Photo courtesy of Paul CloseChris Close treks along the lush, soggy Tahoe Yosemite Trail on Phipps Pass. Snow still clings to the peaks above the Velma Lakes in the background.

With the snow nearly melted, even at high elevations, the backpacking season is officially here in the Sierra.

After such a heavy and late coming winter, the amount of lingering water in higher elevations is bringing out one of the most breathtaking aspects of the Sierra ” the wildflowers ” as well as one of the most annoying ” the mosquitoes.

As has become a recent tradition, Tahoe Vista residents Paul and Chris Close spent the last half of last week celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary by hiking through Desolation Wilderness. For this year’s trip, they started at Eagle Falls, went up to Fontanillis Lake, over Phipps Peak via the Tahoe Yosemite Trail to Rubicon Lake, then out past Lake Genevieve and exited at Meeks Bay.

Led by their fearless trail boss, Nesta ” a two year old golden retriever ” they brought back this report of the current conditions in Desolation Wilderness.

Starting at Eagle Falls, the trail up to the falls was like a freeway of day hikers, even for a Wednesday afternoon. However, with so much water coming out of the lingering high country snow, the falls did not disappoint.

In the 2,000-foot climb up into Desolation and eventually to Fontanillis Lake, the trail was in good condition, despite some patches of snow and running water.

The main attraction was the wildflowers. They are everywhere right now, and out in full force clumps of various colors and varieties.

Fontanillis was very cold, with snow shelves still hanging over the water. The hot breezeless weather did not dissipate the swarming mosquitoes, which were incessantly hungry.

The stream flowing out of Fontanillis down to the Velmas was rushing hard, but multiple full size trees down across the stream made the crossing fairly easy. The section of trail along the Upper and Middle Velma was beautiful, fairly flat and wooded, but there were many downed trees in the section, some four or five feet in diameter and difficult to cross over.

According to a Ranger, the Forest Service is steadily removing trees from the trail, but with snow lingering so long the process has just begun.

Taking the Tahoe Yosemite trail up 1,000 feet and over Phipps peak earned more spectacular views.

Again, the wildflowers and mosquitoes were the main points of this section. The voracious swarming mosquitoes made it hard to stop and enjoy the varied and plentiful bouquets of healthy bold colored full blooming flowers.

On the East side of Phipps Pass there was a fairly dicey section of trail covered by snow. The steep terrain and slushy melting snowpack required some glissading, after careful bootpacking, to get across.

An afternoon thunderstorm helped keep the mosquitoes at bay at Rubicon Lake.

The next day was the long decent down into Meeks Bay. The trail is easy and flat or downhill, and there was no more snow and not as many downed trees. However, with a plethora of swamps, meadows and lakes, the mosquitoes were out of control.

Passing by Stony Ridge Lake, Shadow Lake, Hidden Lake, Crag Lake and Lake Genevieve offered uniquely picturesque scenes throughout the day.

As had been the norm for this hike, the wildflowers continued to be spectacular.

Coming out on the dirt road into Meeks Bay, the new Tahoe City to Emerald Bay trolley service was a perfect way to get back to the truck, which was parked at the Eagle Falls trailhead.

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