to know (thank you Girl Scouts!) for tying the bag to the tree. There are also YouTube videos of bears going after canisters campers had left on the ground or inadequately hung. The bears are very persistent! They usually succeed in demolishing the food supply and teaching a lesson to the hungry campers.

Desolation Wilderness California: 13 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - It looks idyllic, and it had definitely been a choice campsite for campers before us, but our inexperience hurt us here. This site on this day, downwind of a snow covered slope was like camping in an open-air refrigerator. We were so eager to set up camp it did not occur to us to keep shopping for a warmer spot. Instead, I rued the decision to leave my down jacket behind. 

Desolation Wilderness California

It looks idyllic, and it had definitely been a choice campsite for campers before us, but our inexperience hurt us here. This site on this day, downwind of a snow covered slope was like camping in an open-air refrigerator. We were so eager to set up camp it did not occur to us to keep shopping for a warmer spot. Instead, I rued the decision to leave my down jacket behind. 

Desolation Wilderness California: 14 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We knew it would be unwise to navigate down this steep snow-covered slope, and started a gradual traverse with eyes on the dry rocky path just across, but a missed step had some of us glissading down instead. 

Desolation Wilderness California

We knew it would be unwise to navigate down this steep snow-covered slope, and started a gradual traverse with eyes on the dry rocky path just across, but a missed step had some of us glissading down instead. 

Desolation Wilderness California: 15 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - The scenic beauty of this remote area keeps getting better with each turn, but we now know navigating this trail requires full attention, and a navigation device. It is not adequately marked for first-timers.

Desolation Wilderness California

The scenic beauty of this remote area keeps getting better with each turn, but we now know navigating this trail requires full attention, and a navigation device. It is not adequately marked for first-timers.

Desolation Wilderness California: 16 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We had read it was difficult to follow the trail here across granite slopes, crossing streams and spending lots of time focused on navigation, and it was. It’s difficult to tell if small piles of rocks here and there are “ducks” marking the trail, or a divergent path. We followed a fair amount of false leads but it’s worth it when you see grand vistas like this.

Desolation Wilderness California

We had read it was difficult to follow the trail here across granite slopes, crossing streams and spending lots of time focused on navigation, and it was. It’s difficult to tell if small piles of rocks here and there are “ducks” marking the trail, or a divergent path. We followed a fair amount of false leads but it’s worth it when you see grand vistas like this.

Desolation Wilderness California: 17 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Desolation Wilderness is full of hidden lakes and the only way to access them is by hiking. Such is the beauty of human-powered adventures! Most people who venture as far as the Four Q Lakes come via the Velma Trail. We ran into only one such group.

Desolation Wilderness California

Desolation Wilderness is full of hidden lakes and the only way to access them is by hiking. Such is the beauty of human-powered adventures! Most people who venture as far as the Four Q Lakes come via the Velma Trail. We ran into only one such group.

Desolation Wilderness California: 18 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We completely lost the trail after the Four Q Lakes, and our Garmin power was so low we were only using it to spot-check our location every 10 minutes. It was going to be a challenge to get back to our campsite before sundown.

Desolation Wilderness California

We completely lost the trail after the Four Q Lakes, and our Garmin power was so low we were only using it to spot-check our location every 10 minutes. It was going to be a challenge to get back to our campsite before sundown.

Desolation Wilderness California: 19 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We were getting very worried when we ran into these two park rangers doing some much-needed trail maintenance. They directed us back to the trail, granted our selfie request and accepted one of our snack bars. Before we parted ways, they asked to see our camping permit. “Uhh, would you believe we left that in camp as well?” Lesson learned: don’t leave home without it; any of it.

Desolation Wilderness California

We were getting very worried when we ran into these two park rangers doing some much-needed trail maintenance. They directed us back to the trail, granted our selfie request and accepted one of our snack bars. Before we parted ways, they asked to see our camping permit. “Uhh, would you believe we left that in camp as well?” Lesson learned: don’t leave home without it; any of it.

Desolation Wilderness California: 20 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - After another night of howling winds and very restless sleep, we wake up in the morning to this beautiful sight of Lake Lois!

Desolation Wilderness California

After another night of howling winds and very restless sleep, we wake up in the morning to this beautiful sight of Lake Lois!

Desolation Wilderness California: 21 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - A makeshift bridge was the only way to reach our campsite at Lake Lois..

Desolation Wilderness California

A makeshift bridge was the only way to reach our campsite at Lake Lois..

Desolation Wilderness California: 22 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Some of the snow had melted from the stone steps while we were gone, revealing a more direct route than the one we took on our way in. 

Desolation Wilderness California

Some of the snow had melted from the stone steps while we were gone, revealing a more direct route than the one we took on our way in. 

Desolation Wilderness California: 23 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We ran into a group from LA headed into Desolation as we were leaving. They reported spotting a mama bear with her cubs, so we stayed alert.

Desolation Wilderness California

We ran into a group from LA headed into Desolation as we were leaving. They reported spotting a mama bear with her cubs, so we stayed alert.

Desolation Wilderness California: 24 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Rock, rock and more rock. Rockbound Pass lives up to its name.

Desolation Wilderness California

Rock, rock and more rock. Rockbound Pass lives up to its name.

Desolation Wilderness California: 25 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - A look back at Rockbound Pass

Desolation Wilderness California

A look back at Rockbound Pass

Desolation Wilderness California: 26 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Jenny took her hat off so you could see just how powerfully windy it was. It was difficult to breathe.

Desolation Wilderness California

Jenny took her hat off so you could see just how powerfully windy it was. It was difficult to breathe.

Desolation Wilderness California: 27 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Free and renewable energy thanks to the solar panel and sunshine on Dagmara’s backpack! 

Desolation Wilderness California

Free and renewable energy thanks to the solar panel and sunshine on Dagmara’s backpack! 

Desolation Wilderness California: 28 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - On the return journey we made time to stop and enjoy Maud Lake.

Desolation Wilderness California

On the return journey we made time to stop and enjoy Maud Lake.

Desolation Wilderness California: 29 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - The last remaining unused item in our backpacks: our swimsuits. We went for a cold plunge and dried out on a large flat rock warmed by the sun. 

Desolation Wilderness California

The last remaining unused item in our backpacks: our swimsuits. We went for a cold plunge and dried out on a large flat rock warmed by the sun. 

Desolation Wilderness California: 30 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - We are blessed again with sunny blue skies. We said our thanks to the goddess Dagala who watched us over in Bhutan and continues to be our weather guardian.

Desolation Wilderness California

We are blessed again with sunny blue skies. We said our thanks to the goddess Dagala who watched us over in Bhutan and continues to be our weather guardian.

Desolation Wilderness California: 31 / 32
Desolation Wilderness California - Lake Tahoe

Desolation Wilderness California

Lake Tahoe

Desolation Wilderness California: 32 / 32

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Desolation Wilderness California

Location:

Lake Tahoe, CA

Trip Length:

3 days

Distance Hiked:

25 miles

Season:

July

It was a trip with many firsts (watching YouTube videos about bear bags!) discoveries (mosquito head nets and the miracle of Jet Boil,) and lessons learned (never leave the spare batteries for your Garmin in the tent at base camp when you venture out for a 15 mile exploration of unmaintained trails!) A 2-night 3 day hike-in camping trip where we put our stamina and wilderness skills to the test! We carried 25 pounds of gear each: tent, sleeping bags, water filtration system, food, bear bags, and not enough warm clothes over Rockbound Pass to our camping site at Lake Lois. 

Hikes

Rockbound Trail to Lake Lois

Desolation Wilderness, California

Rockbound Trail to Lake Lois
Hike Duration:

4.5 hours

Distance:

7 miles

Elevation Change:

1,800 ft

Difficulty:

8

McConnell Lakes Loop

Desolation Wilderness, California

McConnell Lakes Loop
Hike Duration:

6 hours

Distance:

11 miles

Elevation Change:

3,000 ft

Difficulty:

9