This past week I was asked to serve as a "trailhead naturalist" for Desolation Wilderness, as the season picks up now that snow is melting the Sierra. And so I spent four days at Wrights Lake on the west side of Desolation, keeping track of traffic and answering the questions as best I could. It was all good fun.
Wrights Lake has a long history of recreation, and one the joys of working there is meeting many of the families who buiilt the first cabins up there, some now in the fourth generation of campers. And they have stories to tell.
And then there are the newcomers, who have never seen the place before, and don't have any idea what kinds of fun they can find, as well as the hikers and backpackers who are pushing into the wilderness despite the massive snowpack.
Yes, the snow is still there, and plenty deep. No wonder there are so many backpacking permits available--most of them lead into areas that are still under snow. The bugs were out in force, and the flowers were just hitting their stride.
In the four days at my post, I met more than 400 people, including a teenage girl who was flying high after catching five trout on her backpacking trip, and a group of two dads and two tiny girls who were off for their first backpacking adventure. There was an intrepid team that hiked over the Crystal Range from Lake Tahoe (crampons and ice axes included!) as well as a group of six older folks who hiked about a mile and a half along the creek and set up camp, played guitar and backpacked in comfortable style.
My favorite question of the week? A tiny girl in a swimsuit and life jacket asking me if she could jump off the bridge (officially closed due to snow damage, but still pretty darn stable) into the lake. I told her that it was a question for her mom, not me. She told me her mom said it was OK. And so she and the rest of her gang spent an hour launching themselves into the icy water on a hot summer day, with squeals of joy and occasional mock terror.
Meanwhile the real work was done up in the wilderness, as two wilderness rangers led a team from Generation Green to restore campsites and destroy fire rings all over the place. They did good work. At least, that's what the hikers told me.