Backcountry bunk house near Desolation may open year-round
For a change, the state of California is telling the federal government the check is in the mail.
Unfortunately, it’s winter users interested in Desolation Wilderness waiting in the wing.
The Pacific District of El Dorado National Forest hopes that funds promised by the state of California for the construction of an emergency shelter near Loon Lake soon will appear in its bank account.
The emergency shelter would prompt the Forest Service to open Van Vleck Bunkhouse for year-round access.
“For some reason we got the collection agreement back, but the money never got deposited in the account,” said Dave Boyer, a recreation officer with the Pacific District on Wednesday. “It may just be delayed in processing.”
The worst-case scenario, however, is that the financially strapped state may be pulling the unencumbered funds back, he said.
Currently, the bunk house, which is located about a mile from the western edge of Desolation Wilderness, is a popular stay for summer users.
It’s closed in winter because the Pacific District believes the long hike is more dangerous in winter.
“It’s benign territory, but it could be easy for folks to get disoriented,” said Monte Hendricks, senior patroller for El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol. “The storm shelter decision is probably a wise one.”
The Van Vleck Bunkhouse is popular because it is accessible by a variety of users. The facility also gives users unique access to a part of Desolation that is seldom seen — especially in winter.
“It’s gorgeous terrain,” Hendricks said. “There’s very little use out there … Being non-mechanized but non-wilderness allows a little bit more recreational development, like backcountry huts.”
The Pacific District approached the state with a winter trails grant request after a group of backcountry skiers based in Sacramento started raising funds to build the shelter.
The grant would allow a contractor to build the facility and then transport it to the location through special Forest Service permission.
The bunkhouse, which is due west of Tells Peak in the Crystal Range, has been completed renovated with a new well, space for six, a front and back porch, flushable toilets, propane lights, new floors, walls and roof and a new kitchen.
It can be reserved by going to http://www.reserveusa.com
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