General Creek Trail Juction at Lake Genevieve Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Lake Genevieve in the Morning Light
Genevieve Lake Reflections of Forest and Rock.
General Creek
Sunset reflections of Peak 9054 and surrounding forest reflecting off Lake Genevieve
Genevieve Lake

 

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The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Backpacking or Day Hiking to
Lake Genevieve out of Meeks Bay

Backpacking Desolation Wilderness on the The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

 

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Trail Guide

Section
INDEX

North
TYT

Desolation Trail Junction

South
TYT


Crag Lake

Topo Map
Meeks Bay
to
Dicks Lake

Topo Maps
INDEX

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&
Elevations
Miles
and
Elevations
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Hiking to Lake Genevieve
Desolation Wilderness

Last Steps to Lake Genevieve
After climbing 440 feet up fairly gently graded trail winding around 1.18 miles of very nice convoluted trail up from the Meeks Creek bridge we arrive at the General Creek trail junction, sitting on the heavy-use flattened apron around the North shore of Lake Genevieve.

We are 4.39 miles South of the Meeks Bay Trailhead.

More campsites around this end of Lake Genevieve are available South down the TYT trail a few steps, then up and off to our Left.

The Next 2.23 Miles
A Gently Inclined Valley Filled With Lakes
We will find a whole lot more campsites hiking the next 2.23 miles of fairly gentle trail climbing 400 feet up along the length of this valley lined with a series of High Sierra lakes.

Lake Genevieve is followed immediately by Crag Lake and then Shadow Lake after a short climb, with Hidden Lake offset, "hidden" in a crinkle of terrain between Crag and Shadow Lakes.

Reaching the campsites halfway along the shoreline of Stony Ridge Lake marks our last spots for camping before we begin the short but sweet climb up to Rubicon Lake.

The narrowing line of the surrounding ridges pinch-in towards the top of the valley, running right up to the Southern Shore of Stony Ridge Lake, leaving a narrow track for our trail between water and a steepening rock for our hike down to the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

The terrain at the top of the valley above Stony Ridge Lake opens up into a lush marshy-meadow area that is soggily beautiful, but its marshy moisture supports too many mosquitoes for happy camping, or even lingering too long.

It looks like a favored hangout for ducks, though.

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map

General Creek Trail Junction
Lake Genevieve

 

Trail Post at Lake Genevieve.

GENERAL CREEK

     

Same Post-Different Side:

PHIPPS PASS

 
  Lake Genevieve Trail Junction,General Creek Shortcut to PCT, on Tahoe Yosemite Trail Lake Genevieve Trail Junction: General Creek Shortcut to the PCT  
 

Right to General Creek
Pointing East aound the North end of Genevieve Lake off the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail towards General Creek.

This unmaintained route finds the top of the General Creek Trail by hiking Northeast to make our way around the nose of the ridge on the NW side of Lake Genevieve to follow the upper stretch of Meek Creek along an unmaintained route to where it overlooks General Creek and its trail.

The top of the General Creek Trail hikes South to intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail at a point 4.12 miles North of where our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail coming off the South side of Phipps Pass intersects with the PCT.

The 30 minute maps depict the trail from Lake Genevieve to General Creek as a trail route, but it is currently an unmaintained route, rather than a maintained trail.

Done this Route?
POST COMMENTS!

Veering Left with the TYT
Pointing South down the TYT towards Phipps Pass.

 

Phipps Pass is 4.49 miles South of Lake Genevieve.

The TYT-PCT junction is 7.11 miles
South of Lake Genevieve.

 

The route of the TYT South is well marked, well maintained, and easy to follow.

 

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The Numbers

Lake Genevieve

7400 Feet
+1161 feet above Meeks Bay.
4.39 miles South of Meeks Bay trailhead.

Mileage
1.18 miles South of the Meeks Creek Footbridge.

4.49 miles North of Phipps Pass.

Maps, Miles and Elevations
Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Desolation Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

miles/elevations

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Lake Genevieve

General Creek trail junction

above:
Mystery Trail Junction at Lake Genevieve.

Us Southbound TYT hikers veer Left to continue following the well-grooved route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail on our way to hike over Phipps Pass to our intersection point with the PCT and TRT.

Our destination along this first segment of trail
hiking out from Meeks Bay is where it Tees-Out into the Pacific Crest and Tahoe Rim Trails at the trail junction located 11.5 miles South of our Meeks Bay Trailhead and .82 of a mile North of fine campsites around Middle Velma Lake.

Our combined TYT-PCT-TRT trail will take us South through the heart of Desolation Wilderness, and most of the rest of the Southwestern quadrant of the Tahoe Basin.

General Creek
Northbound Hikers
Northbound hikers, those planning on hiking North on the PCT or TRT out of Meeks Bay have this General Creek cross country route option bringing them to intersect with the PCT-TRT 4.12 miles North of the TYT-PCT junction we are hiking for on the TYT.

Northbound hikers can veer Right to trace out the cross country route along the top of the Western Upper Branch of Meeks Creek around the end of the ridge to find General Creek and its shortcut to the Pacific Crest Trail North of our TYT route.

Local Loopers
This route to the General Creek Trail is a shortcut for the Northbound PCT-TYT hiker, or could be a leg of a loop out of and back to Meeks Bay via Phipps Pass and General Creek.

The General Creek trail to the PCT is a well worn cross country route. This status is a function of the popularity of Desolation Wilderness.

Wear Factor
All campsites, trails, and terrain in Desolation Wilderness has been well worn. Even the cross country and unmaintained routes.

The burnishing of the stone terrain and the compression of soils by the long application of feet is observable.

Either this place has been over-loved, or maybe this wear is a subtle sign that we have actually packed enough consumers in this country to collapse the web of life around us, as they consume it.

Consumers consume. Too many consumers consume too much.

Trails cutting like wounds in the terrain are a sign of too many consuming too much.

The weight our our existence should not damage the planet.

See the topo map

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Lake Genevieve Desolation Wilderness

Afternoon.

 
   

Video: Lake Genevieve, Desolation Wilderness, afternoon. Duration 1:04.

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Camp Notes:
Lake Genevieve

Location
Stepped off 40 paces from the Lake, camped.

Sunset: 7:08 pm or so

Temp at 9 pm: 53°

No weather, no mosquitoes during late September, so no tent.

Big winds in afternoon, calmed by evening.

A look at seasonal Temps in the Tahoe Basin Mountains
(Below Zero to high 80's)

"or so" note: I record the Sunrise/Sunset times and corresponding compass points, the time of the transit of the Sun and its elevation, and the Moon Phases as the header of my journal.

This allows us to use the Sun, Moon, and Stars as a compass and a clock.

The Universe around us is our ultimate timepiece and compass.

The times above reflect astronomical facts for the start day of the trip. Every day the Sunset and Sunrise times change, so we take note of the rate of change.
The rate of change is up to a minute a day for both Sunrise and Sunset, though the change in the timing of local noon is minimal.

For very long trips lasting over a couple of weeks I record another set of sunrise and set times for the mid-point and ends of the trip, and figure out a reasonable correction factor.

The correction factor determines the rate of change of sunrise/set compass points and their timing over the duration of our trips. Measure the total time and compass point changes and divide them by our number of days on the trail.

That is the daily rate of change in the position and timing of sunrise and set.

This is the speed of the Season.

Astronomical Navigation
Information
Astronomical Links

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Sunset in the Desolation Wilderness behind Lake Genevieve

Sunset shadows stretch over the lake and mountains.
Peaks 9054 (Left) and 8721 behind Lake Genevieve.

Detail of Peak 9054, Sunset in the Desolation Wilderness, behind Lake Genevieve

Peak 9054, Desolation Wilderness, Lake Genevieve

Sunset over the Northern Desolation Wilderness.

Majesty is relaxing. But nature can be disquieting to folks used to the security of walls.

Folks who are a bit nervous about sleeping outside in nature only have to follow some basic practices of food and consumable storage to give themselves a reasonable assurance of safety.

If this is not enough, then the knowledge that backpacking in Desolation Wilderness puts you into one of the most heavily-used wilderness areas in the country, likely with many neighbors, and plenty of human contact.

Just as with adjusting to physical work of backpacking by degree is a wise approach, so too can a gradual approach to psychologically adjusting to the Natural Environment be wise.

Desolation Wilderness has the great beauty of the Sierra Nevada in a location physically accessible to average and beginner backpackers, as well as by the vast populations of the Bay Area, the Valley, and the Tahoe Basin/Reno Metro Areas. Desolation Wilderness is heavily used.
Though this usage may be considered a detriment by many backpackers, many new backpackers find great security in having lots of company about. Desolation Wilderness offers fantastic access to unique High Sierra terrain to a wide range of backpacker skills, fitness, and comfort levels.

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Views of Lake Genevieve
Desolation Wilderness
Sunset

Lake Genevieve Sunset

Peak 7820 (Above) sits behind Lake Genevieve with Peak 9054 (Below) the next peak increasing in height to the South of Lake Genevieve.

Lake Genevieve Sunset Looking South towards Phipps Pass, to the left of the mountain

Video
Lake Genevieve, Desolation Wilderness
morning
  Lake Genevieve  
   

Video
Lake Genevieve in the morning, Desolation Wilderness. Duration 2:09.

Maps, Miles and Elevations
Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Desolation Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

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The Value of Reflective Water
Pain, Beauty, Life

The beauty around Lake Genevieve reflecting off its still morning surface is striking.

There are sometimes unique moments of early morning stillness in the mountains.

These instants of quiet stillness happen when the cool flows of night air transforming into the warmth of day find a few seconds of atmospheric balance under the rapidly rising Sun.

Stillness Ensues.

The beauty surrounding us rapidly multiplies itself during these fleeting seconds when air and water become momentarily balanced.

Externally, this stillness and its beauty mirrored on Lake Genevieve's surface instantly doubles our viewing pleasure, while triggering an internal emotional state.

Critical Mass is attained when this external beauty
becomes internal pleasure.

Through the Looking Glass
Sometimes it appears we are looking through clear glass down into a new, undiscovered world just below the lake's surface. We are. But it is the undiscovered world within ourselves we really see.

Other times the lightest of breezes drive shimmering waves reflecting a chaotic world of sparkling lights dancing on the lake's surface, sometimes shimmering whirlwinds.
(Smedberg Lake Shimmering)          (Round Top Lake Shimmering Whirlwinds Video)

Both states are nice.

These fantastic external beauties are multiplied and grow as they pass our mind's eye to resonate with and feed the soul.

These beauties act as a trigger, tapping into deep internal reservoirs of experiences, skills, resources, and feelings that nature equipped us with, but only come out when called back to natural engagement.

"They" say that "humans only use 10% of their brains." I say that humans have lost 99% of their physical and spiritual assets, have forgotten that engagement with nature is not just the key to the meaning of life, but to a meaningful life as well.

Reflecting lakes are the sparkle in Nature's eyes, and eyes are portals to the soul.

Beautiful reflective lakes act as a spiritual/psychological key for humans. The psychological effect of this great beauty justifies the hard work required to view it.

Transformational beauty requiring both work and engagement to experience breaks down our socialized assumptions that life is series of constant easy consumer gratifications that are passively observed and "consumed."

Nature has other uses for our lost observation and engagement skills. But it first has to break them loose from their social captivity. The stillness of reflective lakes are portals linking the spirit of Nature to the souls of men.

These are the times and situations that draw out and reward our engagement.

The work required to engage nature and its beauties does not just deepen the beauty, but becomes a vital part of the beauty itself.

The Journey Begins
Thus begins our individual journey of work, pain, beauty, pleasure, recovery, and growth.
These aspects of our existence are woven together by something new within us.

This new feeling is the knowledge that the deep joy of engagement with Nature does not just open up and draw out hidden skills and potentials within ourselves that are normally locked down by the spiritual wasteland of urban life, but that natural interaction introduces alternative definitions of the nature and the meaning of life than the passive consumer gratifications popular today.

We've only just begun to scratch the surface.

Let the backpacking begin!

We're falling into the real looking glass now...

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Sunrise

Sun Kissed mountain top, Lake Genevieve

Peak 9054 (Above) is the second peak to the North of Phipps Pass, and it dominates the terrain as we hike through this valley and its series of fine lakes. We are viewing it across Lake Genevieve above and Crag Lake below.

The image below is Peak 9054 seen above Crag Lake, which is the next lake above Lake Genevieve. the image above Right is looking at Peak 9054 across Crag Lake, the next lake in the series of lakes in this sweet valley.

Sunrise at Lake Genevieve

First Light

Lake Genevieve Sunset, detail
Sunrise's first light strikes above Lake Genevieve on Peak 9054 drawing a Merganser out for breakfast, starting the daily cycle of life again in the Desolation Wilderness.

Merganser Looking for Breakfast at Genevieve Lake

Our daily cycle involves hiking through and observing as much of the local activity as possible.

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Merganser on Lake Genevieve

Merganser trolling on Lake Genevieve.
Merganser soon puts the head down, and begins trolling on Lake Genevieve.

Locating Breakfast

Something below has the Duck's attention.

Something below has drawn the Duck's full attention, stopping to get some focus on what has been found.

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Rippling Waters

Going under for breakfast.
A little underwater flying to get breakfast.

Lay of the Land

At Lake Genevieve we have climbed up to the mouth this narrow canyon to hike past a popular chain of lakes wedged along the 2.23 mile span this gradually rising canyon from Lake Genevieve up to the soggy South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

We're going to hike out of this gentle valley onto the steepest part of our climb up to Phipps Pass beginning from the boggy meadows on South of the South shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

I say popular because we detect that not just the trail, but that the ground itself around the lakes has been compressed by the weight of the footsteps of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people over the years.

These subtle signs of very heavy use tell us two things. First, that there are going to be lots of campsites nestled around each and every one of the lakes leading up to Phipps Pass (and in all of Desolation Wilderness), and Second, that we are going to meet lots of backpackers here during the peak of the Summer backpacking season.

Desolation Wilderness is quiet in Spring and quiets down in Fall.

In fact, the heavy use of the totality of the Desolation Wilderness indicates that every place you look at and say to yourself, "That looks like a nice place to camp" is likely to contain a campsite.

I feel a vexing contradiction between the beauty of Desolation Wilderness and its overuse as the population of California and Tahoe irresponsibly exploded. My inadequate personal solution is to avoid high-traffic areas like Desolation Wilderness and Yosemite Valley during the Summer, restricting my visits to these kinds of high traffic area to Fall when the crowds have thinned, and Spring before they begin to build up in earnest.

We can see the physical justifications for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit's quotas and permit restrictions in the deeply cut trails and highly compressed soils around the aprons of these sweet lakes.

Though Desolation Wilderness is busy and shows signs of overuse, one of the unexpected pleasures of backpacking the Desolation Wilderness is meeting the vast community of backpackers hiking its trails.

Desolation Wilderness appears to be the number one Summer weekend destination for beginner to intermediate backpackers, family backpackers, and day hikers from all over Northern California and Northern Nevada. The good thing about this is that backpackers are generally great folks.

It's always a pleasure to meet us on the trails.

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Lake Genevieve in the Morning I

  Lake Genevieve  
   

Video: Lake Genevieve, Desolation Wilderness, in the morning. Duration 1:04.

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Chain of Lakes

Lake Genevieve is the first in a series of five lakes we encounter entering the mouth of this gently rising valley. We pass these lakes while hiking within the two and a quarter mile length of this gentle rising valley. Enjoy it now.
This gentle stretch of sweet lakes precedes the steep climb out the South end of the valley up to Phipps Pass.

Genevieve, Crag, Hidden, Shadow, and Stony Ridge are the series of lakes we will encounter. Let's take a look at them on the map and miles pages:

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

These lakes give us lots of camping options along the length of this valley fitting between the fourth and sixth miles of our hike South out of Meeks Bay.

Rubicon Lake is not one of our options along this little chain of lakes. Rubicon Lake is nestled into rocky folds buried under dense forest above the head of this valley, about 400 feet higher and a mile further South past the South Shore of Stony Ridge Lake, which is the last lake in this little series of valley lakes.

Note Stony Ridge lake's position on the map. The narrow strip of flat terrain the TYT runs through between Stony Ridge Lake's NE shoreline and the rising terrain is too narrow for legal camps, though there are campsites halfway down the length of the lake. The terrain off the South Shore of Stony Ridge Lake is too marshy for good camping.

This means that the North end of Stony Ridge Lake is about our last legal and comfortable spot to camp along this chain of lakes beginning with Lake Genevieve in this little valley, before we begin climbing for Rubicon Lake.

Shadow and Hidden Lakes have nice aprons for camping around parts of their shorelines. It is nice here, in this sweet little valley.

A Doubly Protected Space
The saving grace of this sweet chain of lakes in this easily accessible valley are the quotas and restrictions on backcountry visitors by the Desolation Wilderness. Otherwise this place would be much too busy, and would suffer physical damage without these limits.

Not only is this a wilderness area that is preserved against development, but it also must be afforded higher protections against the fundamental overuse by our much too large population.

I don't like quotas, but they have only become necessary because we cannot control our growth. Thus we are forced to protect nature once, then again.

Kidriffic
This chain of lakes in its shallow valley so close to a major trailhead is an excellent place to bring young kids on their first backpacking trips!

This is a good place for rookie backpackers of all ages!

First, the distances and elevation increase out of Meeks Bay to this chain of lakes are not too bad for parents splitting a kid's gear, nor too difficult for many growing kid hikers.
Rookie adults will appreciate this relatively easy access as well.

Second, the terrain is stunningly beautiful, and subsequent trips can be extended deeper into the Desolation Wilderness over the years as the kids grow and their capacities increase. Rookie adults will appreciate this expandability as well.

Third, this valley is full of fun things to explore at our leisure. Once we hike in and camp there are plenty of activities to keep the kids of all ages engaged in a lifetime of rewarding experiences.


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Desolation Wilderness

Meeks Bay
to
Lake Genevieve

Just the Facts, ma'am

Lake Genevieve

Elevation
7400 feet
+1161' above Meeks Bay trail head elevation

Mileage
4.39 miles
South from Meeks Bay trail head

4.49 miles
South to Phipps Pass


Camping Notes
Departing Lake Genevieve

Sunrise
6:42 am or so, mid-September

Temp before Sunrise
43°
Low 40s was typical of September morings, until Oct 1,
when morning temps dropped to 19° !

Camp Status
No weather, no mosquitoes, so no tent.

Overall Weather
Clouds in morning, cleared nicely.

Time, Space, Direction, and You
"or so" note: I record the exact astronomical Sunrise/Sunset times, their compass points at rise and set, and the time and altitude of the daily transit of the Sun across North-South line, AKA when and where it crosses the celestial meridian.

I also record the key dates of the Moon Phases. This information, along with some weather notes, trip title, and dates composes the header of all my trip journals.

This handy information allows us to use the Sun as a compass and a clock. We now know both the exact time and precise compass points at sunrise, sunset, and the "city time" of when the Sun crosses the North-South line, AKA, High Noon.

FACT: It is Noon when the Sun crosses the North-South line in the sky from our position, NO MATTER WHAT your watch says. One is "city time," the other is your own personal "astronomical time."

Yes my dear, all time and space does rotate around you.
Well, at least in the sense it is all measured from the observer's perspective.

The last bit of astronomical information I am bringing is either
a current star chart or my star guide.

The backpacking links page has a wide selection of different types of nature, instructional, and trail guides, maps for use on the trail, and even a selection of free utilities and technical resources helpful for backpackers.


We Measure Time
Using this astronomical information we will literally measure time as the Sun rises off the Eastern horizon in the morning, to and across the celestial meridian during mid-day, and dropping down to the Western ridge producing local sunset in the evening.

We'll use this information to ascertain the Sun rise and set compass points and timing on the horizon without using a compass, and know the "civil" time when the Sun crosses the celestial meridian.

We will literally and accurately measure the distance of the Sun's daily travel across the sky to both estimate and precisely determine both "city" and "astronomical" time, as necessary for our situation.

Our planet spinning around our Solar System is literally our
clock and our compass.

But unlike most watches, I'd argue that ours is actually wearing us,
rather than visa-versa...

Who's in who's pocket?

Is each of us no more than a little "second hand," running around and around on the face of the master clock of life?

The "times" mentioned above, being the Sunrise and set times when I take my daily temperature measurements reflects the time of Sunrise and set during late September, which was the start day of a particular trip. This brings up two important facts.

First, the time and location of Sunrise and set are in constant motion over the course of a year, even if we retain a fixed position.
Second, the positions of Sunrise and set also change as a function of our
changing position and perspective as we hike South.

I have brought together a number of astronomical tools and information resources that describe and explain the rhythms of celestial and terrestrial motion and how this relates to navigation, and us keeping our bearings.

Astronomical Navigation
Information
Astronomical Information
Links

Everything is Moving
In fact, each day the Sunset and Sunrise times and compass points and timing change at a certain rate. We also hike a certain "X" number of miles each day.

Accuracy
Both motions affect the accuracy of our astronomical Sunrise and set bearings. The rate of Sunrise and set change is up to a minute a day for both, depending on the time of the year.
Our hiking to different positions each day also alters our relationship to the timing and exact compass points of Sunrise and set.

That's why the astronomical data we need is derived by entering a location as well as a date in the database. Exactly where and when the Sun rises and sets is dependent on our location and the date.

Short Backpacking Trips
Thus trips up to a week in duration, or those remaining near their start point don't require a correction factor to compensate for changes in location as we hike. We are not hiking far enough to significantly distort their timings or positions.
On these shorter trips we are not too concerned with factoring in the changes made by our changing position, if we are not hiking too far.

We can record the timing and positions of Sunrise and set from the beginning and ending dates and locations of our hike if we desire a higher degree of accuracy.

A Regular Rate of Change
The average daily rate of the timing and position changes in Sunrise and set should be calculated and noted in the journal header prior to departure. The correction factor would read something like, "three degrees and three minutes a day."

We can figure it out by noting the change in timing and location of Sunrise and set from a single position over the duration of our trip.

This rate of change will be a reliably consistent correction factor to reasonably correct our Sunrise and set figures.

Long Backpacking Trips
Long distance backpacking trips will require more than a correction factor as our changing position hiking down the Sierra Crest greatly distorts the compass points and timing of Sunrise and set as calculated at the beginning of our hike.

To retain accuracy hiking down the Sierra Crest we will have to take note of the Sunrise and set times, and their compass points, from at least three points along length of our trip. Our figures for the beginning, the middle, and the end of long trips will maintain the accuracy of our celestial clock and compass over the length of our trip.

The Tahoe to Whitney
I generally measure the timing and compass points of Sunrise and set from South Lake Tahoe, Tuolumne Meadows, and Trail Crest for backpacking trips from Tahoe to Whitney.

Astronomical Information

This information will not just keep us "in time," but also establishes a fundamental context structuring the terrain we cross by keeping us aware of and engaged with the physical relationships between time, space and terrain.

Time, direction, terrain and our position within it are different, changing, and related aspects of dealing with these grand mountains who's crestline we are hiking.

We're going to keep our bearings and time squared-away as we hike South.

Our ability to organize and correlate time and space information adds extra dimensions to our engagement and understanding of the logical and physical relationships holding the the High Sierra together.

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Day Hikes & Day Packs

Trail Junction
General Creek

Short Cross-Country Route

The General Creek trail junction is a shortcut to the Pacific Crest Trail that only makes sense for Northbound Hikers. The trail post for the General Creek Trail sits on the North shore of Genevieve Lake.

The 30 min map (1977) shows a trail, but the 7.5 min (1992) map does not. It is typical to see that trails marked as maintained on older maps like the 30 minute map, are either unmaintained or omitted on newer maps. This is a good way to find unmaintained and abandoned trails that make great cross-country routes.

Compare the older and newer maps, and note the omission of trails on the newer maps. These are potential cross country trips.

I observed a backpacker doing a day hike cutting up the General Creek trail, but he got past me before I could catch him. (I was taking a crap.) I wanted to ask him about the General Creek route to the PCT.

A short while later I had a snack with the very same dude on Phipps Pass.

After hiking by me at Lake Genevieve he followed the cross country route to and across the General Creek Trail to the PCT, then hiked South on the PCT to the TYT trail junction for the hike North on the TYT back to his Crag Lake campsite. In the meantime I had hiked from Lake Genevieve to Phipps Pass Southbound along the TYT.

Excellent Short Backpacking Trip

His day hiking trip consisted of backpacking up to Crag Lake from Meeks Bay, dropping his pack, then day hiking the General Creek loop to the Pacific Crest Trail, then hooking left at the trail junction above Middle Velma Lake to follow the Desolation Trail back to Crag Lake. Nice work.

His trip was an example of how you can make a short backpacking trip exciting. He only carried his heavy pack a very short distance to a fine campsite on Craig Lake, avoiding the pain of long distance backpacking. Leaving his pack in camp allowed him to explore the cross country routes in the area while only carrying day hiking weights.

He reported the General Trail as rough cross country, but easily do-able.

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I do exactly the same thing. But I do it by carrying an extra day's food between my resupply points. Then I can throw down the pack, pull out the day pack, and take a lightweight day of scrambling.

Here's the old-school day pack I bring on my Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney trips for day hiking.

The Day Pack
Day Pack

I stuff this pack at the bottom of my external frame pack's upper compartment, where it only comes out for "day-off" scrambles and explorations, which you will see described down up and down the trail guide.

I use it between 5 and 7 times for scrambling during a Tahoe to Whitney hike. It is also very convenient to have during resupply stops.

It fits water, food, and an extra layer of insulation comfortably for scrambling. I once used this pack for a one-night, two day 46 mile round trip to bring supplies to a trail crew. I carried an insulation and rain layer in the mini pack with a sleeping bag lashed to the bottom.

The trail crew provided a great party, dinner and breakfast. You've never partied until you've partied with trail crew at elevation during the end of the season.

Note the leather strap loops on this fine old pack. Note the metal buckles. They don't make them like this anymore. You can really gear up this late-'70s vintage Kelty for "lightening" trips by externally strapping on your sleeping bag, pad, and shell, while packing it with your insulation layer and food enough for a day or two.

I can see how carrying two packs will drive Pacific Crest Trail hikers crazy. Though an extra pack is extra weight to carry over the long hauls between resupply points, without this pack I would not be able to do aggressive scrambles between the resupply points.

Thus the difference between Tahoe to Whitney and Pacific Crest Trail hikers. Though both must push long distances, the lack of a seasonal time constraint allows the Tahoe to Whitney backpacker the time to pack an extra day's food between resupply points, to scramble without worrying about being caught-out by early season snow a couple of months later while crossing the Cascades up in Washington.

Few Pacific Crest Trailers can, or will, pack extra food, or take a day off to scramble. Section Hikers do.

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North: Desolation Trail Junction                                     top of page                                        South: Crag Lake

Lake Genevieve Check Dam

Degraded state of Genevieve's Check Dam.
Remnants of Lake Genevieve's Check Dam

It appears that locals have worked to maintain the Check Dam. Somebody has been throwing rocks onto the pile.

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High Sierra Check Dams

Check dams occasionally cause great controversy in the Sierras.

High Sierra Check Dams all seem to have a shared history. The first Western settlers, mostly herders and ranchers, put up check dams in likely locations to provide water for stock driven into the High Sierra every Summer to graze its lush meadows.

This early damming was supplemented by local and state dams as the population of California skyrocketed. Local dams such as that at Beardsley Lake on Highway 108 supply valley agriculture with water. Relief Reservoir on Highway 108 and the Blue Lakes are examples of originally state-subsidized and regulated public utility operations, which are now privately owned.

Elements of trail culture divide up, and fight for the removal or retention of the early check dams, the bigger local dams, and no one can honestly explain why the hell PGE "owns" huge amounts of our water and our Sierra terrain. Well, I can, but I defer on this platform. This is about the mountains. Man's folly is secondary.

I can't help it: I guess that's the only way "our" politicians of both parties pay off their bribers...

I vote for retention of the historical check dams, strict regulation of the local and private dams, and complete public ownership of our public lands and resources.

Here's a little note on check dams, and a partial list of our favorite lakes along our route that exist because of the historic check dams:

High Sierra Check Dams
(Round Lake in Meiss Country)

High Sierra Check Dams Forum

I support retention of existing check dams.

As work continues South on the Guide more will be added. Feel free to add your favorite check-damed lake.

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North: Desolation Trail Junction                                                                                      South: Crag Lake

Discussion
Backpacking to Lake Genevieve
from
Meeks Bay
in the
Desolation Wilderness

Night #1: Lake Genevieve

First, the miles!

Meeks Bay trail head to the end of the dirt road/ Desolation trail junction: 1.35 miles

Dirt road/trail junction to Lake Genevieve: 3.36

Total
Meeks Bay to Lake Genevieve: 4.39 miles

Meeks Bay to Lower Echo Lake Trailhead
Across the length of Desolation Wilderness
30.71 miles

This Map: Meeks to Phipps Pass                                  Next Map: Genevieve to Phipps Pass

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Desolation Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

The Trail to Lake Genevieve
Getting
there is
Half the fun!

As an example of making the transition from road to trail we will examine my late Summer Backpacking trip down the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail out of the Meeks Bay Trailhead on Sept. 15, '09.

This trip is typical of how I juggle the various factors at the beginning of many of my of my backpacking trips. Arriving tired, hungry, and late in the afternoon is not optimal.

I had finished my fourth Tahoe to Whitney hike about two weeks earlier.

I hit the Meeks Bay trail head late, at four-twenty pm in the afternoon after a very long day on the road. I had Craig's Listed a ride with a wonderful young lady, Margot, to a remote on-ramp of highway 80 in the middle of nowhere in the High Sierras: Highway 20 from Nevada City. Great Views! Virtually Zero Traffic! No predictability for my arrival time at the trailhead.

These things happen when our backpacking trip begins not at the trailhead, but actually begins when we walk out our front door with our backpacks 250 miles from the trail head. Hitch-hiking to Meeks out in the middle of nowhere in the High Sierras was not a real problem. Well, even though the West shore of Lake Tahoe is not "out in the middle of nowhere," it presents transportation problems for folks who don't own cars. Patience is the key.
When things do not work out exactly as planned we adjust our trip and our expectations to suit the new circumstances, both on the trail, and even while getting to the trailhead.

First Day Time & Food management

You may be required to wait awhile, but there are plenty of good folk out here in the High Sierra who will always stop to give a ride to a backpacker. It just might take a while for one to drive by. And, there are a lot of yuppies with Summer Homes, and foreigners who sneer as they drive by.

Wow. What's up with that?
Their loss...
I smile and wave, regardless...

I got a ride all the way to the trail head after two hours of patient waiting, enjoying the grand views, hiking down to a shady spot, and throwing lots of rocks. A delightful retired couple out of Southern California picked me up. They were pretty well off, but still engaged with us "normal" folks.

But, as I finally arrived at the Meeks Bay trailhead late, without eating all day, I decided to hitch back to the Tehoma store ("PDQ" see the Meeks Bay road map), and ate half of one of their huge sandwiches. Hitching back to the trail head afterwards was no problem, as the same couple that gave me a ride to the trailhead had gone back for pizza in Tehoma after they dropped me off at the trailhead, and I was pleasantly surprised when they picked me up for the second time.

Around and around we go.

They offered me the leftover pizza they had packed to go, and I was able to sample the Tehoma Pizza: Good stuff. Not great, but pretty good. After all of this I arrived too late at the trailhead to make any real miles on the trail the first day. Lake Genevieve would be it.

Fat, Full, and Happy
But the food was worth the delay. I prefer to hit the trail head with my stomach completely full of food, rather than empty and hungry. Especially on long trips like this one, where I was trying to make the 175 miles to Yosemite with only the food I'm carrying. Carrying no resupply means we must pay careful attention to our hiking plan!

And start with a full stomach.

I may waddle for the first few miles, but when dinner time comes, I can get away with eating just a few hearty snacks. You can see why I try not to eat one of my nifty 600 calorie freeze-dried dinners on the first night. I'm trying to preserve my food supply to make sure I really am carrying enough food for the whole trip. Better too much food at the beginning, than too little at the end! Managing hunger sucks, so I always prefer to manage it with a sufficient food supply.

It becomes a sad duty to break one of these 600 calorie bombs first into 2 meals, then 3, and finally four, when things go really wrong in the backcountry. Food supply assessment and management is a daily task.

On the other side of this grim equation is when we get sick, or have stomach problems. Now our problem is that we cannot eat enough food to fuel our exertions, and our pack is not getting 2 to 3 pounds lighter every day as food diminishes. Darned if you do eat, darned if you don't.

Hiking long distances successfully means that we've got to make sure we do not eat too much or too little of our food at any one time over the next couple of weeks.

On the hoof
food considerations-calculations

Despite the lateness of the day, the heaviness of my pack, and the fullness of my stomach, it was an easy hike up to Lake Genevieve. I say this despite my 75 pound+ pack loaded with 11+/- days of food. The grade up to Lake Genevieve and the series of lakes that follows it from Meeks Bay offers a fairly gentle transition into the rigors of backpacking.

This short hiking distance to our first campsite stimulates all of our previous injuries without setting them off. This distance wakes muscles up, without depleting or overstraining them. This distance strained the frame, without breaking it. This was a good day of balancing travel to the trailhead against the first steps of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpacking trip.

The long travel day assured a short day on the trail.

But, I was really happy to throw my pack down at Lake Genevieve, despite the fact that there are much better campsites just a little bit up the trail at Crag, Hidden, Shadow, and Stony Ridge Lakes.

This decision worked out aesthetically, as the beauty of this chain of lakes is best observed and photographed in the still early morning air when the surfaces of the lakes become second skies. This reflective effect is most frequently observed during the still moments of early morning and sometimes in late twilight.
During early mornings, as night turns into day there is a moment balancing the shift from down mountain air flows to up mountain flows. During these moments the atmosphere stops moving, and the surface of lakes become magic mirrors of sunrise on the surrounding terrain. This effect is also magnified by the deep quiet and stillness of these sublime moments, when the convergence of these reflections in our mind make the surfaces of these lakes mirrors a reflection of the soul of man in nature.
Physical mirrors that draw the soul of the observer into the scene, that's what I think these mirrored lakes really are.

That's probably just me. Slap me when I start babbling...

I arrived at Lake Genevieve as sunset shadows stretched across the reddening terrain, and I departed as the Sun cast its first beams of light into the receding darkness.
Our first steps in the morning bring up past a stunning set of lake surfaces mirroring the sunrise lighting up the mountains and forests around them, long before the Sun actually touches their surfaces. Plus, it is preferable to climb up to Phipps Pass through the cool air of early morning. That saves us lots of calories.

I arrived at Lake Genevieve when it was getting late, the sun was low in the Western sky, and I had spent a very long day on the roads and highways getting to the Meeks Bay Trailhead. Nonetheless, I was very happy with my first day's short hike to Lake Genevieve.

On the Trail Again!

Wooo Hoooo!

There are campsites everywhere around Lake Genevieve. The surface all around the General Trail junction is incredibly compressed by the countless footsteps of countless campers. Despite its overwhelming beauty, this area exudes a subtle feeling of heavy human usage. Instead of hunting out a more primitive satellite camp, I just marched off a hundred feet from the lake on the rather large and hard flat spot around the trail post on the Northern apron of Lake Genevieve, leaned my damn heavy pack against a tree, and used it as the backrest for my seat.

A sweet seat.

My rolled up Ridgecrest closed-cell foam pad makes an excellent seat pad, complimented by my bear canister foot rest, with the backpack as backrest. This is instant comfort. My standard gear bits instantly transform into my mountain version of a very comfortable lazy-boy chair.

I can create this comfort zone about anywhere, almost instantly.

I did not have much to do in camp but rest. Assorted snacks for dinner meant no stove or cooking equipment had to be set up for dinner, and I was willing to forego my nightly hot beverage. Once I get hiking big miles every day I find hot chocolate with powdered milk delightful. There were no bugs or weather threatening, so I didn't need to set up the tent.

The cool dry weather of the Sierra in mid-September are far beyond the mosquito's tolerances.

After setting up my seat I spent the rest of the evening chilling out and relaxing watching the sunset on the mountains, then the brightening stars wheeling into view through dimming twilight skies, until the starscape fully asserted itself as darkness set in. At that point sleep came naturally. I just unrolled my pad, put my bag on it, crawled in and went immediately to sleep under the crystal clear star filled sky.

Ahhhh!

On the Trail Again...

Wooo Hooo!

Topo Hiking Map: Meeks to Genevieve           Topo hiking Map: Genevieve to Phipps Pass

next page South
Crag Lake

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Morning One
Granola is Fun
and the
Zipper Dance

The temp was 43 degrees at Lake Genevieve when I woke and rose well before dawn.

Granola, powdered milk, and dried fruit were rapidly brought to life with a little heat under the roar of my old-school MSR white gas stove, and I was shortly fed, packed, and ready to saddle-up. Time to take off the insulation and freeze a bit before the pack and the trail warm me up.

I tried to unzip my REI fleece jacket, and everything went to shit. The zipper is one of those fancy "clasping" zippers, the type that lock. The fabric pull and its ring broke off the zipper, locking the clasping zipper in place, zipped up around my neck. With no pull strap there was no way to unzip the fleece jacket, and claustrophobia set in, and I was soon bouncing/hopping about in circles trying to get the damn thing unzipped from high around my neck.

I looked like I was fighting off the attack of the fleece shirt.

Finally, I used the flat end of the can-opener on my Swiss Army Knife to pry up the edge of the spring-loaded locking clasp on the back of the zipper assembly, and was finally able to unzip my fleece jacket in fits and starts, before the clasp slipped in the locked position again. I was tempted to use the knife's blade to cut the coat off.

I was not happy with the fancy clasp when I bought the shirt.

Relax Al, Chillaxation required... take a couple of deep breaths.

As soon as I got the shirt off I promptly removed the locking mechanism from the zipper, (a zipper-ectomy) and everything was all cool again. The jacket still zipped-up, but I had to grasp the zipper on both sides to make it work, as the pull tab had broken off. But my gear was falling apart.

This was not unexpected. I had already put 750 long-distance backpacking miles on the gear this Spring and Summer (2009) alone, and my gear was showing it. My boots, pants, and socks were all starting to wear thin. The harness of my pack was worn, and all grommets were distorting. I was monitoring the degradation of all key gear components. I was packing a bigger spare parts kit than normal.

I am facing a maintenance cycle with my clothing, pack, boots, and most of the gear elements that wear out. Clone me a new frk'n body too, while we are at it... I'm going to re-harness my pack frame, replace or repair my worn-out clothing, and new boots have been necessary for awhile.

Where are you in the "Gear Cycle?"

Everyone has one. Some are slow, some quick.

Keep tabs on how your gear is wearing, and check your harnesses, stitching, clasps, and eyelets often during your long trips, and an inspection before every trip. Inspect the stove and water filtration device, and clean each as necessary.

I visually inspect my harness before each time I saddle up my pack.

Keep a list of upcoming gear problems and repairs that will be necessary at home that is updated after each trip, and check the list before the next trip. Pack the replacement parts you may need, or replace degrading parts prior to departure.

Broken and fixed
on the trail.

Be Ready!

Check out the
Gear Section

Gear Repair, Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

Backpack Strap Repair, Kennedy Meadows
Now that's an "on the trail" backpack strap repair!

A frk'n gopher ran a hole up to the surface under my backpack, which was laid flat on the ground with rocks on top to protect its salted straps from just such a varmint attack...

Sometimes we just can't win...

Wilderness gear Repair at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, earlier in the 2009 backpacking season. Pants in hand, fleece pants deployed during the day!

I love
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

They loaned me the needle, and gave me the thread to keep my ass in my pants, and my straps on my shoulders.

The cowboys offered me the use of their saddle shop, but I didn't need to go nuclear!

 

Gear Repair Forum

Topo Map North
Meeks to Lake Genevieve
Topo Map South
Lake Genevieve to Phipps Pass

Topo Map South

South Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map
Miles and Elevations

South
Crag Lake

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Hiking North

Trail Junction

 

Hiking South

Crag Lake

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Section
Tahoe to Echo Summit
Segment
Lake Genevieve

North: Desolation Trail Junction                                                                                        South: Crag Lake

Trailhead

Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

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