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TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

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TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

Postby flyingzucchini » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:54 am

Newbie poster here, so bear with me. It's difficult to stop being "distracted" by all the great information on this site long enough to post!

Last weekend (Jun 30-Jul 2), we did our first backpack of the summer around McConnell Loop in Desolation Wilderness west of Tahoe, from the Wrights Lake area. I didn't know this was called the McConnell Loop or McConnell Lake Trail before I went, otherwise I might have been able to find the trail description online that said: "...the McConnell Lake Trail, which (I’m certain) was built by, and not improved since, the Spanish conquistadores." Um, yeah.

We had a nice first breezy day over Rockbound Pass, around Doris Lake and camped at Lake Lois. Trail was still pretty soggy, a few snow patches and not many flowers yet, but the area between Doris and Lois will I'm sure be exploding in color by this weekend or next. This trail is plenty straightforward, and certainly many daytrippers cover this ground. The following day we headed to Lake Schmidell and then continued around the loop of lakes to the north, including Leland Lakes, McConnell, Horseshoe, and 4-Q Lakes before completing the loop and returning to Schmidell.

It looks like such a small, innocent little loop on the map - we actually brought our packs with us around the loop to help train us for our next longer trip later this month. The section from Schmidell over the pass and down to Leland Lakes is beautiful with great views, and there are some lovely streams just downstream of these lakes. Remarkably quiet for a Tahoe-area trail, too. This would have made a great day trip from Schmidell. But, we continued on.
pass view above leland.jpg
above Lake Schmidell, looking over into Leland Lakes

Beyond McConnell (which is pretty filled in and grassy) it became more difficult to find and stay on the trail. Soon we were walking on granite and depending on cairns to stay on the trail - but at each cairn we had to stop and look around for the next one, sometimes hiking several hundred feet up or down before seeing the next, then going to that cairn, and repeating. All ok until you start getting tired, mentally and physically, then it just gets old fast. By 4-Q, we were spent, and still had several miles - and even more hunting for the trail. Finally found Camper Flat (departed quickly due to swarming mozzies) then up from the trail junction to Velma Lakes and China Flat. Still looking for cairns all the way up some 800 feet in elevation, then lost the trail in snow, then lost the trail in the trees downed in the windstorm last fall. Trail conditions in the mile or 2 section between this area and Schmidell are pretty bad right now, especially compared to what I'm used to in Desolation. Combine climbing over and around downed trees in the mud, with packs on, with hungry mosquitoes at the end of an already long day - well, we were really ready to crash out on the rocks at Lake Schmidell. If only the bugs would have let us, but it was warm with no breeze at all, so we ate behind our nets in the tent and slept, and headed back out over Rockbound Pass the next day.

For a Tahoe trail, on 4th of July week, I thought it remarkable that we saw NO ONE the entire day around the McConnell Loop. But maybe it wasn't a coincidence! In any case, we're much better trained for the next trip!!



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Re: TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

Postby windknot » Sat Jul 07, 2012 11:27 am

Thanks so much for the report, and welcome to the board! This is one of the only sections in Desolation that I haven't visited yet, and although the trail sounds sketchy, the scenery and solitude sound great.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

Postby maverick » Sat Jul 07, 2012 4:53 pm

Hi Flyingzucchini,

Welcome to HST! Thanks for taking the time to write up a TR, which we hope will be
the first of many to come!
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

Postby hikermama » Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:31 am

Has anyone hiked McConnell Loop this year? Is it any easier to navigate? Have the downed trees been cleared?
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Re: TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

Postby TahoeJeff » Thu Jun 13, 2013 1:25 pm

McConnell Lake 16E06
05-22-2013
Trail ford of the Rubicon above Camper Flat is easy wading, probably no more than 18" deep, very low for this time of year. Patchy snow in valley containing 4Q Lakes; north-facing slope up to Horseshoe Lake is snow covered.

From: http://desowv.org/trail-conditions
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Re: TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jun 14, 2013 2:30 pm

I was not trying to be a "copy-cat"! I really had not read your trip report until I got back today. I did a similar loop the last two+ days. First night at upper Leland Lake. I had intended to simply return the way I came in, but the snow was hard as a rock so getting back to Lake Schmidell was not an option! Second day I looped and went up the Rubicon to China Flat and then back to Rockbound, cut x-country over to Gertrude-Tyler Lakes, camping at Tyler Lake. I was going to walk all the way out but pooped out! This morning I walked out and somehow lost the trail down low and ended up x-country to the Island Lake trail.

I lost the trail at 4-Q Lakes, and then did not like the looks of the "swamp" at Camper Flat so again x-country on the west hillside until I ran into the Schmidell Lake trail, hoped over a small knob and intersected the trail on the Rubicon, could not find the junction to the Rockbound Trail near China Flat so just went x-country uphill until I finally ran into it. Yes, the trails were in poor condition with lots of snow patches up high. Also did not find the trail from Lake Lois to Lake Schmidell. Other than the usual trailhead day-hikers, I only saw one person in the distance at Lake Schmidell.

The last few days have been very windy- in fact I hardly could get up my tent at Leland Lake. Steady 20mph- gusts to 40 mph (on Rockbound Pass). Icy cold wind, nearly froze at night, ice on puddles, NO mosquitoes! I was wondering if anyone had been from Lake Schmidell to Leland Lakes since I did not see footprints - guess they melt out quickly. Maybe the few footprints I saw were yours.

I saw a large cabin on the Rubicon just before the Rockbound Pass trail. I could not find this cabin located on any map I had. What is this cabin?
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Re: TR - McConnell Loop, Desolation Wilderness (Tahoe)

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jun 14, 2013 2:35 pm

Oops. Did not read the date correctly of your trip report. Obviously, if you did the trip July 2012 I did not see your footprints! Well, the trail conditions are not much better this year.
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