Tahoe Rim Trail: Day Six

Day Six – 20 July 2018 – Friday

Marlette Peak Campground (8228ft; mile 54) to Kingsbury North TH (7769ft; mile 76)

21.6 miles today of 183.4 miles total

3,218ft gain

My final day. Longer miles than anticipated. But I so look forward to that post trail meal.

While hiking I met this great team of guys. All 65+ year olds out thru hiking. There were four in total. Three PCT alums and one thru novice. They are part of a larger group of military friends who come together every year for a trip together. This year they spent a couple weeks doing trail maintenance before these few came over to the TRT for a bonus finale to their friend reunion. When I caught up to the first guy, he said he was behind the group because he had gone off trail at Spooner Summit to get water down at Spooner Lake. These guys are total badasses. Each one has had a lifetime of experience and story. When I first got on trail, I bought a 3 gallon water job thinking I might leave myself a water cache. But then I ended up starting within the dry section so didn’t need it. The point of detailing it now is that these guys were pretty worried about being in the beginning of the dry section and not being able to make big enough miles to reach enough water without each loading up under way too much weight. So I told them I would leave my water for them at the Kingsbury North TH. I never exchanged email, but I truly hope the water helped them get through the section.

I reached my vehicle at about 2PM. I stripped down my stinky hiking clothes, put on fresh clothes for driving, and finally dealt with my poor toe. It was swollen twice its size and extremely red and angry. My poor toe.

Anyway, I drove back to Stateline for victory food and beer. It was incredible timing. As I sat down for food, a torrential downpour broke the sky. I loitered at the restaurant and then took a quick nap in my Escape before hitting the road. I after the rain calmed down, I drove all the way back to Santa Barbara via Highway 395. The trip was mostly in that same downpour. But it was beautiful to watch the roiling clouds. And by the time I reached Mount Whitney, I was blessed with one of those stunning, post-storm sunsets that lit the sky on fire.

In the end, I am happy. The trail was too short, but it recharged my soul. Until next time.

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day Five

Day Five – 19 July 2018 – Thursday

Picnic Rock above Tahoe Vista (7544ft; mile 22) to Marlette Peak Campground (8228ft; mile 54)

33.8 miles today of 161.8 miles total

5,581ft gain

This morning was a dream! The weather was beautiful, views were stunning, the trail was easy moving. I loved it! I felt great. After the onset of tired feet, this morning I felt like a new woman.

On trail I met a nice man named Rich. He was carrying a 30 lbs pack for training hiking in preparation to summit Mount Whitney. He said it had been 20 years since he last summited. I hope his training goes well!

Then I hiked upon a surprise waterfall in Mt Rose Wilderness. While stopped by the cool water in the shade, I met Jean and Betty Friedberg from Boulder, Colorado. They were incredibly nice people. They even invited me to wine whenever I visit the Boulder area next. Betty even shared a freshet towel with me for an impromptu trail shower. They seem like genuinely welcoming people with very interesting lives.

After such a strong morning, the afternoon heat wore me out. I felt like I was riding the struggle bus to an extreme. It felt like I was moving at a snail’s pace. Mt Rose Wilderness was so hot, exposed, and with little water. Because of this, I carried way more water than I should have, which didn’t help with the onset of soreness, tiredness, and crankiness. To top it off, I tripped and kicked a rock really hard with the kind of power that I could feel my big toe nail disconnect from its root. Looking at is tonight, my nail bed is very swollen and red. And somehow I lost my safety pins this morning packing up. I had two pinned against my hip belt pocket this whole time. So now I cannot even drain the blood blister fluid. I have a pocket knife, but it seems too coarse for the job. Plus it hurt really bad just to press on the skin even with my fingers.

Anyway, I will longer miles tomorrow than I wanted. I didn’t plan much food for my last day. I hope to get a super early start and make most the distance before the heat kicks in. Sleep now.

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day Four

Day Four – 18 July 2018 – Wednesday

Tahoe City (6250ft; mile 0) to Picnic Rock above Tahoe Vista (7544ft; mile 22)

23.4 miles today of 128 miles total

4,687ft gain

I decided to take a leisurely morning in Tahoe City. Even on such a short trip, I enjoyed a short day to eat deliciously fresh food. I left town around 11AM. And true to any town hiatus, I lost track of my brain and somehow paused my Strava tracker at lunch time and missed recording some odd miles between my noon lunch and 2pm break. Today was really quiet. Since I am no longer on or near the PCT, I mostly saw only mountain bikers. I chatted with one really interesting mountain biker and eventually saw several friendly day hikers.

Today was also hot! I am presently heading into the scarce water section. I had to dry camp tonight, which is fine, but it always upsets me to haul out from a water source fully loaded down knowing I would probably drink more freely if not conscious of water conservation. The ways of the trail…

I am really stoked on having new snacks! I stocked up in Tahoe City. I am learning that supply as I go is not so bad. Despite being committed to my PhD right now, I am always taking in skills and knowledge for future trails and explorations.

My feet are beginning to feel fatigued. I think they needed the half day break in town as much as I did. Hopefully they will hold out another 60 miles!

Plus, the short day ended me at Picnic Rock. This is a popular viewpoint of the lake. The side trail is only 3 miles roundtrip, but don’t let that fool you. It’s an 830 foot vertical gain on smooth singletrack switchbacks. I caught a stunning sunset at the vista. So worth the added miles! The only downside was my misguided idea that I could stealth camp at the vista. Turns out that Picnic Rock is infested with chipmunks. One particular furry little bugger joined me in a majestic pose to share the beautiful sunset. So I continued on my way a few miles to get away from the food-fiending critters.

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day Three

Day Three – 17 July 2018 – Tuesday

Gilmore Lake (8327ft; mile 133) to Tahoe City (6250ft; mile 0)

40.0 miles today of 104.6 miles total

5,314ft gain

Gilmore Lake was the perfect place to camp last night! Dick’s Pass also would have been amazing, but so happy about my morning. The sunrise over the lake this morning was incredible!

Today I saw a yellow bird with dark stripes and a bright orange head. I am terrible at bird IDs, so if anyone has an idea, please let me know! I met three thru hikers today: Twizzler, who unfortunately lost his phone on the trail somewhere and was in desperate search mode, and his companions, Songbird and Spooky. I also hiked past trail crews today. I always love seeing these generous souls helping improve and tend to the trails, the places I call home.

Today felt great! Big miles and all smiles (taking a page from my trail idol, Smiles and Miles!)! I gained a fifth wind, so to speak, when I discovered I had full service five miles from Tahoe City and there was a cheap room in town. I booked the room and then booked the last five miles. This turned out to be a great plan as I rounded the trail close to town, where I had been planning to stealth camp, to find an obnoxiously loud camp or cabin too close and a mama bear with cub meandering across the trail. I didn’t need another sign to finish hiking into town. Plus, I didn’t pack my bug net for my tarp, and the incessant buzz of mosquitos drives me to an irrational place. They rarely even bite except for my face and feet. Mostly they just buzz around my face and make me crazy.

I hiked exactly 40 miles today. I could not have planned today so perfectly. I hiked into Tahoe City about 8:40PM. Late but very worth it. At the hotel I scrubbed my body like no tomorrow. Unfortunately most of the restaurants are only open until 9PM, so I ended up walking half a mile to find supper at Bridgetender Tavern and Grill. I ate a delicious veggie burrito with chips and salsa. I almost stopped for dessert, but it was already way past hiker midnight. My body sure aches.

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day Two

Day Two – 16 July 2018 – Monday

Big Meadow (7651ft; mile 105.3) to Gilmore Lake (8327ft; mile 133)

29.3 miles today of 64.6 miles total

5,305ft gain

Today felt long. The trail joined the PCT a few miles after hitting the trail and I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and impatience. The TRT and PCT overlap for about 50 miles. I didn’t anticipate how mentally challenging that was going to be for me. I mean this is a beautiful section, and not that many people actually got to hike it my year due to the big fire on trail back at Ebbetts Pass. I only barely made it through the day the fires started in 2015 because of a big 32 plus mile day on the summer solstice, when I had only anticipated a short 22 miles day.

Anyway, recalling memories caused the miles to move slowly by. It felt like I was moving slowly at least. I also stopped a lot and was in a surprisingly chatty mood. I met several TRT people, but none were planning faster miles. I then met a group of PCT SoBo’ers. Technically they were all only doing sections, not the full Canada to Mexico, but I was excited to talk. It felt like catching up with old friends, despite none of us having ever met before. These instant friends are Loner, Lady Meow Meow, and Milkshake. I also met two guys, a younger and older, who are NoBo PCTers. We all stopped at the Echo Lakes Chalet around the same time. While leaving Susie Lake to make a last haul up to Gilmore Lake for the night, I met another woman with her dog. She started last year but was turned off due to snow. This would seem a bit far south for any regular PCTers. But mid July I was almost finished with California. Long ways to go for NoBos!

I decided to call an early night tonight. Catch up on last night’s journaling, get a good leg rub in, eat the veggie and avocado sandwich I bought at the Chalet, and get a swim in before bed. All checked! Mostly I wasn’t sure I wanted to try for Dick’s Pass and then hike two more miles for the lake. At the risk of not finding as many campsites there, I called it early. I will be trying to make up those five miles tomorrow with an early start. The trail tomorrow should depart from the PCT and then stay up on the rim overlooking Lake Tahoe, so I think the miles should be easier. And it will put me as close to Tahoe City as I can go and still camp for free. I am very happy the miles haven’t been as brutal as they could have been. The TRT could have been my defeat for this summer. I mean there’s still time, but I feel good for now.

The mosquitos are ruthless tonight, so I am tucking in. I didn’t bring my bug net on my tent, so I will need to literally tuck in until it becomes too cool for them to be out.

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day One

Day One – 15 July 2018 – Sunday

Kingsbury North Trailhead (7769ft; mile 76) to Big Meadow (7651ft; mile 105.3)

35.3 miles today; 35.3 miles total

6,724ft gain

I forget how to be around people sometimes. I notice this the most when I am in nature and I find it challenging to have conversations with strangers. Even when I find the topic interesting. But also in nature is where my brain calms down and I can be at ease again. There is little that is more healing than walking until my feet are numb and my legs want to buckle. Day one and I am happy in my solitude.

I wanted to sleep in this morning, but I made myself wake up. I do not have profiles of the trail, but I vaguely remember Patty and Jeff (my Truckee friends I met on Mt Kilimanjaro) mentioning a big climb at Heavenly, and I started seven miles further back than them on the Daggett Trail alternate. The climb was not too challenging on fresh feet and the shaded morning light. I reached Star Lake at noon like clockwork to my agenda. Unfortunately a big ominous cloud dampened my swimming fun. I hiked on and decided not to let it prevent my summit of Freel Peak, which I summited like a champ! Freel Peak was only one mile off trail, but it sure want easy. About 1,000 feet of climbing relatively straight up. There were many day hikers out for this peak. I even meet a couple at the top who are leaving soon for Tanzania to summit Kilimanjaro. The woman saw Kilimanjaro on my hat. Nature is where these happy moments of serendipity always happen to me.

I have passed many mountain bikers and a few day hikers/runners, but it was not until returning to trail after Freel that I finally ran into other thru hikers. There was a couple who started today at Mott’s Peak, a girl who started from Kingsbury South this morning, and a section hiker getting off at Grassy Lake later today. I saw a bunch more people with large packs at Armstrong Pass, but they did not seem to want outside company. Freel Peak had the most day hikers too. Apparently a popular peak to bag while in Tahoe.

I am loving the scenery. Though my body feels out of shape. And I already find my food disagreeable, a sad lingering dilemma since hiking the PCT. My go to hiking foods are relatively unpalatable compared to the fresh vegetable-filled life I have adapted to since moving to California. The problem is that I used to not mind. Trail food is fuel. It is not supposed to taste good. I eat to shove calories into my body so I can continue hiking. Last weekend while hiking at Whitney Portal, there was a sign asking whether the reader sought an enjoyable experience or suffering. The prompt was to determine whether to attempt the Whitney summit, the summit path equalling suffering. For me though, they are two of the same.

When I decided to stop for the night, it was not my ideal camp site. I had wanted to reach Round Lake for the night, but I was side tracked by a couple at the Big Meadow Trailhead who are section hiking the TRT. They wanted to ask questions about the section I had just hiked. I was happy for the conversation. But I already lost time checking out Luther Campground, which was a mile off trail bust. For overflow camping, it was plum crowded. So I hiked as far as I could, but once it is dark, I stop. So I stopped for the night just beyond Big Meadow where the trees start again. It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. I slept quite well.

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day Zero

Day Zero – 14 July 2018 – Saturday

Driving Santa Barbara (0ft) to Kingsbury North Trailhead (7769ft)

0 miles today

0 miles total

I pushed back my start by a day to accommodate some last minute research responsibilities and summer teaching preparations. After a leisurely morning, I made the long drive up to Tahoe from Santa Barbara. I arrived in time for an early supper in Stateline, where I was not prepared for the crowd of humans and casino-goers. Then I finished the drive to Kingsbury North Trailhead. I am sleeping in my car tonight at the trailhead. There are a few other vehicles parked that leaves me feeling encouraged about leaving my vehicle for a week. I was unprepared for how populated this area is. There is another vehicle camper a short distance from me. They keep setting off their horn. I’ve decided to hike with ear plugs this trip to try it out. I am hoping it will prevent me from losing sleep over critters and deer scurrying around at night. They definitely will come in handy tonight!

The Tahoe Rim Trail is 171 miles of volcanic rock formations, glacially carved valleys, lush meadows packed with wildflowers, dense forests of hemlock, stunning alpine lakes, and a wide span of landscapes and microclimates. I am so excited to start hiking tomorrow!