Many of Jack Kerouac's fans have made pilgrimmages to Desolation to experience the place he wrote about in his novels The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. If you decide to make the trip, remember in the snow-free months of late summer and early fall, there is no water on Desolation; it must be packed in, or gathered from a sometimes-running spring a couple of miles from the top. The National Park Service requires a backcountry permit (which is free) for overnight trips, no campfires allowed. The Park Service regulations can seem restrictive, but they are for the best, preserving and protecting these incredible, mystical places. Despite the bugs on the trail, the lack of water and the relentlessly steep grade of the trail, the hike is worth it for the stunning alpine vistas stretching out in all directions.
Vincent Balestriexults in the surrounding peaks on the summit of Winchester Mountain, where a fire lookout cabin of the same design as Desolation's was used to shoot interior scenes. The nighttime cabin scenes were shot entirely by candlelight -- 25 candlepower! -- on ASA 500 film.
Beat Angel made two trips to Desolation Peak, a location-scouting trip by Hunter Mann and Randy followed by the six-man shooting expedition.
In the middle of his first night alone in the Desolation lookout, Kerouac awoke and was startled when he mistook Mt. Hozomeen for a bear at his window.
Above, far right: the rock at Hunter's left is, as far as we could determine, Jack's "Buddha Rock" on which he took his morning meditations, gazing at the stolid stone mass of Hozomeen.
Kerouac's Desolation - on location with Beat Angel in the North Cascades mountains
elevation 6300 ft.
The fire lookout cabin was erected by the Forest Service in the 1920s and is still in use today, manned by volunteers during the hot, dry summer months.
copyright 2006 Beat Angel Productions LLC
Frank Tabbita ponders the climb
Hunter Mann walking toward the cabin,
Mount Hozomeen in the background.
The North Cascades are called "the American Alps."
Carl Petit (left) holds the camera battery and zoom lens as Randy grabs a wide-angle shot. The Swiss-made Bolex camera used here is a precision instrument, yet very rugged and reliable. A small, collapsible camera dolly (not shown) was used for some shots.
Nick Bongianni on the doorstep of the Desolation Lookout cabin. (see Sherpas)