I love birthdays. Celebrating birthdays are my jam. Birthday surprises are the best surprises of all. Most of all, I love birthday surprises that involve making awesome memories.
My boyfriend officially crossed the threshold into his late twenties earlier this month. He’d never actually been backpacking before, so what better place to take him than Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness?
Friday night post-work, we drove out to Tahoe. The plan was to park at the Lower Echo Lake trailhead and hike in to Tamarack Lake to camp. The next day we’d finish the few miles out to Lake Aloha and explore.
We made it to our campsite at nearly three in the morning and promptly went to bed until around 7:30 when the hot sun beat down on our tent. Josh started breaking down camp and I began to make breakfast… only to find that our gas canister was completely empty.
I wracked my brain, trying to think of the last time we used my little camp stove and whether or not we’d killed the gas. It didn’t matter. We were going to have to hike back out to get more. We loaded up our packs and began the trudge out. We’d just added an extra six miles to the trip.
Luckily the Echo Chalet sold gas canisters. After paying double what it’d be at a sporting goods store, we had fuel and were ready to hit the trail again. I was still scowling after the mishap and intense hanger set in. Those three miles we re-hiked seemed so long. I didn’t even really want to be there anymore, but it was Josh’s birthday and I’d said we’d go backpacking. So we were backpacking.
It was as if an eternity passed before we reached the Desolation Wilderness boundary again. At the sign, I threw off my pack and laid down in the dirt while I rummaged for snacks. I found my Golden Island jerky and began to munch. Bit by bit, my mood lightened. It was only five more miles until we hit Lake Aloha. We’d basically done 9 already, what was another 5 to us? From where we were, it was half a mile to Tamarack Lake and then a steady descent upwards.
After switchbacking above Tamarack into the forest, we began to hit patches of snow. Around Lake Margaret, the trail was completely covered. The tops of PCT signs poked up several inches above the white. There were plenty of footprints to help us find our way without pulling out the map and compass. The snow was soft and slushy. I tossed on a pair of trail crampons because I’m incapable of standing on two feet; they weren’t really necessary with careful footing. We climbed a little bit more, up and up past Lake Lucille until we were above the basin to Lake Aloha.
Up here, there was less snow and lots of dirt and granite patches. We started the descent to Lake Aloha. The snow appeared and reappeared, but much of the hiking was done on wet leaves. There was water everywhere from all the snow melt. Beyond the trees we saw vast whiteness.
I crossed my fingers, hoping that we’d finally made it. I was pooped and I wanted this pack off. It was Lake Aloha!! There was so much snow everywhere! The entire lake was surrounded by snow.
Some sections were even covered in blindingly white snow. We’d seen many parties coming in with heavy loads, but we only saw three groups that were camped out.
After enjoying another snack, Josh and I went to find ourselves a site, tucked behind some granite and sheltered from the high winds that sweep through Desolation Wilderness. It was a lovely and quiet evening.
We devoured food from Campfire Meals and Backpacker’s Pantry. It was a struggle to stay awake for the sunset. I think we were asleep by 9. The next morning we woke and packed up all our things. We retraced our steps and headed back the way we came, back to Lower Echo Lake we went.
For other destinations like Lake Aloha, try Middle Velma Lake, Meiss Lake, or Granite Lake. Got time to kill? Head up to Mt. Price or Pyramid Peak.
Her gear: Arc’teryx Kea 45 backpack, Norrøna bitihorn lightweight pants, Nau m2 shirt, Mountain Hardwear Monkey Grid II jacket, Darn Tough socks, Outdoor Research Diode jacket, Ahnu North Peak hiking boots