Trekking Lake Tahoe

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We took off this weekend to trek California’s beautiful mountains and enjoy the end of what’s been a gorgeous summer.

On Friday we grabbed our packs, loaded the dog into the truck and headed for South Lake Tahoe, an easy two and half hour drive from home.

We had decided to do a trek into Desolation Wilderness starting at Meeks Bay and ending at Eagle Falls in Emerald Bay. Point to point the trek is 17.8 miles with an elevation gain/loss of 3690′ and 3350′ respectively. It’s a beautiful, exceptionally well maintained trail that visits a chain of alpine lakes. It’s a recommended two day trek, although you could stretch it into three and take some lovely day trips to outlying lakes. Both the trail heads at Meeks and Eagle Falls are popular hotspots for day hikers—so expect some crowds at either end—but once you’re a couple of miles down the trail and into Desolation Wilderness you’ll leave the day hikers behind and find yourself with plenty of peace and quiet.

And the amazing views … oh, the views will keep you company every step of the way.

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Here’s Jack: King of the mountain.

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Here’s me and Lily. This was a pretty common scenario: the dog and I waiting for the great King of the mountain to descend and join us little peons. “Okay Kimosabe, great conqueror of the mountain, let’s get moving, eh?”

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Also, this was Lily’s first real trek. She was a happy dog.

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We hiked about five miles in and setup camp on the Northern side of Crag’s Lake.

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We all (including Lily) went swimming in the frigidly cold water. Bbbbbbrrrrrrrr. And then took some time to dry out our clothes, grab a book and relax by the lake.

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Everyone staked out their own spot. This was Lily’s rock. She spent a lot of time on it. It’s got a great view of the lake.

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We call this Dog on Rock. She spent an inordinate amount of time sitting there gazing at the lake. We wondered what in the world she was thinking …

“It’s so beautiful here.”

“I wish I had a bone to chew.”

“I’m tuckered. My dogs are barking.” Do dogs say that to themselves?

“There’s absolutely no goose poop around here. I’ve checked. There ain’t none. Bummer”

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The sunset and moonrise was stunning.

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Finally, the wind picked up and we dragged our happy mellow selves to bed.

But not before Lily decided to go jump in the lake for one last late night swim.

Jack ended up wrapping her in his stinky shirt to stop her shivering. Goofy dog.

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Day two. 12.9 miles of mountainous terrain and lovely lakes.

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A man and his puppy. Both were pretty darn happy campers.

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Stony Ridge Lake. One of the larger lakes on this trek, Stony Ridge is a popular place for people to camp overnight. Originally we had hoped to camp here, but I’m glad we didn’t because it’s very windy. The area isn’t quite as protected and we suspect that it may often be windy on this lake. Instead we would recommend camping at either Crag Lake (as we did) to the North or Rubicon Lake to the South, which are both a little smaller but also more protected from the wind.

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From Stony Ridge Lake you start the ascent to Phipps Peak Pass, the highest point on this trek at 8800′. The Peak itself is 9234′ and looked pretty climbable although we were not inclined to do so.

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On our way up to Phipps Pass we stopped to view where we’d been; there’s Stony Ridge Lake.

Both Jack and I remarked on the difference between this uphill trail versus many that we trekked in the French Alps. Here the trail has a gentle to moderate ascent with lots of long switchbacks. If you take your time (as I do—Jack, on the other hand, powers through) it’s comfortable and quite enjoyable. In France, its like they don’t believe in switchbacks, they just mark a trail straight uphill as the crow flies and therefore it’ll be steep and somewhat grueling.

I much prefer the easy switchbacks. Although he doesn’t admit it, I think Jack does too.

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Rubicon Lake.

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One of the Grouse Lakes, the larger of the two.

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Nearing the Phipps Pass … overlooking Grouse Lakes and the Eagle Creek drainage.

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In the foreground you can see the two Grouse Lakes. Way out there, what looks like a strip of white, is Lake Tahoe, our eventual destination at the end of the day. Hmmm. Looks quite far away, doesn’t it? Standing up there on the mountainside I thought so too.

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On the way up to Phipps Peak Jack built a caryn on the trail where it was a bit obscure. Hopefully this will help the hikers coming after us. Do not do as we did, folks! Look for the caryns!

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On the descent from Phipps Peak you quickly move back into a dense forest.

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Middle Velma Lake where we stopped to eat lunch and pump some fresh water.

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The terrain has now totally changed from alpine pinewood forest to a mostly granite mountainside.

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Equally beautiful, just different. I always marvel at how much the terrain can change from one mile to the next.

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A gorgeous view of Lake Tahoe. We’re back in dense alpine forest.

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Eagle Lake.

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Our final destination, Emerald Bay of Lake Tahoe, is just a couple of miles down the trail.

Sigh. A beautiful weekend away.

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2 responses »

  1. I’m seriously inspired to take up hiking!! I like to walk, and I know it can be more than just “walking”, but what would you and Jack say to a novice interested in beginning to hike? Notice, I didn’t mention camping 🙂 Lets take one new skill at a time.

  2. Pingback: Lily’s first time snowshoeing « Loonyville

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