This out-and-back hike started at Meek’s Bay and went up to the Pacific Crest Trail / Tahoe Rim Trail. I had previously hiked the first half of the route, as well as the section on the PCT/TRT, but I had hesitated to try the middle portion because I’d anticipated that the trail-finding might be beyond my capability. Happily, my trail-finding was up to the task and I stayed on-trail.
As a reminder, all visitors to the Desolation Wilderness are required to obtain a use permit. Day users can take care of that at a kiosk right at the trailhead along CA-89.
The first 1.4 miles follow a dirt road not far from Meek’s Creek before taking a well-marked trail and beginning to climb.
The first part of the route (roughly 4.5 miles) is also known as the Tahoe Yosemite Trail. Along the way there was a nice view of a peak to the south.
Just inside the Desolation Wilderness I came across a particularly striking lodgepole pine.
About 3.3 miles from the trailhead a log bridge crosses Meek’s Creek. It’s very sturdy, though I’m not sure I’d want to walk across it if it were icy!
At Lake Genevieve there is a 3-way junction where the Tahoe Yosemite Trail (TYT) turns left and follows a string of lakes, known locally as the Tallant Lakes, eventually climbing up and over Phipp’s Pass to the PCT/TRT. Technically this makes a loop hike possible, but at 22-24 miles it would be a very challenging day hike.
The route I took is signed the General Creek Trail, and the next 2.5 miles were the section where I was concerned about trail-finding. The trail is not as well-traveled, or well-maintained, as the TYT or PCT/TRT.
In one place the trail goes underneath a tree that has not fallen all the way to the ground (but is stable). Fortunately, there are a few sets of stick arrows on the ground indicating the correct direction. You need to crouch fairly low to get under the tree.
This was the most innovative method I’ve run across to mark a trail. In another place where the trail was indistinct, carefully placed rock cairns indicate where the trail goes. (Of course, this is a standard method of marking a trail.)
The General Creek Trail branches off about 1.8 miles past the junction at Lake Genevieve. After this, the last 0.7 mile leading to the PCT/TRT is quite steep, with a quick 350-foot climb in 0.4 mile (17% grade). Once I reached the PCT/TRT I turned south and hiked about another 1.5 mile before turning around.
I had been hoping to reach the TRT on this hike. When I’d hiked this section of the TRT 3 years prior, I’d done two separate out-and-back hikes, one from Barker Pass and one from Eagle Falls. I was still learning how to keep track of a turnaround location that wasn’t at a trail junction, and in fact those two hikes had left a gap of about 0.1 mile, which I only discovered when I uploaded my GPS data after the second hike. This was my opportunity, purist that I am, to fill in this small gap.
Along this section of trail there were pretty views to the west toward the heart of the Desolation Wilderness.
During the outbound part of the hike I had noticed that a helicopter was flying around in the area, and I thought I smelled smoke. I was continually paying attention to any signs of a forest fire and concluded that, if there was one, it was small and/or some distance away. During the return trip, in the section between the PCT/TRT and Lake Genevieve, I once again noticed the helicopter and slight smell of smoke. Eventually I got to an area where a smoke cloud was evident, rising above a row of hills. I never figured out where the fire was, but I think it was to the north of my route.
When I arrived at Lake Genevieve on my return trip the angle of the sun resulted in a striking shadow on a half-dome-like peak behind the lake.
I was pleased to have negotiated about 2.5 miles of less well-marked trail without going off-trail, and to be able to fill in the small gap in the Tahoe Rim Trail that I had missed in my earlier hikes.