West Desolation 7/16-18

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giantbrookie
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West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by giantbrookie » Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:39 pm

Diehard fishing folks plan a trip knowing that there is a high probability of total skunkage. Really? In planning this trip I set out options for Judy who passed on several sure shot options (even though Dawn and Judy were trying to undo a 0 for 2020 skunk) "We've been there so many times" for a hike out of what is probably the least popular trailhead for Desolation Wilderness (Van Vleck).
0359DawnJudytrailhead.jpg
The biggest attraction was the view from a special campsite high above Top Lake where the westward view across the Central Valley is the best I've ever seen (from a lake instead of a summit) including amazing nighttime views of city lights. Wildfire smoke greatly diminished this view, but it was still a quality trip. The hike in was hot and windless, but the wildflowers were very nice, especially the lilies.
0360Lillies.jpg
Our first camp at Lawrence Lake suffered from some mosquito harassment
0363DawnJudyLawrenceCamp.jpg
but the second day was more or less a layover day as we made a short off trail move up to the magic campsite above Top Lake where it was cooler, breezier, and nearly bug free.
0558LawrenceEnRoutetoTop.jpg
The pace of the trip allowed for lots of relaxation around Top Lake.
0369JudyDawnTopshore.jpg
0370JudyDawnToplunchspot.jpg
0372dawnJudyviewpoint.jpg
0374Topsunsetglow.jpg
What was really surprising was how few folks we saw and how quiet it was. We saw two groups hiking out (two guys and then one family group) fairly close to the trailhead and did not see anyone until our third day (Saturday) when we ran into a number of folks headed for Lake No. 3 (closest of the lakes in this area to the Van Vleck trailhead). Barrett Lake (near Lawrence L) is reached by a jeep trail and in previous visits to this area (1998 and 2005) I remember hearing the sound of the vehicles, clanking of doors and other things. On the second day before hiking up to Top Lake we visited Barrett Lake and found no one there. Moreover, unlike other places we'd visited that are reached by jeep trail, there was zero litter or refuse around. It was really amazing to find west Desolation and environs so empty. It actually felt like...wilderness. Whereas our nightime view of city lights only ran from about Stockton to Sacramento to (not sure what the city/town N of Sac we saw was), far short of the much wider ranging nightview I saw in 2005, the upper sky was clear and the comet was clearly visible. Fishing? Near total skunkage as predicted. Dawn and Judy continued their 0 for 2020 (Dawn would undo that in a few days). I caught four big brookies.
chunkybrookiesCR.jpg
One was consumed as part of one of our multi course camp meals, three were taken home for Lee to cook up on Saturday night for a huge back-in-town feast. All in all, it was a fun trip and the first time Judy had been on two backpacking trips since before we had kids (2001 was the year). Dawn and I would have two days rest before the "main event" and the hike was rigorous enough to provide a good warm up
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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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;






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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by wildhiker » Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:27 pm

Sounds like a great trip to an area I had never considered visiting. Will check out the maps. Thanks for posting.
-Phil

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by Harlen » Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:09 am

Nice fish for you at least-- did you say Dawn caught fish too? I assume hers were much bigger than your brookies, and that's why we didn't see or hear about them? I really envy your ongoing trips with the family John; I'll pretend that its' just because of the lack of surf in Fresno. Thanks for posting your trips, Ian.

*How do you hike the fresh fish out?

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by cgundersen » Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:25 am

After that preview, I'll be curious to read about the main event. You'll be happy to hear that Ian & I have been discussing a Blue Canyon/Tunemah trip along the lines of what you described several years ago.......and, in my answer to Ian's question, I'll point out that many moons ago, my wife and I ran into 2 guys who were heading over from Vee Lake to Merriam to fish. One of the guys was carrying what looked like a bar fridge. It was to hold the massive trout they hoped to catch..........I did not ask whether they used it for martinis on the way in. Cameron

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by giantbrookie » Fri Jul 31, 2020 9:56 am

Harlen wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:09 am
*How do you hike the fresh fish out?
A key for keeping fish fresh is keeping them dry. I always pack a towel and small stuff sack meant for hiking fish out on the last day (if any are caught). After being wrapped up the fish towel is carried deep in the pack. There are some old school books that would even recommend wrapping fish one's sleeping back (yuck--although I don't know whether the fish odor or foot odor is worse) it was this recommendation that inspired the idea of the "fish towel" I carry in my pack. For fish caught the day of the hike-out this is easy but for those caught the day before hike out this is tricky. I usually clean them and hang them from a tree branch (did that several time during "main event" trip to cook them the next morning). However, noticing a lot of fresh bear poo not too far from where we camped I didn't want to take the chance that a bear or other critter would steal my next night's dinner so I wrapped them in the towel and stashed the towel in my bear cannister (which had room because it was the last night of a 2-night trip).

As for Dawn catching fish, that happened soon after on the "Main Event" (to be posted soon).
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by TahoeJeff » Fri Jul 31, 2020 9:59 am

Nice Brookies!
“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have either one.”

Benjamin Franklin

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by neil d » Fri Jul 31, 2020 1:28 pm

GB, thank you for that brief report. This helps fill in a 'blank spot' on my mental map of Desolation.

We were up that weekend as well, hiking over Rockbound Pass on Friday headed for the McConnell Lake loop. Interesting you mention the smoke, as we saw not a bit of that until Monday morning hiking out of Schmidell, when the air quality rapidly declined. Did get some very good view of Neowise, however.

The view you describe from Top Lake sounds similar to that from Tyler Lake, where one can camp on the saddle just west of the lake and see all the way out to the Coast Range (on a clear day, which we had briefly on that trip).

Truly special to have a quiet trailhead in Desolation. West side is always quieter than the Tahoe side, but the Wrights Lake parking lot was packed on Friday morning. Not too many people on trail, though.

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by windknot » Fri Jul 31, 2020 1:54 pm

Thanks for the report and photos! Brought back fond memories of a September 2010 overnight I did in this area. I came in via Wrights Lake on that trip, and then exited via the Barrett Lake jeep trail (should have exited the way we came -- that jeep trail is dusty and not at all designed to be efficient for hikers). Van Vleck as a starting point looks to be a bit longer, but definitely much quieter.

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by robertseeburger » Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:16 am

Thanks for the report.. some nice trout.. I also will add this to areas to visit that I have never been to...
I haven't been to desolation backpacking ..gulp..since the late 60's..

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Re: West Desolation 7/16-18

Post by sekihiker » Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:18 pm

Great trip. Thanks for posting.

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