Warning-this is going to be a photo-heavy post. Why? Because when you hike country as spectacular as this you just HAVE to include a lot of photos!
We had planned to take one very strenuous hike on this trip. I had wanted to hike to the heart of Desolation Wilderness for several years but either timing, weather or health issues always seemed to get in the way. I was determined that this year would finally be the year that we would do it. Originally we had thought we would take the Bayview Trail to Velma Lakes. That trail is a 10.5 mile out and back hike that takes you to a whole series of alpine lakes. The night before the hike Mario and I were reading the hiking book and began second-guessing both the wisdom and our ability to be able to do this hike as a day trip. Instead we begain thinking about taking the Glen Alpine to Lake Aloha trail; an 11.8 mile hike.
You might wonder why we would think a LONGER hike would be more doable than a shorter hike. So did the boys. Mario and I really didn't have a logical answer to this except to say, "vertical feet." The Bayview trail has a vertical gain of 2725 feet, the Glen Alpine trail has a vertical gain of 2125 feet. Somehow or other we had convinced ourselves that the extra 600 vertical feet would be more difficult than the extra milage. I'm not sure we convinced the boys nor am I sure that we were correct in our assesment. Regardless of how it might compare to the Bayview trail there is no getting around the fact that the Glen Alpine hike is a very strenuous hike.
Our decision to hike the Glen Alpine trial was confirmed after reading what John Muir had written about it, "From no other valley, as far as I know, may excursions be made in a single day to so many peaks, wild gardens, glacier lakes, glacier meadows, alpine groves and cascades." With that kind of invitation how could we refuse? Of course I had forgotten that the other John Muir hikes I have taken in the past were two of the most physically strenuous I have ever been on. After completing this hike I am utterly convinced that Muir was part mountain goat and must have been inexhaustable!
The adventure of this hike begins before you even reach the trailhead. To get to the trailhead you have to drive around Fallen Leaf Lake on a tiny single lane road that has definately seen better days. If you meet up with a car coming in the opposite direction the only option is to pull over on the very narrowist of pull outs where one wrong move of the wheel could send you tumbling down the side of the mountain into somebody's living room, dock or the lake itself. Thankfully, the road is not heavily traveled.
When you reach the trailhead you can tell a couple of things about the hike. First, the scenery is breathtaking and dramatic and second, this is going to be a challenging hike. The trialhead starts in a valley and everywhere you look there are peaks, peaks and more peaks. The only way forward is up!
You might note the "path" we had the "pleasure" of walking along. One of the most difficult aspects of this hike is...the ROCKS. If we weren't walking down dry river beds with sometimes basketball sized boulders we were scrambling across granite shale, glacier scree, and granite erratics. Everywhere we walked there were always rocks, rocks and more rocks. If we were to do this hike again I would definitely recommend heavy-duty hiking boots, NOT the tennis shoes we were wearing and certainly not the deck shoes Anthony was wearing!
I'm not going to try to put a pretty face on this...the first two and half miles of this hike are not much fun. If you aren't tripping over rocks you are climbing endless switchbacks in open, shrub-covered terrain with the sun beating down on you. I kept thinking, "Okay Mr. Muir these wonders of which you speak better be as good as you say they are!"
Despite my grumbly tone we WERE still smiling. Anthony kept up a running commentary based on some Facebook meme's. They went something like this, "We are hiking Desolation Wilderness, she said." "It will be fun, she said." "Try this new backpack, she said." "It will help distribute the weight, she said." When he got tired of teasing me he would start to sing. I'm telling you have not lived until you are struggling up a steep switchback and Anthony starts to serenade you with his sweet falsetto. HA!!
About a mile up you reach Glen Alpine Springs. The “Soda Spring” was discovered in 1863 by Nathan Gilmore who built the resort in 1884. From the late 1890s through the 1930s, families from San Francisco and Virginia City came to relax in the plush mountain resort and enjoy the “curative” mineral spring water. You can still see some of the old buildings from this abandoned resort and the naturally carbonated water still bubbles.
I wasn't too tired to try my hand at some "abstract" photography. These are some more rocks, made pretty because I wasn't walking on them AND a waterfall was running over them!
At last, after 6.5 grueling miles we got to our final destination, Lake Aloha. Aloha means "hello," "goodbye," and "love," and "affection." It is the perfect name for this lake. The challenge of reaching it can take you to the end of yourself. It is an other-wordly place; a lake that seems to sit on the very top of the world. One look at this lake and you could fall in love. If it weren't for the breath-stealing wind that whips across the lake you might never want to say goodbye.
I did manage to work up enough energy to tickle Ryan with my toes. I have really grown to care for this young man. He is so sweet-natured and easy-going. I have never heard him complain. I'm so thankful that he was able to take this trip with us.
I think it would take a more talented photographer than I to really capture the scope of this lake. I didn't have the energy to climb up on some of the higher rocks but the lake stretches on and on until it seems to fall off the very edge of the earth.
Finally, reluctantly we packed up and got ready to hike back...we still had a LONG, six mile hike back to the car!
I took just a few photos on the way back, we had a long way to go ...
This was by far the most difficult hike we have ever undertaken. But it was worth every hard-won step! The memory of what we saw today will live with me always!
Tuesday, is "Tired Tuesday" a day of well-earned rest and relaxation. Until then...be well.