Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mt. Tallac (& Cathedral Lake & Tallac Bowl) - 7/18/17

Mt. Tallac view near Trailhead

Smokey Morning over Fallen Leaf Lake

Smokey View down to Cathedral Lake

Climbing up to the Ridge
Mt. Tallac is the most popular big peak to hike in Desolation Wilderness. It rises to 9735' and has an elevation gain of 3400' in the 5 miles of ascent. Along the trail, there are a few places to name as destinations such as Floating Island Lake (2 miles), Cathedral Lake (3 miles) and the Tallac Bowl (3.5 miles). Six of today's strenuous hikers made it all the way to the top, five hikers decided that Tallac Bowl was far enough and the remaining numbers of moderate and moderately strenuous hikers stopped at or just above Cathedral Lake. The trailhead is located northwest of Fallen Leaf Lake out of South Lake Tahoe at the end of Mt. Tallac Road A. We arrived early enough to get a prime parking spot and filled out our wilderness permit.

Following the Ridge
 The trail starts up on a gentle but noticeable slope. It follows atop a ridge with views of Fallen Leaf Lake to the left and Lake Tahoe at our backs.

Hikers having Fun
 Mt. Tallac rose at the 2 o'clock position and was still clearly seen in the morning under a thick layer of smoke from a forest fire on the other side of Yosemite NP.

Floating Island Lake

Zigzagging through the Forest
 As we hiked, the smoke thickened but it wasn't until we got past Cathedral Lake that the views were completely obliterated. Nevertheless, we entered the thick forest of Jeffrey Pines and other large/tall trees and were in a sort of fantasy land. The Las Vegas desert doesn't look anything like this! The first lake that we came to was the Floating Island Lake. Word is that sometimes clumps of grass break off the shore and float around. It was very pretty and serene. After that, we started climbing on small switchbacks and crossed a couple of streams. The sound of rushing water tickled our ears. (Another anomaly different from the desert.)

Cathedral Lake
 We arrived at Cathedral Lake where the water seeped over the usual shoreline and paused for a little decision making. Everyone was supposed to decide for themselves how much further they wanted to hike.

Resting at Cathedral Lake (and having fun)
 The writer and four others formed a group and started climbing the granite steps that followed. Views opened up but the smoke had closed in. Cathedral Lake got smaller in our rear view mirror.

Climbing Granite Steps

Onward and Upward
 This was probably the prettiest part of the Mt. Tallac Trail with the exception of the summit views. We switchbacked up through steps. Mt. Tallac's ridge was above us to the right and Cathedral Peak rose pointedly to its left. When we came to another section of trees, we had to cross a shallow but flowing stream just below its small waterfall. Then the stream had to be hiked in for around fifty feet. Next, we came to a snow patch covering the trail. The snow melt had made a snow tunnel along the trail but it was too low to hike through!

Cathedral Peak watches from Above
 The next snow tunnel had already collapsed and, next, we came to a wide open area ... the Tallac Bowl.

Doug climbs above the Smokey Views
 The Tallac Bowl had high walls surrounding one third of the bowl. Cathedral Peak was on one end of the wall. We saw a few hikers that were in front of our group climbing the trail that led up through the rocks in front of us.

Corn Lily, Waterfall, Penstemon and Hmmm!

Collapsed Snow Tunnel
 Hmmm. We considered then decided that the Tallac Bowl was far enough! So, we sat for our break and watched several hikers hike through on their way to the summit. The Bowl was a great destination as far as we were concerned ... especially since the smokey views would likely prohibit the "full" experience from the peak. After our break, we started back down. Upon reaching Cathedral Lake, the moderate hikers were there resting and enjoying the shade. We said "hi," then were summoned by the coordinator to start the descent. Downward, we went.

Hikers climbing past Tallac Bowl
 The pace down was steady but not too fast. A few more photos were taken including a fun one of us holding big fat pine cones from Jeffrey Pine trees.

Resting at Tallac Bowl
 There were a lot of hikers that we passed that were probably not going all the way to the peak.

Hiking back through the Waterfall and Stream

Tricky Crossing
 The photos of Mt. Tallac were very smokey on the way down and even Fallen Leaf Lake was in the haze. We could smell the smoke, too, and that was probably not too good for our health. We returned to the motel only about one or two hours before the peak climbers. They were very pleased with their adventure and told us all about a tension line and a slack line walker up near the peak over an abyss. Sounded crazy! Fun day. Great trail.

Tallac Bowl: 7 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours

Zigzagging back through the Forest

Being Silly with Big Fat Pine Cones from Jeffrey Pines

Back down the Ridge

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