It’s Not Wilderness – It’s Desolation Wilderness

Lake Aloha

Lake Aloha

The summer before going into 7th grade, I went backpacking with a friend and his family for a week in what is known as Desolation Wilderness. The week before the trip, I was jumping in and out of a swimming pool and caught my big toe in a crack in the railing on the side of the pool just as I was jumping into the water. There was a crack, a sharp pain and I walked away with a broken toe. Yet, not even a broken toe was going to stop me from going on that backpacking trip. That week in August, hiking in the mountains and swimming in the clear, ice-cold lakes and hanging our food high in the trees to keep the bears away was a favorite memory that has stayed with me after all these years. 

Then one day you wake-up, you wander out of bed and discover life has happened. What happened? I realized I have reached the point in life, the age, when I look back and remember seeing my dad when he was 40 and how old he seemed to me. Well, not really old, but I was 16 and he was 40 – he didn’t seem young. But now that’s me. You suddenly realize you have reached the age of your parents. You don’t see it coming until suddenly you’ve passed it. It’s the moment of truth when you’re staring back at yourself and the truth is there for you to see. It’s unmistakable. You’ve crossed that line in life. That hike, that week in Desolation Wilderness, that week that is so vivid in my memory, was nearly 30 years ago and I hadn’t been back since. 30 years! That’s a lifetime. So one of my goals this summer was to run some of the Pacific Crest Trail through Desolation Wilderness and bring those memories back to life. 

Nicole and Dylan dropped me off at Echo Lake and I started my 20 mile trek to Emerald Bay, mostly along the PCT/Tahoe Trim Trail until Dicks Lake where I took the Bayview Trail and then connected to the Eagle Lake Trail. Eagle Lakes to Lake Aloha was a terrific section with fantastic views of the mountain peaks looming ahead and the lakes just below the trail. It’s nearly 3 miles around the lakes and if you want you can skip these miles with a nice relaxing boat trip across the lakes for a few dollars. I’d pay to skip the boat ride and take the trail. 

In The Heart of Desolation Wilderness

In The Heart of Desolation Wilderness

After nearly 7 miles you start approaching Lake Aloha and the scenery starts to change to a very barren moonscape look with a few trees shooting out of the massive granite boulders. Putting my feet in the lake and taking a look around, it felt like being on another planet. My favorite section had to have been from Lake Aloha to Dicks Peak, and although the trail had a lot of large rocks that slowed me down, the small lakes and views were why I enjoy trail running and mountains. Heather Lake would be a perfect destination for a family picnic and swim one of these summers. 

Heather Lake - A Perfect Spot

Heather Lake - A Perfect Spot

Around this point, I started to really appreciate what Tim Twietmeyer and Kilian Jornet accomplished by running this section and the entire Tahoe Rim Trail, all 160 miles, in 45 hours for Tim and 38 hours for Kilian. That’s really impressive when you’ve “walked in their shoes” and when I ran into Tim a couple days later in Auburn, I had to tell him how impressive his feat looks now that I’ve seen some of the harder sections of the course. All the intersections were marked and every now and then I would encounter a backpacker and make sure I was pointed in the right direction. If you love granite mountains, trees, crystal clear lakes, blue skies and fresh thin air, I think you would enjoy this section. I posted some pictures on Flickr. I quickly drank my 2 water bottles and was out of water after about 17 miles and the last couple miles were not very runnable, so give yourself between 4 and 5 hours to cover the distance.

Here’s the data from my Garmin. 

My shins were so sore from the Desolation Wilderness run, I skipped the Tuesday night track workout and instead we went and looked at the 2011 Ford Edge. This weekend the odometer on our Jeep went over 150,000 miles. We bought this car new in 2000 with the goal of driving it for at least 10 years. Recently it’s been moaning and groaning so we may be saying goodbye to our Jeep pretty soon. 

Sunday was the Disneyland Half Marathon and I paced the 1:40 group. Weather was perfect but my nipples were gushing blood by mile 12. Only when pacing in Southern California do I have this problem. I’m not sure if it’s an allergic reaction or something in the air but I really need to start wearing band aids when running in LA. So I ran the last mile Krupicka style, minus the long flowing hair, bushy beard and short shorts sliding off the hips. With balloons in one hand and my red and white shirt in the other, I crossed the finish line just as the clock clicked 1:40:00. Like Stocker says, “this isn’t pacing this is stealing.” It was too easy. And thanks to James Wood from Virginia for keeping me company the entire course. Had a good time connecting with all my Clif buddies and reconnecting with Julie McGough (Beckwith) from Junior High. One of the benefits of Facebook!

Here’s the Disneyland Half Marathon data from my Garmin.

Running Through Angel Stadium

Running Through Angel Stadium

While at Disneyland, I had a chance to test out my new camera – in the pool! Underwater! I recently traded in my Sony DSC-T500 camera and upgraded to the Sony TX5. A couple major advantages are the TX5 is that it’s waterproof up to about 10 feet, drop-proof from about 3 feet, and can handle the bumps and dings I routinely put my electronics through on a daily basis. I definitely agree with being drop-proof as I must have fallen 3 or 4 times on the PCT trail and during one fall the camera’s LCD screen slammed against a granite boulder. That would have been the dagger through the heart with most cameras but the TX5 came away with just a scratch. It’s also a whole new experience to see underwater pictures.

The Sony TX5 Captures Dylan Underwater

The Sony TX5 Captures Dylan Underwater

I thought Dylan would be doing the breaststroke on his own by the end of the summer and he is close. His accomplishments thus far have impressed me. He can swim underwater. Dive off the diving board. Perform a forward diving flip. I’ve let go of him a few times in the pool and he has popped back up and started to swim but the fear in his eyes when he realizes he is starting to sink and I’m not grabbing him goes against every parental instinct in my body. Just about everything in me is yelling to grab him but there’s a faint (cruel?) voice saying, “Wait…Wait…Let’s see if he surfaces…Wait.” And he always does. Nicole and I are both amazed at his capacity to learn and we are trying not to hold him back with our preconceived limitations.


2 thoughts on “It’s Not Wilderness – It’s Desolation Wilderness

  1. Sounds like you have a good time whatever you are doing! I agreed with your comment about paying to not take the boat.

    Good luck in raising your son without preconceived limitations. That’s easier said then done. My Dad kept coming out in my parenting.

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