Tyler and I decided to squeeze in a July trip. I had always wanted to try out the water taxi at Tamarack Lake so I made a reservation for Tamarack Lake on www.recreation.gov. Desolation Wilderness is heavily regulated and is under quotas for most trailheads in the summer. Permits are $5 per person per night (Max of $10 per person if you are doing a longer trip), with $6 extra for booking online. You need to tell them what trailhead you are headed in from, and what "zone" you will be spending your first night in. The zones closest to the trailheads book up quick but only half of the spots can be reserved ahead of time, the rest can be booked the day of. We headed in from the Echo Lake trailhead. To get there from Sacramento head east on Highway 50 until you get to Johnson Pass Road. Take a left onto this road (marked with Echo Lake signs and "Snow Park" signs just before the summit). Then take another left onto Echo Lakes Road. The road was closed on this trip due to them repaving it. So, I called the Echo Lake Chalet (the people that run the water taxi at 530-293-5547) and asked if they were still running the taxi and if we were allowed to walk in. They told us that we could walk in and that the taxi was running all the way to Upper Echo Lake (if the water is too low they can't traverse the channel between the two lakes). We parked at the Snow Park parking lot and headed in (map/profile). I have done this trip without the water taxi, to read about it click here.
The trip along the road was
a nice warm up. It has a very gentle grade and we chatted with a number
of people, both in the lot and while hiking along the road. I am sure
that my talk of the water taxi got them more customers that day, I should
have asked for a discount. The price is $12 per person each way. They
also want a 3 person minimum to make the trip. We had no problem with
the minimum as the boat was almost full both ways. Here is one of the
cabins on the way in with Lake Tahoe in the distance. Most of the road
construction was down by the dock today so we probably could have driven
Here is one of the many signs
on the way to the dock.
There is a trail from the
parking lot up above the dock/store area to the dock/store area. It
is steep but was a much better option that the road today as it was
being oiled and graveled (stinky, sticky stuff).
The water taxi cuts out the
easy part of the trip's mileage, so what is left is rocky and up.
The next junction is for
Tamarack Lake. Take a left and head down to the lake. The official trail
is easy to get off of if you aren't paying attention but you should
be able to stay close enough to the trail to get down to the lake. There
are many "ducks" marking the way, if you aren't looking up
to catch glimpses of the lake.
We setup camp and
filtered water from the lake. I didn't see any fish in this lake but
did in Upper Echo Lake. Here is my Big Agnes Scout UL2 tent. It was
decently windy that night and the tent held up great. It is guyed out
all over the place so I think it can take some wind. This
is its third trip and I am still impressed. I will be going on a 4 night
Sierra trip in 2 weeks and that will be the true test. I have been babying
it with site selection due to the ultralight fabric, the price you pay
for it being so light.
Here is a shot of the critters
that will try to sneak some of your food from you if you aren't careful.
These guys were all over the place and seemed pretty used to people
and what treasures they might have. Keep a close eye on your food.
Tyler decided to test out the water. He said it was cold but not too bad. Ahh, that is the same line I use to get people to join me in the freezing lakes. I think he might have been right here though as the lake didn't seem that cold. It was windy though so not the best swimming weather.
We had a nice dinner
and then helped someone that wandered into camp asking to borrow our
cell phone. It seems she was camping at Tamarack Lake but got lost on
a day hike to Lake Aloha (she ended up at Lake
of the Woods)..
Her mom was waiting for her at the trailhead so she wanted to tell her
that she made it to her camp. I was glad that I had enough reception
for her to leave her mom a message. It sounds like this girl got lucky
as this story could have ended much differently if she hadn't stumbled
across a nice lady at Lake of the Woods that gave her some water and
showed her how to get back to Tamarack Lake (this girl had no gear and
was wearing shorts and a tank top). We didn't have any other visitors
that night except for some bats. They were really munching all the bugs
in this area. We had a good night's sleep and packed up after breakfast
the next day. Here is Tyler contemplating carrying my pack...
It was another great day
to be on the trail. I am pretty sure that Tyler had a great trip as
it was around here he asked if we could stay out for two nights next
Here is the junction to Triangle
Lake on the way out. You can see the back of the wilderness boundary
sign past Tyler. I failed to mention that this section of trail happens
to be the PCT as well (Pacific Crest Trail).
This tree provided a cool
foreground to my shot of Echo Lakes.
This old tree pointed the
way to the water taxi. I almost felt guilty taking the water taxi back
I took this shot of the phone
booth that you call the water taxi from. It also has a pay phone. TO
call the water taxi open the gray box and pickup the receiver. This
calls the water taxi for free.
We waited with a few other
people for the water taxi to arrive. This butterfly was hanging out
on the dock with us.
Tyler was taking in the sights
on the boat trip. It was really neat to see the lake from the water.
I figured I might as well
grab a few shots off the boat (see the spray on the lower left). This
was a great trip and really cool to get Tyler out to the Sierras for
the first time. I am sure that we will be back in this area again. Just
remember that this area is popular so the weekends will be crowded in
the summer. If you want to beat the crowds just come off season, no
water taxi though...