Smith Lake, Desolation Wilderness

Back to Hemlock Lake and the serenity that ensues

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I’m uncomfortable with how comfortable the stillness is. Through an almost impossibly serene hike up to Hemlock Lake, the changing colors of foliage and mountain air with a tinge of Autumn, the atmosphere is still with anticipation and yet utter calm. Mother Nature herself waits for change and the quickly hushing forest is a clear indicator.

Our trek up seems significantly shorter than the time before. We’ve parked in a closer spot, yet we reach Grouse Lake and further, Hemlock and Smith before we know it. Almost stunned with our speed we set up camp and relax, greeted with silence of the outdoors that only the mountains can bring.

Desolation Wilderness, Hemlock Lake
Fall hiking up to Hemlock Lake

This is why we come here. Desolation Wilderness has a pristine isolation that is convenient and yet sheltered enough to ward off those that might burden its beauty. The hike can be a bit difficult, parking is sparse and not many seem to know about it; facts that only add to the calmness. It also, in part, lives up to its name of being desolate. The beauty here is rugged and deep.

Waiting for sunset and the often required night shots is no small task. After taking a short hike up to the highest lake, Smith, we descend, eat dinner and relax. Oddly, this is one part I look forward to most… the decompression after working, exploring, cooking, etc., that settles in.

This is where I enjoy nature most. Appreciating her beauty while enjoying a bit of whiskey. It didn’t happen overnight, but careful planning and smart packing allows more of this and less of the stressful stuff (cleaning dished in the backcountry!) Thus the transition begins into night and where my anxiety ramps up.

Hemlock Lake, Desolation Wilderness, CA
Attempting to stargaze at the higher cleft in front of Hemlock Lake

An extremely pleasant night, the moon glowed behind clouds, making nearly everything visible. Although I wish the overcast would have been a bit less, it did keep us from being too chilly while trying to gaze at the stars.

After hitting the hay and a relatively peaceful night’s sleep, we took our time coming off the mountain. Gorgeous, silvery light poured onto every branch. I couldn’t stop myself from sighing at each sight and trying to consume as much as I could. This may be one of our last backpacking trips of the season so I may as well get my fill.

Grouse Lake, Desolation Wildnerness, CA
Morning sunlight streams onto Grouse Lake

2 Replies to “Back to Hemlock Lake and the serenity that ensues”

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