Tahoe Rim Trail-Starting Out

Click here to go to the start of this journey. a-lake-viewBeing used to Eastern Daylight time, it was difficult to stay in bed until 6, but I managed. After taking my last shower for the next 5 or 6 days I wandered down to the America’s Best Value Hotel’s free continental breakfast. There was coffee and OJ, but all the food options were prepackaged buns and doughnuts. Actually, it was a perfect way to prep my system for all the processed and freeze dried food I’d be eating over the next 170 miles; so, I was good.

After rechecking everything one last time, I began walking through Tahoe City for the half mile to the trail. My pack was heavy with 3 liters of water. While I started right next to the lake, I wouldn’t be near it for long. Once I hit the trail, I began my clockwise circle with a moderate but long upgrade, leaving the lake and its 6,225 foot elevation behind. Despite the cool (39 degree) morning, I was down to a t-shirt and shorts almost immediately. 

Climbing through the pine forest, I heard a few birds, but also an ongoing drone. Sweat bees were everywhere. None of them stung, but every time I stopped, especially if I was in the sun, they would swarm around me. 

As I climbed, I started getting better and better views of Lake Tahoe, though it was a bit hazy over the lake and into the morning sun. Looking away from the lake had some nice views into the surrounding mountains. When I stopped for a snack, the bees moved in, so I made it quick.

Early view away from the lake
Early view away from the lake

After an hour or so I covered myself in sunscreen as there wasn’t a cloud to be seen and the forest was fairly open. There was no need to treat my lower legs as they were quickly protected by a layer of dust from the dry trail. 

Through the morning I passed several mountain bikers and a couple day hikers. The path was easy to follow and any intersections were marked well enough. Only met one backpacker and he was going the other way, seemingly on a mission. He barely raised his head long enough to say hey. 

With the climb and photo breaks, I was averaging about 1 1/2 miles per hour. At that pace I’d make Watson Lake and the first water by about 4. It was 13.5 miles in, so it seemed like that would make a good first day. At five miles, the trail peaked at 7,600 feet and bounced between 7,200 and 7,800 for the rest of the day. At around mile ten, the trail began to follow what was once a road. It had grown back, but was relatively flat and straight. The sky remained clear and the air was warm, but not hot. Despite a bit of heal pain, I made good time through the afternoon. The sweat bees encouraged me to keep moving as well. 

It was around 3 when I arrived at Watson Lake with a half liter of water to spare. It seemed early to stop for the day, plus there was a road to the spot and I’d probably have company. Only hours into the hike, I wasn’t yet craving the sound of a human voice. So, I filtered a couple liters of water, loaded up with 2 more and kept walking. It would be seventeen miles to the next water. 

In another half mile I spotted a nice spot just right for one tent. Shaded by some big pines, there were relatively few bees. With the pack weighed down w 4 liters of water, it was an easy decision to call it a day. The tent was quickly up and I laid inside for a bit until hunger called me back out. Mountain House Beef Stew. Yum. A breeze kept the bugs at bay, with the air turning a bit chilly once sundown arrived. 

Some of the information I had researched before leaving spoke of bear canisters being a good Idea. Since I had one from hiking the JMT, I went ahead and brought it. It adds about two pounds to the pack, but it saves time each evening searching for the right branch to hang the food. The “Bearikade” was chock full, but everything fit into it except my hand sanitizer.  I stuck it into the triple fork of a nearby tree. 

Once the sun was down, a half-moon began shining bright. The temperature dropped significantly and I was wearing my fleece and down vest when hit the bag around 8:30. first-night-tent

Morning arrived clear and cool and the first few, downhill miles went fast. I was getting back down near the lake level and the forest was relatively thick. Once at the Brockway Trailhead though, things began to change. From 7,000 feet the trail began a long climb. After a couple miles of climbing, I arrived at View Point and a gorgeous overlook of the lake. It was near there that I met Lydia and her dog. They were thru-hiking in the other direction. She was on day 7, having started at Big Meadow. I let her know the water situation ahead and wished her luck. At her current pace, I thought I’d see her again on the other side of the lake, but never did.

View Point
View Point

The TRT is extremely well marked for the most part. Some of the signs gave very detailed directions; far beyond an arrow.a-trail-sign

The trail continued to climb and after around 13 miles for the day I arrived at Mt Rose Wilderness. Through here things were wide open for miles and I began to bake in the sun while continuing to climb.

Mt Rose Wilderness
Mt Rose Wilderness

Another couple miles got me to the Grey Lake cutoff. By this point I had climbed to well over 9,000 feet. It was over a half mile downhill to the lake, but was the only sure water in the area. I arrived to find a beautiful creek with cold water flowing into the lake. It was a good thing as my water bottles were empty.

Thought about moving on, but by then it was 4 pm and the climb back out would have been rough at the end of the day. Plus, I would have had to carry extra water out to dry camp. After arguing with myself for a bit, I finally decided to park it. The creek water was so cold it hurt my feet as I cleared the dust off them. Very tasty too (the water, not my feet). 

Cold, clear and tasty
Cold, clear and tasty

There were several nice spots to camp around the lake. A couple more hikers showed up at around 6. They had one more day to complete their thru-hike. It turned out to be a nice quiet evening around the lake.

What’s next?

A Spin Around the Tahoe Rim Trail – Part 1

img_5024In the past, I have always driven to my backpacking destinations. Dealing with getting from the airport to the trail, picking up stove fuel and the like always seemed like more hassle than the drive. Last year, after driving from Cincinnati to Vermont (twice) for the Long Trail and California for the JMT, I began to reconsider. The Tahoe Rim Trail, which is a 170 mile circle and an easy shuttle from the Reno, NV airport seemed like a good one to try. With some research, I found that the town of  Tahoe City has a hotel and an “outdoor” store within walking distance of the trail. The hotel, an America’s Best Value Inn, was a shuttle stop, actually wasn’t a bad value and would hold a bag of clean clothes for me while I hiked. Sold! I bought my plane ticket (about $350) for September 7. The initial plan was to hike the trail in 11 days, but I gave myself up to 13 days to hike before my return flight.

After a 2 ½ hour flight to Dallas and another 3 ½ to Reno, the plane began to drop into a dry and brown desert. I started to worry that my pack might end up heavier than the low 30s I was planning on.

My pack and I arrived in one piece at about 1 pm. I was carrying an almost new Osprey Exos 58. (Thanks to Osprey for replacing my old one, which began to deteriorate after about 1,500 trail miles, under warranty.) After an hour-long shuttle I was checked in at the hotel with the afternoon free to make final preparations and explore.

This label on nearly every can in town made me glad I was using my bear canister.
This label on nearly every can in town made me glad I was using my bear canister.

My first stop was Alpenglow outdoor store, right down the street. There I got some stove fuel, friendly service and a big load of concern. The guy at the counter said he thought the trail was dry for 50 miles past Watson Lake (my first night stop). Crap! Fifty miles is a helluva long way to carry water. That much weight in my pack could be a backbreaker for me. (In case you’re wondering, long sections of the TRT are nowhere near Lake Tahoe. It’s not like I would be able to dip a cup in the lake whenever I got thirsty.)

I made a phone call to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and they confirmed that their website was correct; the trail was dry, but not that dry. There would be water where I was planning on it. Whew. It was definitely time to head to the Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company to settle my nerves and have a late lunch.

Not being a huge fan of heavy, craft beers, I asked the barmaid what they had that was close to Bud Light. Her reply was, “We have water,” but she gave me a sample of a brew that worked. The TRT website warned that sweat bees were thick around the northern part of the trail. Perhaps it was not a good omen that I got stung in the back while sitting at the bar.

Lake Tahoe was low, but beautiful as always.
Lake Tahoe was low, but beautiful as always.

I spent the rest of the day checking out the beautiful lake, walking to the trail (1/2 mile) and repacking the pack. Dropping off a small case of clean clothes at the front desk and a Mexican dinner next door at the Blue Agave completed all my tasks. There was nothing left to do but wait until morning and start walking.

Unusual decor at the Blue Agave
Unusual décor at the Blue Agave

What’s next?