A Desolation Wilderness Backcountry Elopement

Cody and Victoria may be one of the few couples we’ve talked to whose wedding plans didn’t change because of COVID. As it turned out, their dream of a backpacking elopement was the perfect way to get married in the summer of 2020!

No strangers to adventure, these two moved together from Arizona to Tahoe after just five months of dating. Now, 4 years later, they have fully embraced the Tahoe lifestyle and all of the activities it has to offer: skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking.

Having taken numerous backpacking trips to Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness, Cody and Victoria felt it would be the perfect, remote place to say their vows to each other. And, like any wilderness adventure, once they had a destination in mind, the planning came down to gear and logistics.

They purchased backcountry permits for camping at the remote alpine lake and then began to tackle wedding details. Would friends and family be able to hike for 6 miles and camp for two nights? Would they be able to carry everything they needed for the wedding… on their backs? What is the best way to keep a suit and dress from getting wrinkled on a hike?

As it turned out, only two of Cody and Victoria’s friends – Duncan and Ciara, plus photographer Jocelyn Noel – were willing to go on this adventure with them. The bride attached her bouquet and wedding boots to the outside of her pack, and Cody hung his suit on the outside of his pack in a trash bag.

They kept expenses to a minimum with a firm DIY ethos. Victoria found an affordable dress option on Amazon and did her own hair and makeup. Duncan became an ordained officiant in order to do the honors. And they saved money on a cake because… well, you can’t hike with a wedding cake!

The group started their hike on elopement day just after sunrise, keeping an easy pace to enjoy the views. The day started out bright and sunny, with thunder clouds starting to gather just as they arrived at camp. Cody, Victoria, and their friends began to set up with Jocelyn, their photographer, scrambled on the rocks scouting for a location.

While Cody and Victoria popped some canned champagne and took portrait photographs, Duncan and Ciara handcrafted their favorite tacos, complete with handmade salsa and guac – easily the best backpacking dinner ever.

The storm clouds kept building but besides a few stray rain drops, skirted around the lake. The light was stunning and changed every few minutes from dark and dramatic to bright and warm. Directly after the ceremony, a perfect rainbow grew straight up from the lake.

If you’re not sold on a backpacking elopement yet, might we add that the day’s sunset was pure Sierra magic, and the night sky offered up a sparkling Milky Way for good luck? And, on their first morning as a married couple, Cody and Victoria went for an alpine lake swim followed by fresh coffee. And, in Lake Tahoe, just doesn’t get any better than that!

Jocelyn Noel