was going to be our longest, and probably hardest day. Luckily we had thinned out our pack some since we had stayed 2 nights at Upper Velma Lake (see goodbye picture below). We were also fully acclimated to the altitude (technically not as it takes a couple weeks, but at least our sea level bodies weren't in shock anymore). We were traveling 8 miles from Upper Velma Lake, up and over Phipps Pass, to Stony Ridge Lake today (don't tell Eric though as I just told hime it would be 100 yards or so). See map below.
We hiked out towards Middle Velma Lake and took a left at the junction. Then at this junction (same one we traveled from yesterday) we stayed straight towards Phipps Pass..
The trail continues along the southern edge of Middle Velma Lake and then you meet this junction to Camper Flat. Take another right hear towards Phipps Pass. The trail starts heading up now. Camper Flat is in an area of Desolation I would like to explore next summer. There seems to be a nice loop you can do to hit 5 or 6 lakes on the western side of Desolation.
Middle Velma Lake is big and has some fingers that appear separated from the main lake because of the low water..
The trail through here was beautifully maintained. I think the fact that some of the trail through here has 3 names (PCT, TRT, TYT) helps a bunch.
The trail through this section is well covered for the majority with the small open sections giving some great views of the surrounding Valleys. While the direction is up to Phipps Pass the grade is done well to keep you from getting too winded as long as you slow your pace. Here is some moss on a limb near the trail in an open section.
Here is Eric leaving me in the dust. There was more dust in this section, but with only two of us the dust was not a problem.
We stopped for lunch below Phipps Pass to enjoy the view. It was little windy but we were careful to not let anything or anyone blow away. We were able to send texts from this point. We are not exactly sure why the phones worked here. We are assuming that the ski resort on the north side of Lake Tahoe might have a tower on its slopes as that was the only man made objects we could see. Phones did not work from the ridge above Fontanillis Lake the day prior even though my phone said it had coverage. The shot shows Lower Velma to the extreme left and Middle Velma in the middle. Upper Velma is harder to see but it is the chain of lakes above and slightly left of Middle Velma. In the full size version of this photo you can make out Fontanillis Lake and the bowl where Dicks Lake is. It was nice to sit back and see where we had been hiking the past few days.
Another view of the Valley further down the trail but still below Phipps Pass.
Phipps Peak in image below is a bunch of granite boulders just waiting to crush you at Phipps Pass below. We didn't linger through here.
Many boulders have fallen in this section leaving some interesting and precarious looking setups.
This marker is the actual Phipps Pass marker. You will swear that Phipps Pass is sooner than it is (we did).
It is downhill now to Rubicon Lake (thank goodness). We had one trail runner pass us through this section. Crazy that someone even thought of creating a trail through this section of granite. You have to hike it to believe it. Fallen Leaf Lake can be seen in the distance.
I took this shot of the ridge we saw beyond Eagle Lake the first day. So much granite out here.
Grouse Lakes can be seen below. The trail stays above them as Rubicon sits above them and to the left of this shot.
We finally got out of the granite, giving our feet a much needed break. It was certainly nice to be amongst the trees again.
Rubicon Lake is close now. Not a lot of sites around this small lake. I have camped at it many years ago and found my site on the west shore slightly above the lake. There is a decent sized site on the southwest shore as well. This is a smaller lake but offered me some nice warm swimming on my last visit here.
We quickly passed Rubicon Lake and headed down to Stony Ridge Lake. Unfortunately the good sites for Stony Ridge lake are on the northeast side of the lake so we still had a ways to go. I told myself it would make for a shorter hike out on day 4... You can see Rubicon Peak above the Lake.
Stony Ridge Lake up close now. Once you get down the switchback section between this and Rubicon lake you are on a much more gently sloped trail. The wind had really picked up and was forming white caps on the lake. I had already convinced myself that a swim was needed on this trip and today would be the last real chance.
We decided against crossing on top of the dam as the center had a large boulder incorporated in it right smack in the middle. The boulder is sheer on one side so a little hard to traverse for two weary backpackers.. Instead we did a log crossing on something that resembled a large scale beaver dam.
We found a barely legal site above the lake on the northeast side. We did a quick swim but didn't stay in long because of the wind. The lake wasn't exactly warm either but it was nice to wash off the past 3 days trail dirt. No, we didn't use soap but simply rinsed. We had to drink this water later! We were able to get a site that had a sheltered spot to sleep out of the wind, without the tarp. Besides a squeaky tree, and a few ants that preferred to sleep in sleeping bags, it was a good night. Very windy at times throughout the night. Here is the lake that afternoon before the swim.