Flume Trail MTB Ride – May 2014

After playing in the snow at higher altitudes thought I’d come down a bit to around 7,000 feet and ride from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake and continue down the Flume Trail back to Tunnel Creek Café, at nearly lake level of 6,229 feet. There is a day use parking fee at Spooner Lake, and a self pay kiosk near the entrance for your convenience.

It’s about a 14 mile one way ride starting at about 7,000 feet altitude at Spooner Summit climbing to 8,100 feet in the first 4 miles. The North Canyon Road is a wide Forest Service access road. There are vault toilets located about the midpoint near North Canyon campground and Marlette Lake which also has vault toilets.

The weather was still quite cool, about 55°, but beautiful. I drove myself to the Spooner Lake Campground and would get a ride back from Flume Trail Mountain Bikes. There were still patches of snow on the ground left over from winter and yesterday’s snowfall. I was huffing and puffing on several of the 16% grades, but was able to cool off at the top of Marlette Saddle before my descent down to Marlette Lake. This was all good, as this was the only climbing I had to do for the day after reaching the saddle at the top of my ascent. The rest of the day will be all downhill.

There is a spur trail off of the road that leads to Snow Valley Peak, zigzagging its way, 1.2 miles to the summit. Luckily I’m not doing that today. I had to get off the bike several times descending down to the lake, as there were still deep snow patches that made it difficult to ride the bike through. Once at the lake, I made my way out to Chimney Point to have lunch and enjoy the beautiful panoramic views of Marlette Lake. Chimney Point has its own place in history, as you can read from the signboard posted there.

After lunch, I started on my mile and a half ride around the west side of the lake, connecting to the Flume Trail at the dam. Soon after one rocky switch back, and small wooden bridge over the effluent from the dam, the view opened up to all of Lake Tahoe to the west. I was finally on the Flume Trail itself. Now for the next 4 miles, I will be descending 1500 feet back down to lake level at Tunnel Creek Café.

The views of Lake Tahoe on this ride for the most beautiful you will find anywhere in the basin. Famous for it’s world class reputation, it is definitely the best adult “Disneyland-style” ride you will find. Turn off your Strava app for this ride as you will want to savor every moment and every sight along the way.

Since my ride was in early spring, the debris loosened by the winter’s storms were still across the trail for me to navigate around. The Forest Service and Flume Trail Bikes has not yet been able to clear the trail that early in the season. It was quite a challenging obstacle course, with boulders the size of Volkswagons and downed trees across the trail, not to mention the snow that was still deep in the shadowy sections. At some point, I needed to lift my bike over the boulder and then shimmy around it, rejoining the trail on the other side. It was a “crawl over or crawl under” training course half of the way back down the mountain. At some point along the trail, the trail fell away, and it got a little dicey to get around. A misplaced step would have me 2000 feet down the mountainside to Highway 28.

The views above Sand Harbor were breathtaking. I took quite a few pictures as it was one of the most beautiful sights around all of Lake Tahoe. The crystal clear blue and emerald waters of Sand Harbor were amazing. I could have hung out there all day just admiring the view that I had all to myself. Don’t miss an opportunity to make this trip the next time you’re in Lake Tahoe. It is an unforgettable ride.

Continuing on down the mountain my only obstacles were the snow and ruts made by winter’s runoff from the mountainside. There are some steep sections with loose decomposing granite, and a couple of hairpin switchbacks. One wooded area of Quaking Aspen is a very pretty sight… you’ll want to make sure you get a few pictures of that. There are many more panoramas of North Lake Tahoe, Agate and Crystal Bay and Stateline Point that you will enjoy continuing your descent back to Tunnel Creek Café.

Just above the café is the old Ponderosa Ranch movie set, from the 1950s and 1960s television show Bonanza. After my long ride today I was hungry for a lot more than I brought with me in my backpack. I think I bought at least two gourmet sandwiches from Patti and the gang at Tunnel Creek Café, one because I was starving and the second one was for dinner and I would be having at Nevada Beach Campground that night.

Since it was still early in the season, Nevada Beach Campground was pretty open, and I got my favorite spot right on the beach. Picked up some firewood along the way, made camp, then went out for a walk on the beach watching the sun set over the western shore. After chowing down my second sandwich, I got my bonfire going and made some hot tea. Hung my wet socks next to the fire pit to dry them out, but ended up melting them a bit in the process. Since it was a full moon that night, a pack of coyotes were were howling their lungs out as I watched the moon rise over Heavenly Peak. I doused my fire before retiring to my tent for the night.

The next day I hopped on my mountain bike and explored some of the great bike trails and walking paths near Stateline, connecting South Lake Tahoe and the casinos. It’s been quite a full and fun action-packed couple of days up in Tahoe. From snowy peaks to mountain lakes on my mountain bike and the beach, I had quite a fun-filled mini-vacation.

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See ya on my next adventure soon…

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Tahoe Meadows – MTB Ride in Snow

Shortly after going into semi-retirement, I bought a Santa Cruz Blur mountain bike from a friend. Since I’m an extreme kinda guy, I thought it would be novel to ride the TRT in the snow. Met with a friend from Reno up at Tahoe Meadows, but she didn’t come very prepared for the conditions with tennis shoes and a thin sweater, so she bailed on me early on.

A short ways down from Mount Rose Summit parking area on Highway 431 is the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead parking area. There are vault toilets, but no running water. If you need water, best hike up to the Mt. Rose campground and fill up from the spigots. Not sure if they shut them off during the winter season to prevent the pipes from bursting. If it is flowing, there is a lot of pressure.

From the Tahoe Meadows parking area, you can take the Interpretive Trail, which is about a 1.2 mile loop around the meadows, smooth and wide enough for persons with disabilities to access, much of it on a “boardwalk”, with informative signboards explaining about the area. The TRT trailhead for Tahoe Meadows starts at the southwestern end of the parking lot, following along Highway 431 a short ways before turning south into the meadows. The TRT allows bikes to use the trail on even numbered days of the week, and I arrived on an even numbered day. (Note: not everybody abides by the rules, so keep an eye peeled for those who don’t.) The trail crosses over a wooden bridge where there is a seasonal stream flowing through the meadow. From the bridge, the TRT blue medallions and blue paint spots on the trees guide you to the correct path through the trees, connecting the TRT to the southwest toward Spooner Summit. Today, unfortunately, I will not get that far.

It was cool, but not cold yet at about 48°F, partly cloudy. I checked my weather apps, looked at the radar, and it all looked like a “GO”. I made it about 3 miles before the temperature dropped to 28°F, clouds formed and dumped two feet of snow on me within two hours. Snowflakes as big as silver dollars, falling gently, turning my Spring MTB adventure into a winter wonderland. I was having a blast playing in the snow…I was dressed for it, why not? Only problem is that I wasn’t getting very far, as the snow, mud and pine needles would jam between the tire and the frame and I couldn’t get anywhere. After taking several pictures of the bike stuck in the snow, I guessed it was time to go. Riding was not going to be easy today, so I ended up pushing it most of the way. Back at the car, it took me about 10 minutes to clear the snow off before I could get my bike back on the rack. Too bad I didn’t have anyone to share all this fun with.

Now back at camp for the night in the snow… let’s see if I stay warm enough. I brought enough gear for an entire scout troop, so I should. The snow was still like Christmas tree flocking, light and fluffy on the ground, so I could still use my tent stakes. Just used a couple of bunches of pine needles as a whisk broom and tada!…clean spot. Used two ground cloths since I had them; one MSR Hubba footprint + my 7’x8’ Tyvek tarp for my front porch to keep things clean. Clean tent=happy tent.

Used both sleeping pads, a Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite (which by itself is like sleeping on a piece of cardboard from behind Safeway), plus my other Therm-a-Rest Trail Light self inflating pad. Both together did the trick, as it got down to 23°F that night. My REI +15° mummy bag has lost its loft over the years and I really need a new one. My old wool US Navy blanket I got off a ship I was on years ago was just the finishing touch I needed for keeping me toasty through the night.

Morning came soon enough, made an instant cup of coffee then headed over to the Fire Sign Café in Sunnyside on the West Shore for a big breakfast to start the day.


On my way over to Incline to do the Flume Trail from Tunnel Creek Café…

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See you tomorrow on my next post

Spooner Summit – Marlette Peak & Marlette Lake – Flume Trail

Total distance 19.7 miles

Minimum altitude 6,306 feet
Maximum altitude 8,538 feet

 

I arrived in Lake Tahoe on the last day of September planning to get an early jump on the trail starting at Spooner Summit the next morning. That morning I started my day at Tunnel Creek Café for great cup of coffee and to bum a ride with the bike shuttle driver from the Flume Trail Bikes up to Spooner Summit. I had to wait a little while so they could gather enough mountain bike riders to make the trip worthwhile – then we were off for the summit. I had to hike a quarter-mile back down the road to get to the Spooner picnic area to start my hike. It was a beautiful fall day that inspired several others to get out on the trail and enjoy the weather. I briefly stopped and chatted with everybody who would talk to me, but kept on moving.

At the trail junction to Marlette Lake Trail  I came upon a spring that was still flowing under the road even this late in the season. The trail and road rises quickly moving away from Spooner Summit and lake. Two hike-in cabins are available for rent from Spoonersummit.com. Several spur trails branch off of the main trail – they are flagged for cross-country skiing that connects with the Marlette Lake Trail. You pass the first of three approved campgrounds in the Nevada State Parks system for that area. North Canyon Campground is the first providing vault toilets and picnic tables for about six campers. It is also an opportunity to rejoin the Tahoe a Rim Trail, 1.2 miles to the ridge.

One can see the trail zig-zagging its way across the face of Snow Valley Peak up to the ridge line. The other two campgrounds are Marlette Peak and Hobart Reservoir. I will be staying at Marlette Peak Campground tonight. Recently I noticed mile markers placed there by a joint effort between the Boy Scouts of America and the US Forest Service. Very helpful if something goes wrong and you need to tell somebody where you are. After an arduous climb of 16% or more out of the valley you arrive at the pass dropping down to Marlette Lake. With a valid Nevada fishing license, fishing is allowed Marlette Lake from July 15 through September 30, using barbless hooks and no bait – catch and release only. Unfortunately there is no camping allowed in the Marlette Lake Basin – understandable but unfortunate, as it would’ve made a beautiful sunrise camping out at the lake. So I pressed onward, to the Marlette Peak Campground, 4 miles ahead.

From the lake the road meandered northward in and out of Aspen Groves bringing me to another very steep section. It was going to be pretty slow going for a while. Finally arriving at the crest there were signboards and benches placed there by the Nevada state parks department. One sign explaining how Marlette Lake came into being and one of the rules and regulations for the area. No time for that now, I needed to make camp and I still had a couple of miles to go. I soon descended along the access road and puddles of water from recent rains. It was good to see that the parched forest got a little sip of water from this long drought.

After a while the trail opened up into a sandy clearing connecting the trail junction to the Tahoe Rim Trail. This was all pretty familiar to me now, just backtracking along the route my hiking friends, Tamara, Chris, and Chuck and I were on earlier in September.

After one more climb switchbacking up to the ridge I came upon another trail junction – one leads to the Marlette Peak North West Tahoe Rim Trail (A side trip taking you around the west side of Marlette peak displaying great views of Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe) Another spur trail called the Sunflower Trail leading to Hobart Reservoir, and the trail I was taking, the north east route to Marlette Peak on the Tahoe Rim Trail leading to Tahoe Meadows, 13 miles to the north.

As the trail meandered through a small grove of fir trees, reminiscent of the sights and smells of a Christmas tree lot – telling  me that fall and winter were upon us.

Finally I arrived at the familiar sight the Marlette Peak Campground where Tamara, Chris and Chuck and I camped out for the night in early September.    Not a soul was there, just the vault toilets and me.  I got my pack off, and made the trip down to the well to get some water. I spoke about this well before… looks like a throwback to the old west, where you had to pump the water 10 or 12 times to get that cold, pure spring water. Soon I’ll have some water boiling for a Cup-a-soup and tea before bedding down for the night.

I was freezing my buns off so I couldn’t wait to get into my new Marmot Helium sleeping bag that I just got off of eBay. Finally I was the winning bid on something! I stashed everything in the bear boxes that they had provided in the campground and got into my cozy new sleeping bag and MSR Hubba one-man tent. I thought somewhere between the soup, the tea, and the new sleeping bag I would be warm and toasty in no time – but no. You know when you get a bone chill and you just can’t seem to warm up no matter what you do? That’s where I was, shivering myself to sleep by about midnight.

Guess I wore myself out shivering so much.

Dawn came too early, getting me out of the rack by 0630. I checked my Garmin GPS had a temperature sensor on it and it had recorded 25°F as the lowest temperature throughout the night and a balmy 29°F at breakfast. After guzzling down 2 cups of my Starbucks Via instant coffee that somehow still tasted like my Cup-o-Soup from the night before, I was packed and ready to hit the trail. I would have to eat my Cliff Bar on the road.

The rain puddles that I had passed the day before had turned to ice skating rinks as I passed them today. It was quite brisk, but I was fairly comfortable except for my fingers that I wasn’t able to feel just yet. The steep section that took forever to get up yesterday went quite quickly this morning. That was the good thing – then that uncomfortable feeling I have had before – that feeling as though you were being watched. I scanned 360° around me, on my way back down to the lake which couldn’t come soon enough.

I made my way out to Chimney Point, a finger that juts out into the lake with an old stone chimney on it. If a cat wanted me bad enough he would have to jump in the lake and come get me. And I know that kitty cats do not like water, so that was my plan for now.

The walk on the road was beautiful in the early morning light. The sun rising over the ridge made all of the fall colors come alive. I arrived at the fir tree that blocked my path last May on my mountain bike – it must have been 6 to 8 feet in diameter. The Forest Service had removed it from the road and it was clear sailing this time. Once arriving at the dam, I took one look back at the mountain and the trail that I had climbed over last month bidding farewell until next season.

Now I was once again on familiar ground, the Flume Trail. Marlette Lake water system and flume was originally created to provide water for the silver mining boom, headquartered in Virginia City, Nevada.

The mines required vast amounts of water to operate and Virginia City needed lumber for housing in the new boomtown. Now a single-track mountain bike and hiking trail connecting Marlette Lake and Tunnel Creek Road near Incline Village, the Flume Trail offers unparalleled vistas of Lake Tahoe to the west and south for most of the hike. (As I have mentioned before, Flume Trail Bikes will rent you a bike and shuttle you to Spooner Summit, and then you can ride back down the mountain to the Tunnel Creek Café, return your bike and have lunch and a beer.)

My trip this time back down the mountain took a little longer, as I didn’t have a bicycle to make the trip go faster. The trail is about 2 feet wide for most of the way, hugging the cliff closely with rock ledges and overhangs making it difficult for passing bikes along the way. The trail can be dicey at times, as the crumbling granite can make for a loose footing. You will meet mountain bikes going both ways, so make sure you make a little noise approaching blind corners.

The mountain bikers are usually expecting other bikes, and I find they get a little spooked when they come across a backpacker. Try not to take your half of the trail out of the middle.

After several miles, the trail joins another trail junction – to the right will take you up to the ridge where the Tahoe Rim Trail connects Tahoe Meadows to the Spooner Summit segment of the TRT. Continuing on straight ahead, the trail becomes a service road for the remainder of the journey back to Tunnel Creek Café. The trail is mostly shaded for another mile and one half, opening up to the afternoon sun the remainder of your hike.

Several hundred feet from the Tunnel Creek Café is a chain-link fenced property, home to the old Ponderosa Ranch of the 1950’s and 60’s TV show, “Bonanza“. The property has since been closed to the public since 2004.

Well I am finally back at my car and the café, tired and hungry. JP set me up with a great turkey and pesto sandwich washed down with a cold Gatorade. What a treat to have a hot homemade sandwich instead of trail food! I don’t think I moved an inch since I sat down an hour ago. Time to head over to the west side of the lake at Kaspian campgrounds and put my senior discount card to work one more time. Just the thought of having a legal campfire tonight was warming me up already. As if we never get enough, I read myself to sleep reading “The Cactus Eaters”, a saga about a young couple’s adventures along the PCT. The next morning I broke camp at 0730 and made a mad dash to my other favorite café, the Firesign Café for a hot breakfast and endless hot coffee.

A great ending to another great trip at Lake Tahoe.

GPS tracks below:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/605202517

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/605202521

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See ya on my next adventure…

Kingsbury North to Spooner Lake TRT

Once again being a solo hiker, the logistic’s of doing some segments aren’t always easy. The Kingsbury to Spooner Summit segment, I broke up onto two, one day segments so that I could drive myself to each trailhead, then drive away at the end of the day. Sounds, crazy, I know, but it worked this time. In the cooler month of May, when snow was still on the ground, I made the Spooner South to Genoa Peak in one day. I started early in the morning as there is not much shade along the way, especial for an out-and-back. This is also a dry section of the TRT. Keep that in mind whatever you decide, as there are no water sources from Spooner to Kingsbury North Trailhead at Benjamin Drive, or the entire trail to Kingsbury Grade. It is about 17.5 miles from the Benjamin Drive Trailhead to Spooner and a little more than 20 miles from Kingsbury Grade.

I combined this trip with other adventures that week while in Tahoe, such as doing the Flume Trail on my mountain bike (I’ll post in another section), and climbing to Relay Peak in snowshoes on one occasion and my mountain bike on another. I parked at the Spooner Lake recreation area has it had bathrooms and running water to start my trip. Since it was only a day’s hike I didn’t need to bring more than a day pack. No matter what, I always carry about 4 L of water for entire day, just in case. My camel pack has a 3 L bladder plus another two half liter bottles of water with electrolytes was all I needed to get me out and back. The sun was up early and so was I, hitting the trail just before 0700. The day started out at about 40° as the sun was beginning to rise over the Carson Range on the east side of Lake Tahoe. Again there is not a lot of shade in this section, so I made sure that I used plenty of sunscreen and a hat and dressed in layers. I think only on one of my trips that I ever planned my food correctly. I always take too much. At least this wasn’t an overnight and I didn’t need my bear vault. A couple of hours later I arrived at the bench at South Camp Peak. A handmade bench with the million-dollar view to the west. There, I ate lunch, enjoyed the view and the cool breeze, now about 60°F by 1130. I ventured a little further on the trail down to Genoa Peak Trail Junction and decided to call that my halfway point for the day. I made pretty good time getting back to the car that day, just in time to drive down the hill to the Tunnel Creek Café near Incline Village on Highway 28, and get a sandwich before they closed up in the afternoon. Nice ending to a successful out-and-back for half of that segment.

Several weeks later I drove back up to Lake Tahoe to finish the other half of my segment. This time from Kingsbury North on Benjamin Drive to Genoa Peak, my last halfway point. I didn’t get as early as start as I had hoped to. I had stayed in a campground that I should not have chosen. It was an “Urban Campground”; where urban campers, in trailers and motorhomes and tents the size of circus tents stay to be “as one” with the outdoors. Three feet from your nearest neighbor that brought everything with them to make them feel at home in the outdoors…dogs, kids, motorcycles, boom-boxes and vacuum cleaners. Yes, vacuum cleaners. The morning I packed up, a lady was outside of her trailer at 0730, vacuuming her “Astroturf” carpet – I almost lost it – Time to go pound dirt.

Finding trails on a map was easier than finding the trailhead using rural streets. After a very convoluted, GPS assisted drive to the trailhead, I was finally on my way. (Turn north on N. Benjamin Dr. from 207, Kingsbury Grade – street becomes Andria Dr. – follow to the end, where the trailhead sign will be on your left, next to a paved parking area)

The trail started up quickly, with several large boulders to overcome. This is a very popular mountain biking segment, so be prepared to encounter menu along this route. They usually do an out and back also, so you will meet them going and returning. Soon after, I arrived at a level area and the trail junction for Castle Rock or the TRT to Spooner. (Castle Rock is a nice side trip for short day hikes with great views of the lake) Since my last trip, the weather had warmed up considerably. Gradually climbing past the 75°F mark, I looked forward to the shade of the large trees. I should have started this earlier in the day, when the sun was still on the east side of the mountain. There were many great vistas, but I must say, this part of the TRT’s scenery doesn’t change much. Not far from Genoa Peak trail junction I met another TRT thru hiker going in the opposite direction. It seemed like a good place to take break, chat for a few moments, and get out of the hot sun -now about 84° if I recall. Coby had come all the way from Louisiana to solo hike the TRT, starting at Tahoe City. I was so impressed and envious, as I was not able to get away from work and home for that length of time. We exchanged info on the trail so far, where each of us had been…and instantly we became like old friends.

Since this was as far as I needed to go, it seemed like a good spot to start back to the car.  Our meeting was perfect timing, as Coby needed to re-provision for the next long segment ahead, Kingsbury to Echo Lake.  He really needed this break, as he had covered the last 75 miles from Tahoe City to Kingsbury in five days – I can’t do that anymore.

I know south shore pretty well, so we headed to Raley’s Market for his  provisions  and Blue Dog Pizza for both of us. Coby was kind enough to buy lunch, and I was too hungry to turn him down. Before parting ways, we exchanged numbers, Facebook names and a few recommendations for an inexpensive place to stay near the shopping center. There are many to choose from across the street on Park Ave., all within walking distance.

The TRT Association lists many options for transportation around the Tahoe area, including Go Blue Tahoe Transit.

As I was driving home, I looked behind me to grab a water bottle and noticed something that wasn’t familiar. It was Coby’s digital camera – it had fallen off of his backpack. I called him and told him of his loss, and that I would FedEx it to him on Monday. All’s well in the end. He got it back in time to take many great shots going through Desolation Wilderness and Dick’s Pass (with snow), and the remainder of the trip back to Tahoe City.

A good trip in the end – made a new fellow hiker friend, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

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See ya on my next adventure…in the Tahoe Wilderness

Kingsbury South to Big Meadow TRT

Google Map-link

GPS Route

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/542872194

Since I am a solo hiker, I have to plan more efficiently how I begin and end my segments. From the Tahoe Rim Trail’s website, I located a shuttle service, WannaRideTahoe in Myers, to pick me up at my final destination of Big Meadows and shuttle me to Kingsbury South trailhead at the end of Tramway Drive. Lake Tahoe has three seasons it seems: winter, summer, and road construction. There is always something going on somewhere around Lake Tahoe to delay you wherever you want to be or need to be. Though cell phone service is spotty near Big Meadows, I did receive a call from Kat telling me that she would be delayed in picking me up but was still on the way. After a relatively long and convoluted drive taking all the shortcuts, I finally arrived at Kingsbury South at the end of Tramway Drive, to start my next adventure. While making sure that everything was ready to go and my GPS’s were locked and loaded, I met another person that was also getting ready for her big adventure.

Candice Burt from Bellingham, Washington was the brainchild behind a enormous undertaking in Ultra-running, The Tahoe 200. A trail race around Lake Tahoe with a 100 hour time limit – grueling to say the least. The sleek, and beautiful young woman that runs 100 miles as we would walk to the store. Brimming with  confidence and self-reliance – She could kick the butt of any pro athlete alive – not to mention any fashion model. We took a few selfies with each other, then we were both on our separate pilgrimages, promising to meet up again soon.

It was a pretty warm day I recall at least at the start at Tramway. I realized why they called it Tramway as there was a “Disneyland” type tram ride for all the rich folks to get to the chairlifts from their nearby  condominiums.

A life I’ll never know…That being said, onward, I have work to do.

The trail was a gradual climb following the contour of the eastern side of Heavenly Ski Resort. Occasionally at a clearing in the trail, I would be treated to wonderful views of the Carson Valley below. Vast expanses of ranch and farmland reminiscent of Gold Rush days, made you feel as though you had been transported to a different era.

Soon I would be passing under the chairlifts of several of the ski runs, that I didn’t know went that far on the eastern side of the mountain. Being a back country guy, I don’t usually spend much money on pricey lift tickets. You wanna ski down the mountain?…hike up it! I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a very fast hiker.  I take a lot of breaks, I take a lot of pictures, chat with everyone that I meet, take deep breaths and especially I take in the moment.

Nearly four hours later, I’m only at Monument Pass. Not a milestone, but downhill for at least a little while.

Looking towards the south, thunderstorms were on the horizon. Something I expected, but not looking forward to. I don’t mind getting wet mind you – I don’t like the thought of being struck by lightening.

It’s nearly 1800 now and I’m just arriving at Star Lake. The northwestern slope of the mountain on the other side of the lake turns golden in color with the sun getting ready to set. The lake is like glass, though it was completely abuzz in swarms of mosquitoes at evening time. I found a clearing next to some small trees to block the wind for the evening and settled in for the night. After an austere dinner and my usual peppermint tea, I took a walk around the area of my campsite.

I found some rather discouraging evidence of primitive camp fires people had started at the lake. I am constantly dumbfounded by the stupidity or arrogance of people that build a campfire without contemplating the dire consequences it has on the entire Lake Tahoe region –

It is a tinderbox at the moment. I am quite content with my little MSR PocketRocket camp stove to heat water for coffee and tea, saving the romance of a campfire for a safe place and warm company. First light came before 0600 the next day. The winds had calmed and the air was fresh and crisp to enjoy my morning coffee before packing up. Cold Creek was only about one mile away, but since I had an abundant source of water at the lake, I stocked up before heading out.

The trail climbed steeply up the mountainside until arriving at a clearing beneath the base of Freel Peak and Job’s Sister. It resembled a movie set somewhat, with well placed trees and open coarse sandy ground. Nearing Cold Creek, was a great campsite – open and flat, exposed though, with soft coarse sand perfect for a good night’s sleep. Cold Creek was flowing very well, but I had enough water.I stopped briefly to listen to the flowing stream and take in the moment.

It was nice looking back on where I had come from. After a little snack and rest for my feet, I couldn’t help gazing up at Freel Peak, the tallest peak in the entire Tahoe Basin. A little sign close by read “Freel Peak 1 Mile”. Hmmm… One mile, that’s not so bad, and it’s still early yet…When am I going to do it the next time?…   When I’m 70 ???

The climb started off steep…and got steeper as I slogged up the hill. I came to a safe place to leave my pack, knowing that it would be much easier to summit without the pack. A couple that had been camping at Star Lake also, caught up to me on the climb up to Freel Peak.

As it turned out they were the carrot that I needed to get me to the summit.

Huffing and puffing in some spots, and scrambling on all fours in others I finally made the summit of Freel Peak, 10,881 feet. What an incredible 360° view.

All of Tahoe, the Carson Valley, Hope Valley, the Crystal Range…it seemed endless.

After a couple of photo ops and selfies, we sat down for a snack. There, as other places on the trail, were cute, chubby and furry little rodents to help me gnosh my trail mix and Oreos.

They must have lived on this alone, as we were well above tree-line for fresh pine cones, their normal diet. My trip down was not without drama, as I took a wrong turn, following someone’s bushwhack and had to backtrack up the hill a short ways. Finally making it back to the Pass, it was time to make tracks as my little side trip cost me 3 hours of time. Switchbacking down the mountainside, I came across 3 water sources flowing well.

I topped off to 4 litres as the remainder of my segment was dry to Big Meadow. Now, those storm clouds I saw yesterday were building and headed my way.

Now I needed to beat feet back to Big Meadow and the car fast if I was to outrun the storm. I met up with my young couple at Armstrong Pass once again, but after their short rest, they left me in the dust once again. Shortly after reaching  a ridge, the storm hit.

I put my pack cover on and cheap pancho without skipping a beat. The horizontal rain was quite familiar to me for having been at sea for nearly 22 years. Besides, this didn’t taste salty, so I thought it was all good. After so many hours and days on a trail, one begins to hear things, make up things that aren’t there. I wasn’t to the point of hallucinating, but I did feel that my mind was wandering a bit more than usual. I came across rock formations that looked like animals.

I named one “Elephant Toes and Puffer Fish” as you can see in the photo. Fortunately, it still looked that way to me after regaining my senses the next day. Another feeling that I got has happened before on other segments on the trail – the feeling as though you were being watched or stalked. This was particularly evident with “Cat Scat” on the trail. Bears I felt I could deal with, but mountain lions? Mountain lions would scare the “scat” out of me! I remember how much it hurt for my cat to scratch or bite me, let alone a 200 pound cat. I tried making a lot of noise, so as not to sneak up on any unsuspecting forest critters.

Now it was time for the thunder and lightening to start..oh for joy! BZZZT, BOOM ! I was already half deaf, now the other half is gone. Overhead in the treetops, thunder, lightening… like I needed something else to worry about…all the while, carrying around two aluminum lightening rods in my hands. What next? Picking up my pace on my decent to Big Meadow, hopping down boulder after boulder, was having a detrimental affect on my knees. I needed my trekking poles for support – but I also remember how bad I looked with an afro that I had back in the 70’s, when I looked like the dad on the Brady Bunch. I stopped and got out my parachord to trail my poles behind me. If lightening wanted to hit something, I’m not going to be holding on to them like an idiot. Likewise, I’m not going to leave my $160 Leki trekking poles behind if it didn’t. It worked like a charm until it would snag on something. Well, fortunately the storm waned, and I could once again use my poles. The rain had turned to a heavy mist around Freel Meadows and knocked down the trail dust.

(A little rain is a good thing) Crossing my final creek, the rain was not enough to deter the mosquitos from being a nuisance. I crossed the creek at a full gallup and held my breath as I went through the clouds of mosquitos.

My dogs were killing me. I’m not far from Big Meadows and my car. I had almost covered 16 miles in 12 hours of hiking. Mind you, my own fault for the 3 hours side trip to Freel Peak, but I was done – toast as it were. The final few miles seemed the longest.

When will it end???

Help me Mister Wizard!

Finally at 2020 hours, I reached my car. I was so tired I forgot how to open it up. Must have taken me another 45 minutes getting my pack off, changing shoes and stinky shirt before I was ready to head out. But where was I going? Hell, I don’t even know. It’s late, camp at Big Meadow? A hotel? Since that decision seemed too difficult, I hit the easy button. Feeling like a zombie, I drove home, 200 miles, 4 hours back to the bay area. I don’t know how I made it – I had driven it so many times this year, the car knew the way to go. Finally, just after midnight I made it through the door and into bed – and putting to bed one more chapter in my Tahoe Rim Trail Challenge.

 The Road Goes Ever On
Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
I’ll wander back to home and bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!
~The Hobbitt, J.R.R. Tolkien

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See ya on my next adventure…

Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Lake TRT

On September 4, 2014 I left the Homewood Animal House early and arrived at the Tunnel Creek Café near Incline Village, Nevada. I got a ride from the shuttle to the Tahoe Meadows trailhead and was off and running about 0845 in the morning.

GPS Track

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/612631911

Since I had made this trip before in May in the snow I already knew the route and it went much quicker now without any snowdrift obstacles in my way. Ophir Creek was nearly dry, quite unlike May and June as I had seen it last. Since it was an even day of the week, mountain bikes were allowed to be on the Tahoe Rim Trail in this section. I had quite a few riders on rental mountain bikes passed me right and left the majority of them were polite others were focused completely on their own amusement. I was on a mission to cover quite a few miles till my first camp at Marlette Peak campground, one of two approved campsites on the Nevada side in this TRT section. It was also nice that the TRT crews were just there the previous month cleaning trails fixing up campsites and renewing the vault toilets and such. The campground also had fresh clean well water, so I didn’t have to filter what came out of the pump.

After passing Diamond Peak ski area I came across three tourists on rental mountain bikes that asked me a few questions about the trail…and as we chatted, I detected a French accent, so I asked them in French where they were touring from…I never would have guessed, but New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie), about 750 miles east of Australia in the southwestern Pacific. Hard core mountain bikers, on a tour of California with Santa Cruz as their next stop.

I arrived at the trail junction of TRT and Tunnel Creek, and many hikers and MTB people were there, checking their maps and taking a break. From here, I continued on the TRT south, toward Marlette Peak campground, giving me an opportunity to check if the trail markers were still in place for the Tahoe200 the upcoming weekend. People remove or move the markers unknowingly or for amusement.

Arriving at Twin Lakes, they were bone dry. I made my way up the hill finally to Herlan Peak and had some lunch overlooking Crystal Bay and Incline Village. Continuing on, you arrive at a trail junction for Christopher’s Loop. If you are there early enough in the day, the loop is really worth the extra effort. The apex of the loop is a rock promontory above Sand Harbor, with one of the most photographed views in the Tahoe Basin. Do make a point to take the trail on one of your trips to Tahoe. Several more miles down the trail was a vista point for Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe.

It was about 1400, nice and warm sunshine with a nice breeze to even things out. Perfect views of the west shore and all the way down to the Crystal Range of Desolation Wilderness. I took several pictures, a few deep breaths to suck in the fresh air and trudged on to the campground.

Arriving at Marlette Campground, I had the pick of anywhere – quickly got my pack off so I could stretch out my tired old back, and just leisurely walked around the area. Nice to have the new, clean vault toilets all to myself, at least for now. walked down the path further to the well pump to fill up all of my water bladders and bottles. The old-style cast iron well pump reminded me of something from an old western movie. Took about 10 or 12 pumps to get the water but, it was nice and cold, clean well water. After I made camp, three TRT thru hikers arrived.

We exchanged names and places…Tamara, Chris her husband and Chuck, Tamara’s Dad were my new camp mates. Tamara and Chris were on a world tour for the year, and Chuck was retired, living on his boat in La Paz, Mexico. Lucky guy.  Quite a fun hiking team. By morning we were all old friends, and set out on the trail not so early, about 0830.

We took lots of breaks and photo ops, setting out at a comfortable pace for the four of us.

Finally reaching Snow Valley Peak (9,214′), after many false summits we were on our way down toward Spooner Lake (7,214′). The trail was becoming pretty dusty, me leading the way, and I guess that I was kicking up a dust-storm for poor Tamara. She donned her red bandana to block the dust, so we dubbed her “Bandita”, her new trail name for the rest of the trip. This is where we would part company, as they were continuing on around, ending their hike at Tahoe City where it began. I had already completed that section back in June,  and had no desire to do it again. The 17 t0 20 mile section is completely dry, even in a good year. We bid each other good luck and I continued on the trail  to Spooner Campgrounds where I hoped to get a ride back to my car at Tunnel Creek Café. At the trailhead there is a small kiosk for purchasing a day pass for Spooner area.

WATER: Do check with the park service at before you start your trip, as water is not always reliable there. The lake is not really usable and the park area was without running water for 2 months. Flowing again in September 2014. On my way through the Spooner Picnic ground I recognized a lady I met at Freel Peak the month before. We had both been entertained by a friendly and chubby marmot at 10,881′, begging for trail mix and Oreo cookies. I gave the little guy 2 cookies and he was in heaven. He’s family you know! Well, it’s 11 miles back to the car, and I thought that the Flume Trail Bike Shuttle’s last trip was 11:30… and I missed it. So here we go again trying to thumb a ride down the mountain to get back to the car. Another lost cause. Nobody picks up old backpackers…even if you do have nice legs. While walking, I noticed the shuttle bus pass me, so I called the café and asked if he could get me on the next trip…they said sure. Next trip back, he passed me again…SHIT! Keep walking…call again. Oh sorry, next trip… and so on.

Finally after mile 3 in the hot sun on an unforgiving pavement, I’m in the van, on the way back to a cold beer and a dip in the lake to wash off the trail dust I’ve been wearing for the last 23 miles.

What a day! Candice graciously allowed me another night at the Tahoe200 Animal House in Homewood, and a relaxing end to a hard day on the trail and highway.

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See ya tomorrow on my next adventure in the Tahoe Wildeness