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Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

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Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby mediauras » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:27 pm

Hi. I've never been thru Desolation before but a few weeks ago I kind of randomly grabbed a 2 night permit for entry via Glen Alpine, first night in the zone around Half Moon Lake. Now, I'm still considering scuttling going to Desolation and doing something in Hoover instead via Leavitt Lake (where I know there will be no crowds, etc.) but the easy drive up 80 and then 50 beckons. Anyhow, I'm not sure what the heck to do on my second day. I guess I could craft a possible long'ish loop and and from Half Moon Lake hike up toward the Velma Lakes, go east on the Velma Lakes trail and work toward Lake Lois for the night. That's about 12 miles or so, not sure about total elevation.

Another option that appeals (perhaps more so) is x-ctry'ing from half moon, maybe bagging Jacks Peak and then working south toward Lake Aloha and then around the east side of the lake and toward the smaller lakes south of Aloha, like Pyramid Lake, Toem Lake etc. Itd be nice to see less people if possible and find a more secluded less travelled spot to camp on night two (but not sure if that's possible at those lakes or around Lake Aloha). For those who know Desolation, does this option offer what I think it could (a slight respite from what could be a busy scene?). Any tips on good places to camp in that area?

If anybody knows Desolation well and has any suggestions, tips, or admonitions, please feel free to chime in. Thanks!



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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby tim » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:45 am

I really like Waca Lake, it's especially good for swimming as its warm and diving off the island in the middle is great fun. Easiest way to get there is to go straight up the open granite after crossing the dam at the exit from Lake Aloha and then contour slightly left to the obvious col above the lake. There is a nice campsite with great views at this col, but water may be a problem this year (the small pond at the col may be dry). Alternatively there will also be several options down near the lake (go left from the col to descend). Waca has occasional visitors but is not that heavily traveled.
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jul 29, 2013 7:53 am

Just go explore! Try stuff. If it gets to gnarly, just go back. I climbed Mt Tallac from Half Moon Lake, via the ridge between the pass to Dick's Lake and Mt Tallac, and then came down to Gilmore Lake and back to my camp. I recall it was a nice day's worth of effort. You can also go up to Aloha Lake and over the pass into the upper lake of the Rubicon drainage. Lots of stuff. I think you have to get more into the mental space where you see day-hikes and exploring as just as rewarding as making miles en route to an endpoint. Desolation Wilderness is small and well suited for exploring lots of little lakes and nooks and crannies - not for big "through hikes". There is also good fishing, so if you fish you can spend time doing that. And photography.
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:16 am

As WD notes, you have a lot of options, and much of what you do depends on your personal emphasis while up there be it sightseeing, fishing, off trail travel, climbing summits, etc. Note that if your day 2 takes you as far afield as Lois, your day 3 will be a fairly long hike out. Note that you can do a nice loop back to Glen Alpine by going to the Aloha-Desolation area for your day 2 then heading back to Glen Alpine via the steep and scenic Triangle trail, the upper portion of which is very much like an off trail route (descent begins in a steep, wet, gully). That is a nice return route if you enjoy that sort of thing.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby mediauras » Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:15 pm

Fantastic, thanks for the wisdom everybody, pretty much what i wanted to hear I think. :) tim, Waca Lake sounds ideal.

Giantbrookie, the Triangle trail. It seems perfect, thanks for suggesting it.The Tom Harrison map of Desolation doesn't show it going all the way thru to Glen Alpine, but I on the Caltopo maps I see it connecting to Glen Alpine. Having that optionpretty much seals the deal on going to Desolation this weekend and playing around there.
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby madeintahoe » Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:32 pm

That steep section of the trail back down to the Glen Alpine TH and Lily Lake is not a maintained trail..so it will not show on the map. I know it to be called the Tamarack Trail...It was always in good condition when I was on it..but has been a few years since I have done it.

The hike from Half Moon Lake to Jacks Peak is a great hike....when we left the peak we hiked back to Heather Lake and back out...but you could continue on up to Lake Aloha once down at Heather. I agree with Giantbrookie...that would make a really nice loop
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby mediauras » Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:12 pm

Done, its the loop for me this weekend. Pretty excited about finally swimming in a lake. My last two trips were too still too cold for swimming. Thanks all.
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby tim » Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:27 pm

We're in Tahoe at the moment - the lakes are plenty warm enough for swimming. Angora today was the warmest I can remember.
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby mediauras » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:28 pm

Good to hear, how's the skeeter situation? I'm imagining there's not much of them left at this point.
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby gochicagobears! » Wed Jul 31, 2013 3:15 pm

My understanding is that they are pretty non-existent right now. I am heading off from Meeks tomorrow AM for three days in that general area. May head over to the Velma's for the scenery if the fishing isn't too hoppin' at our destination lake(s).
I was at Half Moon last year. Best sites are around the lake below the cirque.
Safe travels!
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Re: Trip Advice: Desolation via Half Moon Lake

Postby Tom_H » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:00 pm

It sounds like you have one vehicle and need to enter and exit at the same point. You didn't say what days the permit is for. Desolation fills up and pulling a new permit on short notice is difficult. From Half-Moon, you could backtrack to Gilmore, climb Tallac and return to Gillmore for the second night. You could either backtrack or go XC up to the trail through Dick's Pass and down to Dick's Lake and return to base camp at Half-Moon for the second night. Climbing Dick's Peak is a thought. The loop that was mentioned (Gillmore-Susie-Heather-Aloha-Tamarack Trail return to Glen Alpine is a real 2 day possibility, but it would be better to get to the little flats above Heather for the first night.

You mentioned Leavitt Lake. There is a possibility of a 2 day loop from there. Getting to the lake requires 4WD with relatively good clearance. Here are some map links that might give you some ideas.

http://caltopo.com/map?id=0G7P

http://caltopo.com/map?id=6M7I

Good luck with the planning. Please post a TR when you get back!
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