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PCT 2015 Day 72: Desolation Wilderness and Desolation

  • Start: 1,087.3
  • End: 1,111.0
  • Miles: 23.7
  • Camp: Middle Velma Lake

I woke up this morning to learn that Chug had positively decided to join Doolittle and to leave the trail. He had been thinking about it for a while, but the idea of getting to Echo Lake where it would be possible to hitch to South Lake Tahoe had made up his mind. We broke camp quickly and hiked the 4 miles to Echo Lake. I was glad that he came to the Echo Chalet instead of stopping to try and hitch from highway 50, as we had chance to get some coffee, charge our phones and say bye. I also used the time to set up my US SIM card, thinking I might run into issues with my Britishness and should make the most of having an American around. True enough, it was around 20 minutes after calling them that I eventually had a working phone.

I finally left at 10am, feeling rather gloomy despite the beauty of Echo Lake and the prospect of the lakeside hike. I hiked fast to distract myself, although it took a while to shake the sense of loneliness. Solitude does have some positives though. Now I’m alone I can hike faster, and I’m enjoying the chance to go at my own pace and think my own thoughts. It’s lovely to hike with friends, but I like it when I can set my own schedule too.

I was hiking into Desolation Wilderness which is reputed to be as beautiful as Yosemite but less popular. Nevertheless I met so many day hikers I felt as though I could be back in Yosemite. The trail was very busy until lunchtime when I stopped at Aloha Lake to eat and fill my water bottle. As I was packing up a PCTA worker and the wilderness manager for Desolation Wilderness stopped to chat – they were interested in the thru-hiker perspective on camping sites and preserving the trail given the increasing use. Keeping the trail in good condition is going to be even harder now it seems that Congress has voted to allow bikes on the national scenic trails. Effective immediately which is upsetting for my own hike.

The number of people tailed off after lunch although I still met only day hikers and people out for short trips. They all said there were a few PCT hikers ahead of me though so maybe I will see some soon.

I passed by so many beautiful lakes today – Echo, Heather, Aloha where I had a beach to myself at lunchtime, and Gilmore where I had a beach to myself filling up water part way up the afternoon’s climb. Eventually I reached the top of Dicks Pass, with views over more lakes! It had a couple of false summits which let me see the views early but I sat for a moment at the peak to eat a snack and take in the landscape.

I was moving pretty soon, downhill to Fontanillis Lake. At the lake outlets, I had a view of Lake Tahoe from where I filled water. I didn’t realise I’d be able to see it from the trail. I spoke to some fishermen hanging out to enjoy the view. One of them has a cabin out here, which sounds idyllic. I hiked through the woods looking for a camping spot close enough to get me into Sierra City on Saturday. I found a spot by Velma Lake, tucked away from the trail and the water but still likely to be damp overnight. It’s odd to be by myself again. Dinner and camp felt very quiet and a bit sad.

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