A very busy trailhead during Summertime
On my last trip across the length of Desolation Wilderness I emerged from Desolation Wilderness through the Lower Echo Lake trailhead on September 17, 2009. The Echo Lake Chalet was closed (Echo Lake Chalet operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day), and the area was as quiet as I've ever seen it, and the upper parking lot had only a few cars.
The last time I was here was over 10 years ago. A friend drove me into the upper parking lot, which was packed with cars. There were hundreds of people milling about, and running around. 90% were wearing brand new backpacking clothes, and had the latest gear, all virtually unused.
At that point in my life I was not taking pictures, films, or writing a trail guide. I looked at the beauty of the rock, water, and trail, and lamented the ocean of people who covered them. I turned to my buddy, and said, "the same way out as in," and he drove me over to the South Upper Truckee, where I quickly hiked to Summit City Creek, and the isolation of the Western Flank of the Sierras between Round Top and Lake Alpine.
I had spent many nights in Desolation, so leaving it to the crowds was not a problem.
Experiencing the quiet of Fall in the Desolation Wilderness has changed my mind about Desolation. I miss it. Not that you will see me there in mid-Summer, but I'm going to start visiting Desolation again, but only during Fall and Spring before the big crowds form up.
Hey, I think it is good that backpacking is stylish, and valued by a significant segment of consumers. Remember when wearing North Face mountain jackets in the city was "cool?"
It is a step in the right direction for our idiot urban consumers, and is a step down the right trail of life for many city people. Especially if and when wilderness travel becomes an actual part of an urban individual's value system and lifestyle.
But I fear that many hikers are as motivated by using their experience as an emblem of "wilderness validity" within their urban consumer lives, as they are motivated by the backpacking experience itself. I found it amusing when North Face jackets became "cool."
Other urbanites use wilderness backpacking as a lifeline from nature to protect their sanity from the degradations of the Urban Consumer Life they are stuck within.
Nature, and backpacking are ultimately what we make out of it.
The real message I see in the busy Summers crowds at Lower Echo Lake is a good one. The crowds show that a significant group of our massive populations have made wilderness experience a term of social validity. That's an excellent trend.
After that nightmare of crowds (Lining up for the trail like a lining up for a ride at Disneyland? Never!), I never went back to Desolation until 2009. When I returned, it was in mid-September, when the massive crowds had diminished to a trickle of backpackers. It was nice. I could enjoy the company of other backpackers and hikers, rather than be swept away by them.
Echo Lake Chalet
The Echo Lake Chalet runs a Post Office, so Pacific Crest Trailers can send a well-timed resupply to themselves during the Summer. The Echo Lake Chalet also has a store and deli. Hit the link below for complete information on resupplying at Echo Lake Chalet, and a discussion about making your resupply plans work for you through this section of our Tahoe to Whitney Trail:
To Resuppply, or not to Resupply at Echo Chalet?
Lower Echo Lake Trailhead
comments and notes
Echo Lake Chalet
You can also easily hitch hike down to South Lake Tahoe for rest and resupply
Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources
Backpacking Topo Map: Echo Lake North Backpacking Topo Map: Echo Lake South
Miles and Elevations
Echo Lake to Echo Summit
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