A Damp, Drizzly November

An early Desolation Wilderness hike. Overlooking the Velma lakes and Tahoe in the distance.

By: Mike Mullen | Added about 11 years ago.

It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. -- Herman Melville

This Herman Melville quote about the sea has always resonated with me, and it sums up nicely how I feel about the mountains. In the spring of 2013 I found myself in the midst of a truly damp, drizzly November of the soul. I was at a dead end in my career of 10 years and seeking, without much luck, a new direction. After growing up on the north shore of Lake Tahoe I had lived on the east coast for many years and had recently returned to the Bay Area.

A year earlier I had started coming up to Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness for day trips. The trips started as an escape from the day to day routine, and soon developed into something more. While hiking in the mountains I felt at home, comfortable and energized in a way that was deeply renewing to my spirit.

During this period of uncertainty about the direction of my work life, and a growing connection to the mountains, the clichéd question of, “what would you do if you could do anything?” was posed to me at a party. Without much hesitation I said, “make a book of photographs of the lakes of the Sierra Mountains.” That night it occurred to me that while visiting every lake in the Sierra was not feasible at this point in my life, visiting the lakes within Desolation Wilderness was something I could accomplish.

I counted the named lakes of Desolation Wilderness and the ones I had already visited and discovered I had seen only a small portion. With so much to see and explore I resolved to visit and photograph each lake within the boundaries of Desolation Wilderness. A website quickly took shape as a vehicle for recording and sharing both the experiences and results of this project. And so I invite you to join me as I explore the Lakes of Desolation.

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