Good afternoon and happy Friday! I have recently returned from my first backpacking trip with two friends, and huzzah, I made it back alive. My grandparents were convinced that I would be eaten by a bear or attacked by some wild axeman up there, luckily for me, they were wrong.
On Tuesday morning, Michelle, Maria, and I embarked on a backpacking journey to Desolation Wilderness, a beautiful park near South Lake Tahoe. Until then, the closest thing that I’d ever done to backpacking was carrying a backpack on a long hike. For those of you who are unfamiliar with backpacking, backpacking is basically hiking with all of your gear in a giant backpack and then stopping at your destination to camp for several nights. When backpacking, it is essential to go with experienced people who know what they’re doing and to bring certain supplies.
Some of the necessary supplies on a backpacking checklist include:
- tent, bivy, or hammock
- sleeping bag
- sleeping pad
Clothing (for warm weather)
- sweater (something warm, just in case)
- socks and undergarments
- t-shirts, shorts, swimsuits
- hiking boots and sandals if you’re swimming
- cap or sun protective hat
Nutrition and Cooking
- bear bags or bear canister
- lightweight food (always bring more than you need, better to have extra than to starve)
- backpacking stove
- water filter or water treatment system
- water bottle or water pouch
- first aid kit
- necessary toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- small shovel and toilet paper (for going number 2)
- garbage bag (take all of your garbage back out with you!)
- flashlight or head lamp (important if you need to pee at night)
- sunscreen and bug repellant (protect your skin!)
When you go with more people, you can split the communal supplies into the different backpacks to alleviate the weight. I was very lucky that I was going on my first backpacking trip with two experienced people. Michelle and Maria basically planned everything out and told me what I should bring. Lucky me, right? I probably would’ve died up there without them.
On Tuesday morning, at 5 AM, we drove four hours to Desolation Wilderness. They got the permit for the trip. (It’s important to always check the park that you are going through to see if you need one. It’s not worth getting fined for not having one, and besides, the money for the permit helps support the park.)
Also, I’d recommend investing in a good pair of hiking boots for this trek.
We arrived in the parking lot for the Twin Peaks, attached our day backpacks to our larger one, and set off on our journey. We reached between 6,000-7,000 feet of elevation on day 1 of our hike.
We began on a trail on the Pyramid Creek trail, but eventually the trail disappeared and we chose whatever path we thought was safest to get towards Avalanche Lake.
We started to stray away from any clear trail around here. Permits were required for day use and night use at this point.
We tried to keep the waterfall in our sights at all times because it would lead us to our destination; however, we didn’t want to stay too close to it. Honestly, I just followed Maria who seemed to just know her way around the area using her ‘jedi senses’. That and she’s really skilled at understanding maps.
Most of the hike was scrambling and climbing over rocks. I think I developed some major quad muscles from all of those one legged weighted step-ups.
Sweating, hot, thirsty, tired, and not yet halfway up the mountain. At least somebody was happy. Actually, I was pretty excited the whole way up, too.
Maria got up before us to our little rest spot.
We got a little confused about which path to take after that. The rocks by the waterfall didn’t have much grip. Michelle slid down this rock; therefore, we decided to take a safer path.
The safer path resulted in us bouldering up in the crevice of two boulders and pulling our backpacks up. We took this same path down on the way home. So much fun!
Having rope comes in handy! I swear I helped out after taking all of these shots 🙂
More steep climbing up the mountain.
We arrived at Avalanche Lake and immediately pumped some fresh water into our bottles and pouches. We were parched after such long journey. We then jumped in for a quick swim.
We set up camp.
We hiked up to larger lake to go for a swim.
We headed back to camp before sundown and made dinner. Dinner was freeze dried food, baby carrots, and an apple for dessert. The pasta primavera was surprisingly tasty!
We woke up, had instant oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, left camp with our day packs, and hiked to the Aloha Islands.
Went into a waterfall
Oh dear, we have another mountain to go over.
Putting our rock climbing skills to the test (Left to right: Michelle, me, Maria)
Hurrah! We made it to the top and are overlooking the Aloha Islands.
Gone swimming in ‘Hawaii’
Hiked up a different mountain on the way back and found snow!
We built a snowman.
Dinnertime back at camp! This was one of the few times I’ll have instant noodles.
Cleaned up and hung up bear bags for the night
We encountered a few people at the Aloha Islands, but it felt like we were the only people by Avalanche Lake. It was tranquil and very peaceful, but late at night it also got a bit creepy. Too many horror stories in the back of my mind!
The ‘twins’ cleaning up camp and applying sunscreen. Gotta protect that skin from the treacherous sun!
Ready to leave!
But not before I passed my water filtering test!
Leave nothing behind and take back everything that you brought and that others have carelessly left behind. It’s important to take care of nature so that others can enjoy it, too.
What an awesome trip! Thanks Maria and Michelle for showing me the ropes.
I would definitely recommend this backpacking trip for anyone who is an experienced hiker and is in shape. As in, you should be familiar with hiking in elevated areas for hours at a time with at least some sort of pack on or do a lot of cardio. It is not a trail for anybody because it is strenuous and can be perilous if you’re not properly prepared. You need to know what you’re doing and you need to have the stamina and strength in order to complete the trip at a decent pace. Remember, you’re carrying about 30 pounds on your shoulders and back while ascending and descending a mountain.
Do not take this route if you don’t exercise often, are really scared of heights, and don’t have an experienced backpacker with you. Although I hike often, I could not have done this without Maria or Michelle. The descent at times was terrifying and they helped me slide down the rocks on my bottom (so graceful, I know).
Anyways, will I go backpacking again? Yes! I enjoyed every painful bit of this journey. As tough as some parts of it was, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery, lack of crowds, and even the lack of contact with the rest of the world (no cell phone service or wifi, sorry). Falling asleep to the sound of the breeze and flowing water was incredibly relaxing. It made me feel ‘one’ with nature…most of the times.
Desolation Wilderness is an extremely large and beautiful park that does require permits for some day hikes and backpacking trips. Check out the pdf for more information on Desolation Wilderness if you’re interested. Just please, please, please remember to camp 200 feet away from the water to prevent contamination, follow the park’s rules, and bring a trash bag to take out your garbage. Take care of nature so that it’s there for everyone to enjoy.
Until next time!