Ted's Hiking World Floating Island Lake
Desolation Wilderness

July 18, 2007

Today's original destination, a 9,200-foot mountain peak, was changed due to rain on the drive into the mountains, accompanied by heavy cloud cover and significant winds.  I opted for a more mellow two-mile hike up a portion of the Mount Tallac Trail in the Tahoe Basin.

An improperly written message on the big sign at the trailhead admonishes hikers to bury their waste 6' (that's six feet) deep, and leave no trace.  That I'd like to see.

The trail ascends, then follows a ridge-top, which has been burned off.  Apparently this conflagration was intentional, because only the little ridge itself was affected.  After climbing for a while, a nice view of Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe provides a respite from the dusty, uninteresting trail, which today is bereft of wildflowers.  Just a few scraggly paintbrush and a couple of buckwheat are in evidence.

Fallen Leaf Lake, with Lake Tahoe behind

After about half a mile, the burned area is left behind.  A fairly steep climb ensues, and presently Floating Island Lake appears.  This body is renowned for the little tufts of mud and grass that sometimes break away from the shore; but there are no islands today.

Floating Island Lake 

No floating objects today

This area clearly is not a popular destination in itself — no usage trail around the shore, no campsites, no evidence of human interest.  Out of habit I bushwhack my way around the lake anyway, glancing up just in time to capture a shot of Mount Tallac before storm clouds obliterate the remaining sunlight.

Mount Tallac 2,500 feet above, at 9724*

Before completing the circuit, I stumble upon another trail heading down beside the dry creek bed.  Although this path clearly has been unmaintained for years — there being numerous fallen trees to circumvent — it is compellingly easy on the feet.  There is no gruss here as on the main route — just tree bark and pine needles.

Unmaintained old trail

This must be the original trail.  Perhaps they moved it to create a somewhat more direct route up Mount Tallac, which is most hikers' sole reason for being here at all.  Having not planned this particular hike, I have no map, so there is no knowing exactly where this path leads; but what the hell — sooner or later it must run into Highway-89, so how bad can it be?  Rain is threatening, but no drops have fallen yet.

The trail becomes pretty rough as I continue down, but then I unexpectedly encounter a green area.  There actually are some flowers around, including purple thistles and a stand of tall alpine lilies.

Mountain Onion

These Alpine Lilies are more than six feet tall

The stamens on the yampah resemble the space ships that invaded earth in the original "War of the Worlds" movie.


The trail ends unmarked in a summer home tract, which probably is the actual reason why the trailhead was relocated.  Although it is three miles by road back to the car, a cross-country option through Camp Shelly cuts a mile off that distance.

§: This hike would have been more rewarding had I continued at least to Cathedral Lake, which reputedly is much more scenic than disappointing Floating Island Lake.  Either way, walking through a burned area is not my idea of fun.

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