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advice needed Desolation Wilderness

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advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby lisapiediscalzi » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:35 pm

I'm a level 3 backpacker taking my level 1 niece (20 years old), and level 2 son (13 years old) to Desolation Wilderness June 28-July 2. They are in moderate shape, but I don't want this to be a death march for them. We're going in at Meeks Bay, first night at Crag or Stoney Bridge, second and third nights at Middle Velma, hike out via Eagle Falls. Any word on the mosquitoes in this area? Should we go all the way to Stoney Bridge the first night, or is Crag Lake far enough? Suggestions on campsites at Middle Velma? Suggestions for a good day hike we can do during our layover day at Middle Velma? Any other info about this area is greatly appreciated (perhaps there's a shorter/easier route that I've overlooked....however, I want to avoid Aloha Lake because of crowds). Thanks!



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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby Tom_H » Sun Jun 23, 2013 9:39 am

Crag is far enough for the first night. I would only go to Phipps Pass or Phipps Lake for the second night. You can either go down to the north side of the lake, or at the top of the pass, follow the swale downhill enough to be out of any wind and just upstream of where water begins to seep from the ground to form the stream in the swale (that will be your water source). For your third day you can go to one of the Velmas, Dicks, or Fontinillis.

If you camp in the Velmas, a nice side trip wound be hike to Dicks, follow the use trail to and along the edge of Fontinillis, then at the outlet of Fontinillis, follow the stream down the side of the granite table (I think it's the shoulder of a pluton). Stay to the right of the stream as it cascades a few hundred feet down the rock. It's very pretty. When you reach the level forest floor below, keep following the stream until you run back into the trail. Do not get too close to the stream when on the rock; any wet portion will be slippery.

Aloha is big. A lot of people go in at Echo, but there is a lot of room for them to spread out and have solitude. You can find spots on the hill above the lake that have privacy and nice elevated views.

Good luck, and have fun!
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby lisapiediscalzi » Sun Jun 23, 2013 1:58 pm

Thanks so much for your reply! I like your idea to camp at Phipps, I hadn't thought of that. It might be better for the kids' morale to do shorter days at the front end of the trip, as opposed to 2 longer ones followed by a layover.
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jun 23, 2013 2:42 pm

Be prepared for mosquitoes. If the kids are the type that are really bothered by mosquitoes I would hesitate to do a trip in Desolation for a few more weeks. But, lots of kids, with lots of bug spray, have no problems. Be sure they bring long pants that do not allow mosquitoes to bite through. Even though kids do not like them, I would buy some head nets. They weigh nothing and may save the day. Try to camp in breezy places, and away from the water or wet meadows.
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby StevieRay » Sun Jun 23, 2013 10:21 pm

I've hiked into Velmas/Dicks Lake up from Bayview several times lately (6/21 being the latest) and I have yet to see a mosquito. Most of that area was snow free when went through there over Memorial Day, except for the high ground like Dicks Pass, which is still snowbound.
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby maverick » Tue Jun 25, 2013 7:02 pm

Hi Lisa and Stevie,

Welcome to HST! Thanks for chiming in with the skeeter update to the area
Stevie. :thumbsup:
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: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby HikeSierraNevada » Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:46 am

We camped at Middle Velma in late August several years ago with my wife and two kids, 12 and 10 at the time. Hiked through the area more recently on a Tahoe Rim Trail hike. Plenty of nice spots on the south shore and west shore areas just off the trail. No issues with skeeters late season, but I'm thinking you should plan around them as best you can this time of year and be ready for them regardless of trip reports. South side of Middle Velma is drier and probably fewer skeeters, nice wide open views across the lake from bench sites with a good chance to catch breezes. West side has little bays and coves that are nice for fishing but more water means more skeeters. The other sides of the lake are off trail and more forested. Upper Velma has ponds and creeks that would surely be a breeding ground. Fontanille is gorgeous but not much room for camping. Nice rock to jump off into the lake. I liked Dick's lake for views of a classic cirque and peaks, and it should be the driest spot in the area.

Recommend head nets for insurance and DEET spray for clothes, hat, bandanas. You can minimize use on the skin. Have fun! We're doing another family backpack trip next week and taking similar skeeter precautions but the kids are 5 yrs older and hardy campers. Getting them experienced early pays off, as long as it's positive experiences they remember.
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:24 am

Desolation Wilderness just got 1-2 inches of rain the last two days, and it is now forecast for extreme heat, minimal winds and occasional thunder storms for the next week. This looks to me like a good formula for bringing out the little pests. I think a lot of the lack of mosquitoes the last few weeks has been unusually cool weather and steady winds. It is always best to be prepared. Head nets are really useful and weigh nearly nothing. I would also bring a spray repellent that you can use on your packs. It is my experience that when you set down the pack at rest stops, they catch a ride on your pack (hot sweaty section near your back) and then you start up again, with your personal cloud of mosquitoes!
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby lisapiediscalzi » Thu Jun 27, 2013 7:46 am

Thanks so much, everyone, for the updates! I really appreciate it (and will definitely bring more bug spray).
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby balzaccom » Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:56 pm

Are you really going to hike barefoot?
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby Tom_H » Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:09 pm

balzaccom wrote:Are you really going to hike barefoot?


????????????? Did we miss something??????????
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Re: advice needed Desolation Wilderness

Postby Tom_H » Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:14 pm

HikeSierraNevada wrote: Fontanille is gorgeous but not much room for camping. Nice rock to jump off into the lake. I liked Dick's lake for views of a classic cirque and peaks, and it should be the driest spot in the area.


That is true about Fontinillis, unless you find a flat spot on the rocks (which I sometimes prefer), as there are no trees. At Dicks, uphill from the lake to the east is a nice spot between several boulders. At one time, someone had added a stone wall to form a complete windbroken room.
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