Tahoe Rim Trail – Halfway and Beyond

Click here to get to the start of this journey. The bus into South Tahoe took me to the Stateline Transit Center which happened to be next door to the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel where I had a reservation for the night. The place was very nice; maybe too nice for a hiker, but I wasn’t complaining. I had picked it after a short Internet search because it was next to a bus stop, had a laundry on site, accepted a mailed resupply package and had a room available. At $120 per night, it was more than other lodging in the area, but also much fancier. My “suite” had a separate living area, three TVs and a spectacular shower. My opinion of the shower may have been affected by it being my first shower in nearly a week though. On top of that, they had a daily happy hour with $2 beer and free snacks. It looked like my evening was set.

Heading down to Happy Hour

Heading down to Happy Hour

Checking the TV weather forecast, there was indeed rain approaching. The next day (Tuesday) was looking like it could be a wash out. Since I had plenty of time to finish the trail before my flight back, I made the less than difficult decision to stay in the lap of luxury another night. Unfortunately, when I tried to book a 2nd night, they stated they were full. Back to the web where I found a room a block away. I’d be moving to the Alpine Inn. It was slightly lower on the indulgence scale, but at $55/night, the cost matched the opulence. My room was clean, so it was fine. 

Beyond switching hotels and strolling a quarter mile to Sports LTD for a fresh fuel canister, the “day off” was chore free. The rain fizzled out by mid-morning so the cool cloudy day would have been perfect for hiking. It was also perfect for relaxing and my legs weren’t protesting about the day off. I visited the lakefront, the Explore Tahoe Visitor Center, a couple great restaurants and, of course, the $2 Happy Hour. In addition, just across the street was Nevada and a couple casinos. Since I feel that backpacking solo is enough of a gamble, I steered clear of those.

Big casinos start at the Nevada line.

Big casinos start at the Nevada line, just down the street.

Morning found me on the first bus (7:20 AM) heading back to the trail and by 8 AM I was off the bus, the side trail and back on the TRT. The bear canister was full, but with more water available on this half of the trail, I was only carrying two liters.

Despite being near the southwest corner of the lake, the trail continued heading in a generally southern direction for the next 25 miles, getting well away from regular views of the lake. The path climbed into taller mountains that still harbored significant snow near their peaks. The big granite boulders were reminiscent of hiking near Yosemite. Lunch was by Star Lake, a beautiful snow fed spot where I refilled my water before continuing the climb.

Time for lunch

Time for lunch

The grade was moderate, but unrelenting until I made it to Freel Pass. At 9,700 feet there were some tremendous views. Along the way I passed a couple pushing their bikes/camping equipment up the trail. The woman talked to me about how hard it was to push her load up the hill. It didn’t look fun. At a certain point the bike just became a poorly designed wheelbarrow. Of course when they flew by on the next downgrade she was not complaining. 

Dropping from Freel Pass, the trail was etched into a pretty steep mountainside. As I stepped aside (as much as possible) to let a few mountain bikers by, one told me, “Thank you so much! I’m scared to death of heights!” It never ceases to amaze me how often I meet people scared of heights while I’m “in heights.” She was not enjoying her chosen recreation.

Looking south of Freel Pass

Looking south of Freel Pass

With about 16 miles in for the day, I was hiking the high, wide ridge of Freel Meadow. There were great views of either the distant Lake Tahoe to the north or impressive mountains to the south. It seemed like a good spot to stop for the night and I picked a spot with a southern view. With the tent sitting exposed at about 9,200 feet, it looked like it could be a cold night. IMG_5224

Now what?