Day 53: Making the most of the Desolation…

Day: Thursday, July 21st 21st 2016

Miles: 1103.5 – 1129.7

Gilmore Lake 1103.5 – Remote Site 1129.7

Wilderness, that is. The Desolation Wilderness has been my stomping ground for the past half-day and despite the name’s implication of doom and gloom, it’s really been quite the varied experience. The imposing views of a natural building-site, with rock piles and broken down peaks, intermingled with verdant green valleys and lakes filled with trout has been anything but desolate. A feast for the eyes and as I found out today, for the senses with some animal action and even some magic along the way.

Waking up to the pretty view of Gilmore Lake was only bested by the realization that I had pre-empted the morning mosquitos as well as the scout group envy door to my tent site who were still sleeping soundly (is it really soundly when the snoring echoes across the valley?!). I had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and poptarts (all 420 calories of amazingness) and decided to have my much-anticipated Irish teabag of Barry’s Tea. I hit the ground running as the sun started to beat down on the exposed mountain side I would be summiting this morning.


It was a quick walk of about an hour to Dicks Pass, just above Dicks Lake, beside Dicks Valley and west of Dicks Bay (apparently some guy named Dick was a big deal in these parts at some point). The trail up to the pass was beautifully lines in purple flowers with views back to the west to the lakes I had hiked past yesterday evening. At the pass itself was a large snowfield and views to the heavily forested terrain ahead which made me yearn for the expansive views of the past, however not every day can have a beautiful ridge top view and it’s about time I balanced my karma!

Descending to the lakes below the pass, I met a large number of day hikers heading southbound. I conversed with a view of them leading to some magic in the form of candy and granola bars, the day was going pretty well already!

The trail also provided fleeting if amazing views of the great blue lake to the east (Tahoe). Meanwhile the trout filled lakes were also proving popular for fishermen dotting a few sections of the trail.

Moving into the heavily forested areas and I hit one fun milestone at 1111.11 nicely marked in pebbles. Later I had one of the most special moments yet where I noticed a number of branches frantically moving back and force about 100ft off trail. Presuming it was a deer but wanting a closer look I peered from over a large Boulder at what was making the noise however I still couldn’t quite see what was making the sounds and motions. Around this point another hiker named Deuce came around the corner and joined me in peering into the shadows of the forest. Sure enough, there we saw a bear, the first bear for both of us and quite a large one. We viewed him for a while as he tried to leverage a tree into a position where he could extract some grubs before he slowly lumbered his huge largesse over a large rocky outcropping and out of view. At no point did he seem to be aware of us nor stressed at the experience although we got quite the fright and adrenalin rush. This bear was a lot bigger than anything I expected to see on the trail! One major PCT checklist item completed! Myself and Deuce then hiked together for a while enjoying the moment we saw our first bear and just like the fish that was “this big”, as the miles increased on the day, so did our estimates of its size!

The forest views were really pretty with a luminous green covering of moss on all of the trees. One hiker relayed that this miss only grows above the snow line for the prior winter highlighting how much snow falls in this area each winter.

At one point, after I had passed Deuce, he caught up quickly to me once again and passed me out mentioning there may be more magic ahead according to a southbound hiker he met. I picked up my pace although nowhere near to the Sparks coming from Deuces feet. Eventually, around 6pm I finally reached the trailhead at Barker pass to the most amazing spectacle of two amazingly generous trail angels Pip and Stitch from Sacramento dealing out burgers, soda, scrambled eggs and great “pay it forward” magic to the hungry hikers along the way. These young guys experienced similar magic back on the Tahoe Rim Trail the prior week and decided to oy it forward themselves to my own benefit! After a huge fill and good conversation, I hit the trail again intending on a little night hiking to get me to a point that positioned me to hit Donner Pass tomorrow.

I saw a magnificent sunset as I climbed the second to last ridge, viewing all the way back to the area hiked today, before ascending a ridge with expansive views of Tahoe to the east.

I finally entered the Granite Chief wilderness well after dark and camped close by Alpine Meadows ski resort, something to look forward to seeing tomorrow. As I hit the hay I couldn’t help but wonder how I had become quite so dusty and dirty, today was a day of fast hiking and a low impact trail thread that was really dusty hence my feet were quite the mess! I settled in for a good rest And hit the hay pretty hard, thankfully not worrying about dinner!

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