Friday, August 14, 2015

Twin Lakes, Desolation Wilderness, August 11-13 2015

 Yes, friends. TWO nights in the backcountry! It has been 7 years since I did more than an overnight. It was great!

Wright's Lake

 The Meetup Group (aptly named Turtle Trekkers) made a leisurely climb Tuesday morning from Wright's Lake in the Eldorado National Forest to the peninsula between the two Twin Lakes, about 4 miles hike one way, I think.

Picture by Larry

Our mixed bag of 9 hikers (and one poodle) came from all over the Sacramento area: Amador County to Chico. The gear was all over the place as well. From my minimalist pack to the leader's towering Osprey. 

Towering Osprey, tiny G4

There were a lot of Osprey packs, and one vintage Kelty! Just like my Kelty. Cool! Several Svea 123 stoves. Tower of flames and a mighty roar of white gas.

Most people were overloaded, in my opinion. But, hey! If you can get up the mountain, and you have a good time, maybe there's nothing to fix!

We lunched as soon as we got to the nearest shore of Twin Lakes, refilling water bottles and waiting for the slower folks to catch up before heading to the peninsula to choose a campsite.

There are scattered trees in this part of the Desolation Wilderness, but not very many places to hang a hammock. I found two trees (the ONLY two trees) to use. The were very far apart, to the limit of the length of suspension I had with me. But I made it work. The first night was mostly sleepless, as I had the hammock strung too tightly, and oriented such that the repeated wind gusts came in the head end of my setup.

First night setup.

My hammock sock was a champ, keeping the cold gusts off of me. The low was 51, high around 80. I do want to make a double ended stuff sack for the sock, as it blew around quite vigorously during the day time gusts. I also want to make a new pillow, as my old one is flat from years of use (DIY Primaloft and Momentum).

We stayed at Twin Lakes for a second night (our plan from the start). So I turned my whole setup end for end, decided to go tarp-less, and enlisted a couple of extra arms and trekking poles to help me inch one of the tree straps a couple feet higher. Much more comfortable! The hammock was still fairly tight, but better.

The wind gusts continued all the second night, but, because I had tied up my tarp, the only rattling in the wind was my hammock sock, much more tolerable then the flapping of my improvised poncho "door" to the (unnecessary) tarp. Silnyon flapping in the wind equals "loose tarp! Go stake it down!" and made for an unrestful first night.

The length of my straps (Warbonnet Blackbird cinch buckle suspension) are quite long, and I used every bit of them. Between the long straps and the tall trees, the wind gusts would bounce the hammock a bit.
Some of the gusts were strong enough to shove my hammock-encased 230lb self  sideways quite noticeably. The first times were somewhat scary, but then it was kind of fun!
First, I'd hear the freight-train-like sound of the wind in distant trees, then my two trees would start to tremble, bouncing the hammock, then the BIG SHOVE like a giant, solid hand and I'd sway for a few minutes after.

Random strangers to give you a scale for the rocks. And to break up the text only narrative!

The purpose of this trip was to admire the Perseid meteor showers that occur this time of year. I saw one meteor early Wednesday, but Thursday was a much better night. I wake frequently when camping, so had plenty of chances to see entertaining stars and streaks of light when ever I woke. The last meteor I saw was at 5:36am, when the stars were no longer visible.

I saw bats at dusk on Wednesday.


There were dozens of cute and curious Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels around (one of the hikers has a retirement job as a Mountain Host and nature guide at Heavenly resort. If he had not been there, these rodents would be called Chipmunks for all time). And Mountain Chickadees. And yellow jackets. I could have done without the latter. The squirrels would investigate any unattended pack for food, scurrying in and out of pockets. People finally learned to keep their food in the bear cans.

Most people had brought bear cans. I had the only Ursack. The last morning, my Opsac for food (I bring one for food, one for trash - odorproof, leakproof zip closure bags) gave up the ghost.
One woman (who ended up, along with two others, hiking out after one night) brought a huge old yellow Garcia can filled with a LOT of food. She must have had at least 7 pounds of grocery store items in there. Including a glass jar of pesto, and 3 Bear Mountain soup mixes, each one requiring 8 cups of water and 10 minutes of boiling to render edible.


Many people ate Mountain House meals.

I went stoveless, eating nuts, dried fruit, smoked goat cheddar cheese, fresh snap peas, and salmon jerky. I carried a pound of food for every 24 hours I was out. I walked out with 1/2 of a trail bar left over. Yes!
I decided that no dishes was nice, but I would have liked a cup of tea once in a while. So I'll bring a stove next time. Especially on a longer-than-one-night trip.

Something I did bring, a first for me, was a pair of Xero shoes for camp shoes. BLISS! My toes hate being confined, so a pair of barefoot sandals were just the ticket. I did neglect to put sunscreen on my feet at one point, so I'm sporting a new sandal tan.

On Wednesday, the remaining campers (remember, three had left early) hiked over to Island Lake. I chose to stay in camp (I didn't want to put my hiking shoes on) using the time to wander around taking pictures. So I did. Here are some of the pics I took.

Many interesting split rocks

Twin Lake is surrounded on three sides by a towering rock wall with several unnamed peaks

'nother cool split rock

Desolation is a very heavily used area, requiring permits for all use. Overnight stays are subject to a quota system, but day trips are self-permitted. So there were swarms of people by the lake on Wednesday.

Our campsite had been used before, with many Marlborough butts to clean up, Clif bar wrappers, gel packet corners, several abandoned tent stakes, and signs of one illegal campfire. People are slobs!

On a less trashy note - but still destructive - previous campers had indulged in rock art, which we used for photo ops.

Some enterprising camper made a table and chairs?

Thursday morning, we packed up and were on the trail at 10:40, and back to the cars 2 hours and 15 minutes later.

When the trail is not in rock filled runoff ravines, it crosses granite slabs

A very satisfying trip.

I need to start thinking about new hiking clothes, as my current set is either too big, no longer sun blocking, or worn beyond repair.

New red shirt! No, I'm NOT expendable!

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