Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Desolation Wilderness - August 2018

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version & highlighted text are links to further information

 Additional note - 9441 is a numbered peak (elevation) on the 7.5 USGS topo map. It is not a named peak.

9441 & Making the Lady Happy

It was early Thursday morning. I was going to work and the Lady was getting her daypack ready.

"I want to see if I can get Diane up 9441 today! That would be fun." The Lady excitedly told me.

"Does Diane know about your plan?" I asked.

"I'll ask her when she gets here and see what she'd like to do."

Diane, a good friend and teacher at the Lady's school, joins the Lady on hikes during her summer break. The Lady always reminds me, "We are older than her parents. She could be our daughter."

Diane is a solid and direct person. "No way! No mountain for me today. I'm not mentally prepared. I was thinking hiking to and laying out at an alpine lake."

The Lady was happy to make Diane's scenic, relaxing alpine lake dream come true but I know, once an idea gets planted.................................

We were staying home this weekend so Friday afternoon I casually mentioned, "How 'bout you and I pop up to the top of 9441 tomorrow?"

I know how to make the Lady happy.

Desolation Wilderness is in our backyard. We've been wandering around its inviting terrain for over 40 years. We've skied much of it including many peak descents. I remember one summer when we spent nine Saturday nights in a roll in our tent on backpack trips. We have a deep personal connection to this land.

We left home early. The air was still. Smoke from fires all around us had settled in. We hoped we would climb above and out of it.

Starting out at Wrights Lake, it looked like it would be a miserable and sad day.

California is on fire.

We parked out at the overflow parking - this is a very popular area - and walked the trails along the shore to reach the trailhead. The Desolation Wilderness Volunteers had an information booth set up. A voice called out, "Monte and Julie! It's Monte and Julie!" It was Carolyn. Now retired, Carolyn was one of the 15 principals that Julie worked under during her career.

Although we started at the Twin Lakes trailhead, after about a quarter mile we stepped off the trail.

Our first objective was a wonderful spot locally known as the Enchanted Pools. The route is across broad open Sierra Nevada granite. The hint on how to find the pools is connect the large junipers.

Next is more cross country travel to intersect with the trail to Tyler Lake. Tyler Lake trail is a steep and strenuous climb but the views are worth it, when views are possible.

We always make it a point to stop and pay our respects to Tyler.

I had heard that William Tyler was a veteran of the Spanish American War and died in a snowstorm in the early 1900's. It turns out this information was off. We were surprised to find a plastic tube at the site containing well researched information that Bill died in October 1882 and his body was discovered in August 1883. His Civil War Veterans headstone was brought in and placed on his grave in 1908. Cool stuff to learn. I love research especially with source material.

Twenty years ago the small enameled sign that pointed down the spur trail to Tyler's grave was removed. The person responsible said it was taken down and hidden in the area. We were asked to look for it and made two trips to do so. We thoroughly searched and found nothing. We continued to look whenever we passed by but the sign is gone.

Bud Wilson's grandson was the last Wilson to run cattle in these mountains. He moved his operations out of state and the lower ranch lands are now suburban sprawl. The family still has a small compound at the historic up country ranch at Wilson Meadow.

Many of the old cattleman's ashes are scattered up on the crest of the Crystal Range, hallowed ground. A place called the Cowboy's Graveyard.  

Next up was the climb to Tyler Lake, more a route as the trail is unmaintained.

We took a break and filled our water bottles as we had a climb ahead of us.

We reached the high bench below the crest of the Crystal Range. For years this was our favorite spot to set up a backpack camp as the climb up eliminated the chance of having neighbors. The two tarns held brook trout up to a foot long. This was where I worked on my alpine lake fly fishing skills.

It is rough terrain between the tarns and the summit of 9441.

I took more of a direct route. The Lady traversed east and then came up the north spine of 9441.

The views were obscured by smoke. The wind was around 40 miles per hour.

Island Lake is in the deep basin to the southwest.

It was hard to stand on the summit and impossible to do a timer shot of the two of us.

The last time we were together to the summit of 9441 was 20 July 2008, ten years ago.

The Lady has brought friends with her to the summit two or three times since.

We stayed low out of the winds and I celebrated my new mountain boots.

Since my last pair was blue, this time I went more traditional in color. These are the best mountain boots I've worn. The last pair served me well for four years.

It was time to move. Our route was down to Island Lake, down a chute we've skied many times. In the summer the Lady calls it "The Garden Chute" for its profusion of wildflowers.

The number of bumble bees in the primrose was impressive.

The smoke was thinning, allowing a nice view back at 9441.

After the long drop, we arrived at Island Lake.

We found a series of buoys stretched across the lake. This is part of a project by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife biologists.

Many native frogs and toads have been severely impacted by man's planting of trout into high alpine watersheds that never held fish. The Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog has reached endangered status. It's young overwinter as tadpoles and therefore are especially vulnerable to predation by introduced non native fish.

The Department is working hard to strike a balance with improving habitat for native species but retaining opportunities, where appropriate, to have trout in high lakes. I have studied and I am very pleased with their plan for Desolation Wilderness.

Twin Lakes are the lowest lakes in this cirque. We took a break before our last push - now on trail - the drop down to Wrights Lake.

The skies above had finally cleared nicely, probably a result of the wind. Smoke still was heavy in the lower lands to the west.

We looked back at the spectacular granite of Desolation Wilderness.

Late in the afternoon we were back in the meadows around Wrights Lake.

This is one of our favorite day hikes in our backyard. A good hard day with incredible rewards. The Lady was happy. So was I.