Thursday, October 18, 2012

Desolation Wilderness (El Dorado forests), near Tahoe

Pictures of Desolation Wilderness.

True to it's name, Desolation Wilderness area is one of the best place for hiking. It's a true wilderness experience, with pristine lakes and spectacular mountains scenery. You can approach the trails through the south, north, east or west side.

For our very first time in the area, we chose the trail from Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha.

From US 50 highway, if coming from Sacramento, turn left onto Echo Summit Rd/Johnson Pass Rd and then turn left onto Echo Lakes Rd/Forest Route 11N05/Porcuine Rd. Continue to follow Echo Lakes Rd and you will shortly see a parking lot on your left. It is the Echo Chalet. (You can look for directions to Echo Chalet on google maps).
Parking is sufficient and is free. This area is under the El Dorado National Forests Services and has several trails and some campgrounds. For camping, permits are required but not for day users. Day users just need to sign in or get a permit from the self-kiosk at the beginning of the trail. There is a small store and some toilets at the beginning of the trail. Toilets are not clean at all, so be prepared ahead of time.

It is around 12-miles round trip with not many people on the trail, which makes it even better. Most people backpack there. There is 2 miles of uphill one way, while going up towards Lake Aloha and the terrain is quite rocky.

There are several short trails on the sides, on the trail, that you can take to increase your hiking mileage. For people who want to cut the main trail short by 3 miles each way, there are water taxis available after 2-3 miles of going up. The water taxis are not open all the time, so check before hand.

We went in September end and needed a jacket, even when it was sunny. Totally worth it and now I have to look for the next trail at Desolation Wilderness for our next hike.

The Great Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival

Pictures of the event: Hot Air Balloon show.

The pictures of the balloons say it all. Reno Balloon festival, which is held every year in the 1st or 2nd week of September is one of the very best things that I have seen. The event is held at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. Huge lighted balloons dancing in the sky at night and then in the morning, is absolutely fabulous. It is a feast to the eyes.
We went there in Sep 2012. Stayed in a hotel at Reno overnight to catch the show early morning, when it is still the dark at 5am on Saturday. The same show is presented both Saturday and Sunday, though it might change every year. The information is easily available on their website. We stayed at El Dorado Casino and hotel. It was a decent hotel and good to stay for a night.

There is a shuttle service to the event area in the morning which leaves around the downtown area, which was 7-8 mins walk from our hotel. No one really had the correct information about the bus service but we figured it out. The first bus leaves at 4am and the second one at 4:30am (not sure if there are 2 or more). We took the 4am bus so that we could be in the park on time and have a place secured for ourselves and our lawn chairs. Thankfully, the bus was not over-crowded since it was too early for some people. I would recommend taking the shuttle and not taking the car to the park for parking since parking is very limited.

Carrying lawn chairs or something to sit on and a blanket, is a good idea. Yes blanket, since it gets very cold out there. You can keep going as far as you can inside the park, to catch a closer view of the balloons. It's easy to figure out. There are a lot of food stalls including coffee stalls and porta pottys inside the park, close to where the event takes place. The lines are really long as the event is attended by lot many people than you would imagine.

As I mentioned before, it gets pretty cold in the park, even in September. We thought it was an insane idea to carry anything warm with us, but it was an excellent idea to carry jacket, gloves and a cap. We needed them all and still felt cold, as the early morning kept progressing, until the sun fully showed up.

The main events generally end around 11am - noon. It was a spectacular event. Plenty of great photo opportunities. I am pretty sure I would want to go there every year!

For more pictures, please click here: Hot Air Balloon show