Friday, August 4, 2017

The Echo Lakes trailheads

Riding a water taxi toward the Upper Echo Lake pier and PCT trailhead
The Echo Lakes feature three starting points for hikers and backpackers heading from the east toward the Desolation Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) traverses the northside granite slopes above the Lower Echo Lake and Upper Echo Lake. The single-track PCT is accessible from those lake-level, pier-side trailheads.

The main trailhead is located next to the Echo Lake Chalet at the eastern tip of the lower lake, from where the southbound PCT leads via Echo Summit to the Meiss Meadows and Carson Pass and the northbound PCT connects the Chalet with lakes in the Desolation Wilderness, including Tamarack Lake (3.8 miles), Lake of the Woods (5.3 miles) and Lake Aloha (6.1 miles). For other lake destinations and distances, see the USDA Echo Lakes Trailhead table.

An on-demand water taxi service is offered by the Chalet (current one-way fees: $14.00 per person, $5.00 per dog and free for non-walking infants); shaving 2.5 miles (one-way) off your trip into the Desolation Wilderness. The water taxi takes you to a pier in the northwest corner of Upper Echo Lake, connected with the PCT via a short lateral. 

The Echo Lakes channel requires navigation skills

The offered boat rides across the Lower and the Upper Echo Lake are speedy and fun. My favorite part of the ride, however, is the slow, scenic passage at five miles per hour through the shallow and narrow channel connecting the two lakes—connecting them until the water level falls too low. When this happens, typically at the end of summer, the boats land at an alternative pier in the northwest corner of Lower Echo Lake. There as well, a lateral connects the pier with the PCT, about two miles northwest from the Chalet trailhead.

Our captain safely maneuvered the boat through the channel
Inside our boat, which we took on a July 2017 hiking trip, I noticed a small plaque saying “Our Captain is always right. Misinformed perhaps, sloppy, crude, bullheaded, fickle, even stupid, but, never wrong.” Never mind. We had a great experience: Our captain was nice, smart and informative, making the taxi ride a perfect start out into the lake-rich wilderness

An Echo Lakes channel scene: wild hair, rustic cabins

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