Mt. Tallac Hike
(Saturday, July 20 in the Desolation Wilderness, CA)
See also my photo album from
Wow! What a stunningly-beautiful hike! I got the idea to hike Mt. Tallac
from reading Kevin Gong's Hiking
Pages, where he rated this hike a perfect "10." - I wholeheartedly concur!
I headed up to Auburn to pick up my father, Barry on Friday afternoon,
foolishly thinking that a 1:00 departure from Fremont would avoid the weekend
getaway traffic - ha! We had a nice BBQ with some of his cow-orkers, then hit
the sack. Alarms went off at 5:30, and after a quick breakfast, we were on
the road by 6:20. Due to a couple of stops, we didn't start hiking until
about 9 - 1 hour later than I'd hoped, but "no problem," I thought.
There were a fair number of cars at the trailhead, probably a dozen or so. We
filled out our self-issue permit to enter the Desolation Wilderness (doesn't
that sound inviting? :), and hit the trail. The trail wasted no time heading
upwards, giving us a fleeting glimpse of the mountain far above. The weather
was perfect - crystal clear (for now) and temperate. We soon were walking
along a pretty ridge above Fallen Leaf Lake. We
passed into the Desolation
Wilderness, still heading upwards at a moderate pace.
In a little while, we came to Floating Island Lake, and stopped to take some
pictures. Several baby ducks (1, 2) swam up to greet us and were
generally very cute. We met a nice couple on the trail who were doing their
dream hike of 14 years, now that their children were grown. The trail
continued rising, a bit more steeply now, and before too long, we were at
Cathedral Lake. This lake was smaller than I was expecting, but pretty
Beyond Cathedral Lake, the
trail pitched upwards much more steeply now, and our going slowed
accordingly. As we rose, the views improved (and they were pretty darned nice
to begin with!), until we arrived at the base of a wide couloir. We took this
opportunity to munch some and help out some poor aspens that looked dehydrated
;-), then continued on our way. The trail wound very steeply around the right
side of the couloir. We could see folks far above us slowly climbing to the
ridge above. It looked like the trail got much steeper still until we
realized that the people we saw weren't on the official trail, but were
climbing a "shortcut" (we beat them to the ridge top, so I don't think it was
much of a shortcut!).
A duck on the left side of the trail confirmed our suspicions, as the "real"
trail turned left, went around a fallen tree, and continued climbing at a
somewhat more reasonable pace.
To my surprise, there were rather a lot of wildflowers on the
mountainside - I'd have thought they'd be gone by late-July! I turned
around and was treated to a lovely view of flowers, the trail far below us,
and Fallen Leaf Lake & Lake Tahoe.
After slogging up to the ridge for a while, we finally got to its top and were
treated to a stunning 360° view of Tahoe
and the Desolation Wilderness (we could see how it got its name!). There were
a couple of little puffy clouds above the mountains far away. We knew well
that these could become thunderheads in a surprisingly short amount of time,
and decided to make fewer photo stops and concentrate on getting to the
The trail headed up the
ridge and to its left, still pretty steep, but a bit less so than the
trail to the ridge. There were many more wildflowers in the alpine meadows
along the ridge, and we stopped a couple of times to get pictures. We then
noticed it was after noon, and we were now in violation of the old saw "get to
the summit by noon." The clouds over the Desolation were gathering, but were
still small and non-threatening, and we wisely decided not to make any more
stops until we got to the summit.
We got to the summit about 4 hours and 20 minutes after we started hiking, and climbed up
its jagged talus slopes to
the very top, where there were a few dozen other hikers sitting around and
enjoying the magnificent views.
From the top, we could see almost all of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf
Lake, as well as the Desolation Wilderness.
Barry made a couple cellphone calls to
let my Mom know we made it, we munched and guarded our food from the vicious
chipmunks, and batted
away the hordes of annoying flys that were congregating on the summit. After
about 40 minutes of enjoying the scenery, we decided it was time to head down,
as the clouds were starting to get larger and darker, and a 9,735 foot peak is
not the place to be in an electrical storm, which many summer Sierra
I went over to a sheer-
looking edge to peer over and see if I'm afraid of heights (I'm not :),
and we made our way down the rocks to the trail, and down the ridge. On the
way down, we saw a surprising number of folks still coming up, even after we'd
heard several claps of thunder (though they were internal to the clouds) and
got a tiny bit of rain. I, for one, wouldn't dare attempt a summit when there
are clouds that are
demonstrably electric nearby! We took a little more time going by the
flower-filled meadows, getting some nice pictures in the stormy light.
Before long, we were heading back down the couloir towards Cathedral Lake.
The descent was hard on my knees and feet, as the trail is very rocky,
uneven, and steep! We stopped for a few at Cathedral Lake so I could filter
Barry some water. While we were there, a couple heading down the hill
swim while I wished I had a bathing suit - it sounded very appealing to hop
into a lake at this point, as I was sweaty and grimy.
After eating a bit, we continued downwards. It didn't take long to get to
Floating Island Lake, which was encouraging, as its not too terribly far from
the end of the trail. My knee started bothering me a little bit off and on,
but we arrived back at the car soon enough. I drove back to Auburn while
Barry snoozed, dropped him off, then went back to home in Fremont, arriving at
9:30pm. Another fairly hectic outing, but definitely worth it!
This is easily the most beautiful hike I've done to this point! The views
just keep getting better and better as the trail rises, and the summit is
appropriately summit-like :)
||7h 35m (including 2'ish hours stopped taking pictures and gawking at