Tahoe Rim Trail Thru-Hike - 165 Miles - Climb/Descent 29500'
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Equipment
[just the slideshow please]
[just the slideshow please]
1 August 2009: Brockway Summit -> Mt. Rose Summit
18.9 miles, 4613' climb, 2875' drop (~ 20/5000'/3200' since I got lost)
We arrived in Truckee around midnight and the alarm went off at 0645. After a hearty breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast with butter and jam, some potatoes that had too much pepper on them) and some last minute organizing, we left the hotel at 0805 and after crossing California State Route 267 and heading up a short service road, I took my first official step on the trail at 0830.
1333: Just stopped for lunch, and had the second of many granola bars and some beef jerky. In addition, I had some of my dried blueberry/cherry vanilla granola mix (1/3 cup berries, 2/3 cup granola). I ran into a few people, but overall, still felt fairly isolated. My Palm Pre ascertained my position and got a good enough signal around noon such that I was able to send Gina my location via the application I wrote. It has been 72 degrees in the shade, around 80 in the sun and the wind has picked up a bit.
1444: Somehow after only 6.25 hours, my GPS claims I am only 1.73 miles from my destination. I am supposed to be hiking 18.9 miles today, and am pretty sure I have not been averaging close to 3 miles per hour, including stops. I also do not think I hiked over Relay Peak, the highest point on the trail. Perhaps I chose poorly at a fork in the trail earlier; I am turning around.
1630: Well, I am pretty sure I am on top of Relay Peak now according to my GPS, 10330'. I backtracked 0.6 miles and 300'+ in elevation to the fork in the trail, and this time I went left...it started raining when I hit 10000' about 20 minutes ago; I almost turned around, but did not hear any thunder. To add insult to injury, after walking another 1.5 miles post-backtracking, I realized I left my hiking pole where I turned around at 1444.
2030: My Tahoe Rim Trail book divided the trail into eight sections. I tore them out so as not to necessitate carrying the whole book every day and unfortunately brought the wrong section today. Had I taken the correct one, I would have known to go left at the fork (need to write to the TRTA about installing a trail marker). Apparently going right leads one to private property, which I promptly trespassed through after reuniting with my hiking pole. I could hear State Route 431 (Mt. Rose Highway) in the distance and kept following the trail as it meandered in that general direction. Eventually the trail ended at a dirt road, and I chose to walk right as it seemed to initially keep me pointed in the correct direction. I passed numerous signs, "Incline Lake Corporation, Private Property", "It Is Illegal To Discharge Firearms On This Property", "Leave Unrecognized Objects Alone, They May be Unexploded Devices Used For Snow Removal". Mosquitoes feasted on my entire body as I kept heading towards the drone of automobiles. Eventually I came to a lake and could see cars on the road about 30 feet above it. After clamoring up a steep embankment, I found myself at an emergency turnout with the GPS claiming I was 1.4 miles from camp. I called Gina and she picked me up. She had purchased some food to cook at Target so we bought wood from the campground host, started a fire and attempted to boil water. We managed to get the water boiling, but perhaps overloaded our tiny mess kit pot as the gnocchi never fully cooked. We threw a tomato and some pesto sauce in and it tasted fine.
2 August 2009: Tahoe Meadows -> North Canyon Camp (via Marlette Lake + Christopher's Loop)
19.8 miles, 2800' climb, 3500' drop
After watching the fire die last night we tried to go to sleep around 2130. Shortly after getting in the tent a tremendous thunderstorm started. The tent acted as a diffuser, so every time there was a lightning strike our entire field of view filled with a bright flash.
1028: We had nectarines for breakfast, and I also finished a granola bar from yesterday. Unfortunately I forgot to eat my celebratory Snickers bar at the end of yesterday's hike. I am about 5 miles into this leg and am pretty sure my pack is a bit heavier than I would like. Too much bug repellent, likely too much food, extra batteries for my headlamp and GPS, etc. Oh well, I am at a nice lookout which I have sketched.
1440: Just finished the Christopher's Loop scenic spur trip. It was definitely worth it, best view of Lake Tahoe yet, and I could also see Marlette Lake. On the way, I came across 2 other thru hikers taking a break. They started at Big Meadow 10 days ago so I think they have about 40 miles to go. They claimed to have not met any other thru-hikers, hard to believe; I wonder how many I will encounter.
The hot spot on the ball of my right foot has been more painful recently and feels squishy. I am not sure if I developed a blister and/or it has already popped. Guess I will find out at camp.
I have seen close to 50 mountain bikers today. They span quite a range of abilities, some fall going around small rocks on mild inclines, while others bike over large rocks on steep inclines. I saw a few get some air riding off a large drop and others who had to walk their bikes over certain sections. All of them have been very courteous. Even though they are supposed to yield to me, I try yielding to them as soon as I hear them coming up behind or see them approach.
1640: I finally arrived at Marlette Lake. I took the hikers only route near Marlette campground. Perhaps I was expecting too much, or I am too late in the season, but the wildflower displays are ho-hum. The Lupine and Paintbrush seem to be in bloom, but the Monkeyweed/Mule's Ear which seem most plentiful, are all dried up. Now I am purifying water from the lake; I ran out earlier than expected as I am probably drinking too much water at the start of my hikes. I was not in any danger of getting dehydrated since, in addition to the 3 liters of water I started with, I have 32 ounces of Gatorade and 16 ounces of Muscle Milk. I need to start paying more attention to my water consumption so I do not end up carrying too much (the first day I had 5 liters of water and 16 ounces of Muscle Milk, which even after the extra hiking due to getting lost was still at least 1.5 liters more fluid than I needed).
There is a chimney here, a monument to a cabin that had been built in 1933, as well as two guys fishing in what look like inner tubes. They keep going on and on about brown trout and rainbow trout, showing each other the fishes they catch (catch and release only).
2017: I have been at North Canyon Camp for almost 2 hours. I set up my tent quickly, just in case it started raining as I heard some thunder, but so far no precipitation. After cleaning my feet I saw that I have developed a blister on my right foot where the big toe meets the ball of the foot. I had put Second Skin on that spot this morning, not sure how much it helped.
I am not hungry enough to eat all the food I brought for the day which means so I am probably not consuming enough calories. I did remember to eat my Snickers bar; I need to eat larger breakfasts. While I was eating, I saw a deer about 20 feet from where I was sitting and a few birds stopped by. It is now 2047 and I am running out of light.
3 August 2009: North Canyon Camp -> Kingsbury Grade
17.8 miles, 3100' climb, 2900' drop
There were all sorts of crazy noises last night. At times it sounded like something was crashing through the creek side plants about 100 feet from my tent and other times as if something was skidding around the sand/gravel right around my tent. Too bad I did not have any motion triggered cameras setup. Other than those sporadic noises, it was a very peaceful night as I was the only person at the camp.
1030: I have made it to the Spooner Summit Trailhead. Over the last few days I have picked up some garbage along the trail, an empty water bottle, raisin box, Goo packet and top as well as a mostly full L.A. Colors moisturizing lip gloss tube. Gina met me on the trail about 1 mile from the Spooner Summit Trailhead and I switched out my larger pack for my daypack.
1132: Since I have been hustling through the trail segments this time around, I have been thinking about what hikes I would consider doing again as an overnight or day trip. Nothing really stood out on the first day, other than maybe a hike from Mt. Rose Campground to Relay Peak. Marlette Campground might be a good overnight trip from Tahoe Meadows, as at 13 miles, it is quite a bit closer than North Canyon Camp. It is also only a few miles from the Christopher's Loop spur so after setting up camp, one could head up there to watch the sunset and/or sunrise. From Spooner Summit, hiking to North Canyon campground via Snow Peak, camping, and then before packing up camp the next day, checking out Marlette Lake would be nice. Then the hike back to the car could be done via Hobart Road (dirt) and the Spooner Lake trail.
4 August 2009: Kingsbury South -> Big Meadow
22.8 miles, 4530' climb, 4795' drop (21.4/4530'/4400' since I exited at Grass Lake Trailhead)
Yesterday, Gina met me a couple of miles from the Kingsbury Grade trailhead; my left Achilles tendon became painful with a little over a mile to go. It was the same pain I had experienced in my right Achilles while training 5 weeks before the hike. At that time, I was unable to finish my training hike and was in pain for the next week, just walking to the bus stop.
1252: When I started the day, I was not sure I wouldd make it here [Star Lake]. This morning, I wrapped my left ankle in a support bandage and had a lot of trouble just walking up the 15 foot incline to the trailhead. Ahead of me was over 20 miles and 4500 feet of elevation gain. I counted my first 700 steps, ouch, 2, ouch, 4, ouch, 6, and so on, tried all sorts of different ways of walking, shifting my weight, placing my foot on the ground, but nothing seemed to make things any better. On the other hand, it was not really getting any worse. I have been filtering water and taking photos for the past 30 minutes. The lake and its surroundings are quite beautiful; it is a bit windy even though the lake is nestled amongst mountains. I would definitely come back.
1922: I must be past the 20 mile mark by now. This stretch has had some of the best views and wildflower displays so far. I was able to call Gina around 1500, just past the spur trail to Freel Peak. Star Lake is a nice out and back backpacking hike. If one wanted to stay for two nights, on day two it would be nice to summit Freel Peak, before heading back the next day. I think 12 miles is a good length for a hike. It is long enough to make it feel more than a "walk" and likely gives you the opportunity to get fairly removed from civilization/deep into nature. The main problem with a 20+ mile hike is after 12 miles, one still has over 8 miles to go :( I estimated I would be done around 2000 today (I started at 0740).
My mom drove up to South Lake Tahoe and we met for dinner last night. We ate at Harrah's buffet, which was quite good. I had sushi, pizza, pasta, prime rib, chopped sirloin, Caesar salad, strawberries, apple sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, an eclair and a Pepsi; so maybe I replenished some of my missing calories. She and Gina are probably hiking towards me from the trailhead as I write. I have decided to exit at the Grass Lake trailhead tonight, which is 1.4 miles and ~ 400' of descent short of the Big Meadow trailhead. I figure I am not really cheating myself as I will still walk 165+ miles since I took the 1.2 mile Christopher Loop trail as well as the longer (0.3 miles) hikers only path near the Marlette Campground, and did some extra milage and up/down due to getting lost on day 1...mosquitoes eating me alive, time to go.
5 August 2009: Big Meadow -> Echo Lakes
17.8 miles, 3335' climb, 3240' drop
Last night we stayed with my mom since I finished my hike just after 2000. Gina and I could have camped at Big Meadow, but figured there was no point. It would have just been, setup tent, try to cook some noodles, sleep, wake up, put away tent and start hiking. Instead we had pizza and slept on a sofa bed :) I think I ate 7 slices of pizza...more calorie refilling. Gina had also stopped by a farmers market where she picked up some tasty cherry tomatoes.
1442: Just passed through Bryan Meadow, this leg of the trek is definitely the easiest and most beautiful so far. Yesterday's wildflower display met my minimum expectations and today's may exceed my highest. Finally I have come across large fields of flowers with rocky stream beds, towering mountains and puffy clouds in the sky. I should note both my ankles are wrapped as even my right Achilles feels a bit overworked. The left one still does not feel any better or worse than it did two days ago.
My visit to Showers Lake could be described in one word, gusty. There was probably a constant 10-15 mph wind which would often gust to 20-30 mph. I almost got knocked over trying to filter some water. I had planned on grabbing 2 liters, but only managed to get 1 before giving up due to the wind. I am sure I will be fine though as it has been very windy and cool on the trail; I have even been wearing my jacket.
1942: The 2.2 miles between the Echo Summit and Echo Lakes trail heads were the least spectacular miles so far and now I understand why when the trail is broken into sections, that part is left out sometimes. A nice overnight backpacking trip would be to hike 7 miles to Showers Lake and then 8 miles the next day to Echo Summit. One would just have to deal with the transportation since it is not a loop hike. The weather report says an unseasonable cold front is coming in tomorrow and the next day, along with thunderstorms and the snow level would be around 9000 feet. Instead of 70s-80s during the day and 40s-50s during the night, it is supposed to be around 60 during the day and around freezing at night. Perfect timing for my 2 night backpacking segment through Desolation Wilderness. In preparation for the 15 degree drop in weather I picked up a pair of $0.99 gardening gloves (yay Grocery Outlet). I also picked up two $0.49 Heat Factory pouches and a pair of knee wraps as a precautionary measure for the jarring descent into Tahoe City, from CVS.
6 August 2009: Echo Lakes -> Middle Velma Lake
18 miles, 3000' climb, 2500' drop
While I hiked yesterday, Gina picked up my permit to camp in Desolation Wilderness. Apparently thru-hikers are exempt from their quota system, so I could camp in any section I chose, no reservation required. That was convenient as I was not sure I would be able to make it over Dicks Pass (9360 feet) if the weather was not co-operating. We tried to eat at Carrows last night, and barely succeeded. The service was horrendous and it took us an hour and a half to overpay for dinner and dessert. Our appetizer came out with the meal, which had been left under the heat lamp (hot salad, yum). The same thing happened to our dessert, the ice cream sunday was a soup. Wish we had gone to Denny's. The sliver lining was I probably consumed a good number of calories. We spent the night at a Motel 6.
1808: I hit the trail at 0720; it was quite windy and the cloud cover did not look promising. Within the first 2 miles of the hike it rained hard enough for me to don my poncho for the first time. About 3 miles into the hike, I got the first batch of pebble/corn kernel/Nerds candy sized hail. It lasted for a few minutes and then stopped. This would go on and off with varying durations and force for the next 9 hours. I decided to minimize my stops for rest/photos in order to give myself the best chance of getting over Dicks Pass and down to Middle Velma Lake, 15 miles away, by 1600 in hopes of having camp setup before the predicted 1800 thunderstorms.
Around 1030 I neared the north shore of Lake Aloha when I heard thunder and it started to rain again. I saw a flash of lightning and the intensity of the rain increased. I found a large granite boulder which would shield me from the wind, got out some food, put my backpack in a garbage bag, duct taped the arm holes of my poncho shut, and sat for about 20 minutes through some driving rain, which turned to hail, then to snow and back to rain. Eventually it let up enough and the sky looked less foreboding, so I decided to push on.
There are quite a few pretty lakes, Heather, Susie, Half Moon, on the way to Dicks Pass. After about 11 miles, I came to the moment of truth. It was almost 1300 and I had reached the start of the final 2.9 mile, 1100 foot push to Dicks Pass. I had not heard any thunder since Lake Aloha and though I was still getting pelted by hail, every now and then the sun peaked through the clouds. I decided to go for it and barreled up to the pass in an 1 hour and 10 minutes. There were quite a few gusts of wind along the way that caused me to sidestep or get pushed backwards, but overall it was not too bad.
I found a suitable campsite on the north side of Middle Velma Lake, nestled amongst some trees. I arrived right on time, around 1600, setup the tent in-between bouts of hail and then crammed as much food as I could into my system, brushed my teeth and had all my scented items properly stored in my Ursack before 1800. I figure I am in my tent for the night already since it is getting cold and the weather has not changed much. I have decided to pee in my Nalgene container and then just use it to store unpurified water which I will filter into my Platypus bladder.
7 August 2009: Middle Velma Lake -> North Fork Of Blackwood Creek
17 miles, 2400' climb, 2400' drop
Last night was quite cold, 30 degrees F, but at least it was quiet after the hail subsided. I woke up several times during the night and started up a Heat Factory shortly before 0200. It does not really give off much heat, but I suppose every little bit helped. I slept with all my clothes on, long sleeved top, t-shirt, windbreaker, shorts, windpants, socks and a beanie. I took my lighter sleeping bag on this trip, of which I am unsure of the rating, but I think it held in the heat ok, so it is probably a 25-30.
1838: I got out of the tent at 0600 and went to see what the lake looked like. There was quite a bit of mist hovering just above the surface of the water. It took me almost 2.5 hours to dry out the tent, eat breakfast, filter water, repair the string on my left gaiter and pack everything up. It looked like I was having a yard sale amongst the granite boulders.
There were still quite a few clouds in the sky with no sign of clearing, so I continued to hustle along, only stopping when necessary. Most of the hike to Richardson Lake was through forest, and coupled with the cloud cover it seemed like I was perpetually hiking at dusk. Richardson Lake was pretty blah and I did not need water, so kept on truckin'. I picked up some water from Miller Creek and Bear Lake's outlet as I still was not sure if I would make it all the way to my planned campsite near the North fork of Blackwood Creek if the weather did not hold up.
I ended up making it across Barker Pass and to my planned campsite around 1630. I ate my Snickers bar, gorged on some other food (Chicken of the Sea salmon tastes kinda like their tuna) and had all my scented items stowed 100 feet from my tent before 1800. It was harder to drink the olive oil I brought (great calorie to weight ratio, 1 ounce = 240 calories) today as it went through some sort of transformation during the sub-freezing temperature. It looked like there were tiny particles suspended in the oil.
As I have been writing, three people passed by my tent and commented on my choice of campsite, 2 positive, 1 negative (too much wind). Last night the wind died down to nothing and I feel like that is happening again tonight. I just hope it is at least a few degrees warmer tonight.
8 August 2009: North Fork Of Blackwood Creek -> Tahoe City
14 miles, 1200' climb, 2700' drop
The sunset was less than spectacular last evening, the colors never really popped. Temperature wise I fared a bit better, 35 when I checked in the middle of the night. I used my other Heat Factory packet in the bottom of my sleeping bag, again unsure if it helped. At least the claim on the package, "lasts up to 24 hours" had some truth to it as the one from the previous night was still warm.
1819: I rushed out of my tent at 0610, just in time to miss what might have been a specatular sunrise. It only took me about 2 hours to get situated and I hit the trail around 0815. It does not appear my Ursack had any visitors the last two nights as it remained in the same position I left it. There were no paw prints or signs of interaction. I used the knee wraps for the first steep downhill section, but they seemed to be doing more harm than good, pinching some of my muscles in weird ways so I took them off. I also took off the one piece ankle support as it too seemed not to be helping, and possibly hurting. I went the rest of the way with just the wrap around ankle support on my left foot which was still painful at times.
It was quite warm today and the mountain bikers were out in force. The truckee river was overflowing with rafters and coolers. I arrived in Tahoe City around 1500, Gina picked me up and we headed to our motel. She had bought some smoothies on her way from Reno, which proceeded to melt just as all food does in the vicinity of Reno (the worst casualty was a box of strawberry milkshake Whoppers which re-formed into a single mass).
I washed some clothes and re-organized for the final leg of the journey and cleaned up for dinner. My plan is to start early tomorrow and get most of the climb out of Tahoe City done before it warms up as it was quite hot today, guess the cold front as moved on.
9 August 2009: Tahoe City -> Brockway Summit
19.2 miles, 3320' climb, 2620' drop
We had dinner (bacon avocado cheeseburger with fries and a rootbeer) with a friend last night. Being on a Phelpsian diet is great, another caloric success.
1412: I hit the trail at 0645, my earliest start. It has been pretty easy going, the climb out of Tahoe City was not too bad and it has been mostly rolling hills since then. Gina met me a couple of times via the "Fiberboard Freeway".
I just came back from a spur trail to catch a view of Carnelian Bay. With just over 4 miles left, it is supposed to be the last view of the lake I am going to get from the trail.
One last garbage update, I picked up a REI lip balm stick and another Goo top.
Base Setup - 16.5lbs
- Alps Zephyr 1 person tent - 4lbs
- Sleeping bag and closed cell foam pad - 4lbs
- Osprey Kestrel 38 Backpack - 3lbs
- Water treatment (filter/pump + iodine tablets) - 1lb
- First-aid kit + rescue blanket + pocket knife - 1lb
- Toiletries + bug repelent + sunblock - 1lb
- Camera + gps + headlamp + phone - 1.5lbs
- Hiking pole + plastic shovel + gaiters - 1lb
Clothes - 3lbs
- 1 windbreaker
- 1 pair of windpants
- 1 knit beanie
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 3 t-shirts
- 3 pairs of underwear
- 3 pairs of shorts
- 3 pairs of hiking socks
Nutrition (not including cooked dinners)
- 5oz olive oil
- 8oz beef jerky
- 11oz bbq pork jerky
- 1lb dried fruit (apricots, apples, pears, plums)
- 25 various granola bars
- 6 2/3 cup cherry vanilla granola/1/3 dried blueberries packets
- 7 Snickers bars
- 9 8.5oz Muscle Milk chocolate shakes
- 9 Flintstone vitamins
- 12 granola energy bars
- 12 Camelbak electrolyte dietary supplements