Backpacking in Desolation Wilderness
If you are a lover of nature and backpacking, then Desolation Wilderness in California is a destination worth looking at. Desolation Wilderness is a federally protected wilderness of 63,000+ acres in Northern California. The Wilderness sits on the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountain’s Crystal Range, west of Lake Tahoe, and north of Highway 50. The wilderness area is made up of granite peaks, hundreds of lakes and waterfalls, and some of the most beautiful parts of the country that you will ever see. Pyramid Peak is the highest point in the wilderness at almost 10,000 ft elevation, and it has a guest book at the top for those who are willing to brave the climb. Lake Aloha is the biggest body of water in the area, aside from Tahoe of course.
As a young man, I backpacked through this area every summer with a group of friends. There are few places as beautiful as desolation wilderness, in my opinion. When you hike or backpack out into desolation, you are seeing the raw beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains. There are beautiful peaks, and almost every valley seems to have a crystal clear alpine lake. Swimming in the glacial run-off lakes can be a shocking and invigorating experience, and there can still be snow on the northern facing slopes in mid august. One of the best meals that I have ever had was a fresh caught trout that was pulled out of a lake in desolation, and put directly into a frying pan over a camp stove. I have vivid memories of sitting in a wild flower filled meadow, next to a waterfall, playing travel checkers with friends. Desolation is worth seeing in your lifetime, and it is my goal to get fit enough to go back.
So, here is what you need to know before setting out on your desolation adventure. If you are planning to backpack in to camp overnight, you will need a permit. You are entering a wilderness, so there will not be convenient facilities. You will need to pack out all of your garbage (please!), and you will need to bring a means to filter or boil water with you. Don’t forget to bring food with you as well. One thing that I have found after a long day of backpacking, is that food tastes at least twice as good as it would at home. Due to this phenomenon, there is no need to try to be fancy. It is far more important to consider the weight of the food that you are packing, and there are several light-weight freeze dried meals that you can purchase. It would be wise to bring some form of shelter, and wet-weather gear, just in case. Shoes are VERY important! There is nothing worse than getting two days into a 5 day trip, being a few days walk from anywhere, and having blisters all over your feet.
There are many well maintained trails that wind and cross through the wilderness. The forestry stations in the area have maps that you can purchase with all of the trails and landmarks on them. It is important to pre-plan you route, and to tell someone who is not going with you what your planned route is. Many hikers get lost or hurt every year, and without someone to tell the search teams where to look for you, your odds of survival are not good. Further, you are stepping into one of the most beautiful places on the earth, but it is also one of the most flammable. Campfires are not permitted, but camp stoves are. This wilderness area is beloved by many people, so please don’t do anything stupid with fire!
This place is one of the most magical places that I have ever been to. If you are looking for a place to test yourself physically, flee from the hum of civilization, and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, then there are few places as perfect as Desolation Wilderness.