Total Miles: 85.2
Returning somewhere that holds a special space in your memory can go one of two ways—either the anticipation proves too great for the reality to live up to the recollection or the memory is renewed and reaffirmed. Today was most certainly the latter.
The Desolation Wilderness is a landscape that has been misplaced. A couple hundred trail miles to the south, the High Sierra of the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails holds some of the most jaw dropping scenery in the world, but here in the Desolation Wilderness it’s easy to convince yourself that this place has somehow been orphaned from that High Sierra it so closely resembles.
By the time we had started the climb up to Dicks Pass and startled the largest flock of grouse I’ve ever seen, the granite slopes peppered sparsely with firs, pines, cedars, and junipers had already begun to resemble the northern reaches of Yosemite. Gone was the dry, dusty trail we’d strolled along the last few days and in its place appeared a succession of lakes and basins, all beneath the same reliably sunny sky.
It’s impossible to tire of a place with this kind of beauty, particularly with its wealth of colors—turquoise and sapphire lakes; rich browns and reds infused in the bark of red firs, incense cedars, and Sierra juniper; deep green pines and bright green mosses clinging to their trunks, with a few early autumn colors sprinkled in for good measure. Combined with the constant interplay of light and shadow on the landscape, it’s not hard to see why the Sierra gets into your blood.
On the way down from Dicks Pass, the trail weaved its way between a succession of lakes but not before passing some incredible Sierra junipers, their gnarled and twisted bark unmistakeable.
One was even so kind as to provide a seat…
Given its resemblance, it only seemed fitting to be traversing the Desolation on the anniversary of the day Emily and I had finished the John Muir Trail in 2015.
Waiting around the proverbial final bend was the cherry on top of the day’s scenery: Lake Aloha. Sitting in a basin of granite at the foot of a large ridge that dominates the western shore, it’s a place that’s difficult to walk by without snapping a photo every few steps. So rather than rush a good thing, we settled in for a few hours in the mid afternoon to cool off in the lake and lounge in our hammocks along the shore before pushing on a few miles to our camp for the night.
Staring up at star strewn Sierra sky, it’s hard to absorb all of the spectacular scenery we’d seen today, and so I find it easier to drift off to sleep dreaming of the next visit.