Barker Peak at Sunrise

One of my favorite camping spots along the Tahoe Rim Trail is near Barker Pass. At just over three quarters of a mile from the Barker Pass trailhead, it is ideal for bringing along “more than you really need” in creature comforts from your car. Though I don’t cook much on the trail, having a freshly brewed pot of Peet’s coffee from my cone filter (or French press if I get really decadent) is really a slice of heaven while watching the sun rise over the lake.

The campsite is listed on Guthook’s Hikes, Tahoe Rim Trail Hiker app on Android and iPhone, as well as the app and maps for the PCT. Most thru hikers don’t stop there as they just came from Desolation or the campsite near Bear or Miller Creek, and the day is still young for getting some miles in. Barker Pass is easily found from Highway 89 at Barker Pass Road (also known as Blackwood Canyon), approximately 7.5 miles from the highway. The last mile is unpaved –  it is well maintained and relatively smooth for even passenger cars to navigate. The last 100 feet up to the actual trailhead is a little rougher, with ruts that might be too much for a passenger car. Best to just park on the east side of the road on a diagonal, and hike the remainder of the way. There are vault/pit toilets at the trailhead, but no running water. (Note: about 1/4 mile past the campsite is a small spring that feeds the Middle Fork of Blackwood Creek. At the time of this writing, it was still flowing well enough to fill up water bottles for filtering)

There is a picnic table at the trailhead in case you want to sit down and have a civilized bite before setting out into the wild. This is a gathering point for many PCT thru hikers and section hikers for re-provisioning before jumping back on the trail, northbound for Canada. (It is easier to get a ride to and from Tahoe City here than it would be to hike into town via Ward Canyon)

After playing at Donner Lake and Hurricane Bay, one of my fav beach spots on Tahoe’s west shore, it was time to head up the mountain to Barker Pass. We had already eaten dinner so nothing to cook at the campsite. (trying to keep food to a minimum, as bears have been more aggressive foraging for food with the drought) Our hike took about 45  minutes with plenty of stops for photo ops and taking in the sights. We passed through a large meadow of Mule’s Ear behind Barker Peak before arriving at the crest, where the trail and OHV (off highway vehicle) road meet. Finding my secluded little plot, I cleared off and smoothed a perfect spot for the tent. Though I expected to be up and awake before sunrise, I made sure that the tent opening faced east to watch the sunrise in case we were still in sleeping bags at 0600.

Camp is now set for the night, time to get the bear bag hung with the “goodies” for breakfast out of reach of the Yogi’s. This time I didn’t bring my Bear Vault, as we were only going away for one meal’s worth of food. I used Op sacks, double bagged (overkill) and a modified PCT hang in a tree about 200 feet (count out 75 paces) from camp. If he/she could figure out how to get the food down, God bless you Yogi, you deserve it more than I do. (BTW, it was there the next morning)

At just over 8,000 feet, the wind can howl over the pass sometimes. Though it was windy the night that we stayed, the tent didn’t get much wind at all. I stepped outside for a peek at the stars, but went back in shortly, as it was a little brisk at 1:00 AM. Just before dawn, we awoke and made sure we would be ready to capture the sunrise on film. The wind had stopped, but clouds would obscure a perfect sunrise over the Carson Range and Lake Tahoe this time. While I boiled water for coffee, Sara started snapping pics of the sunrise. Now, each of us with our hot cup of coffee in hand, watched the sunrise over the clouds on the eastern horizon. Truly a great way to start your morning…just you, the birds and some hungry ground squirrels.

Two cups of coffee into us, it was time for a short hike out to the lava knob to the north, and a get a taste of fresh spring water (filtered of course) from one of the springs that feeds the Middle Fork of Blackwood Creek.  The hike out to the knob is fairly easy…nothing technical, following the contour of the mountain to the knob. (You can go out to the end, but the soil becomes somewhat loose underfoot, and take it slow on the sharp lava rocks.) Out on the ridge-line now, we can see where we camped, Barker Peak, Ellis Peak and Lake Tahoe. To the north, we could see Twin Peaks, where we were several weeks before on a 20 mile run on the PCT to the lake.

Time to pack up and head back to the car. On the way back down the hill, we came upon a young bearded guy, through hiking the PCT. We chatted for a little while, and I noticed that he had an accent, so nosey me asked where from…Israel! Well if that wasn’t interesting enough I asked his trail name and he said “Dorothy”…he chose it because he wasn’t in Kansas anymore! Very clever, I thought.

Time now for a heartier breakfast than a Clif bar in camp, so we got into the long line for breakfast at one of my favorite eateries, the Firesign Café on Westshore Blvd. At the time of writing, there is a new and improved market and deli across the street from the Firesign…perfect for grabbing a bite before heading out to the William Kent Beach.

After brekkie, we did take a stroll to the beach across the street and went for a quick dip in the lake. Not too cold this time, and laying in the sun felt pretty good after the cold water plunge. Good for a couple of hours of free relaxation before heading back down the mountain to UN-civilization.

That’s all to report for this trip…Thanks for coming along.

Until next time, I’ll see you somewhere in the Tahoe Wilderness

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Five Lakes – PCT – Stanford Rock Trail to William Kent Beach Trail Run

I’ve been excited for over a week now, getting ready for a long trail run in Lake Tahoe with my trail running club, the Donner Party Mountain Runners (DPMR) and my friend Sara. Sara just kicked cancer’s butt two weeks ago, and now she was ready to go kick some butt on the trail in the Sierras. The route was designed by Chris C. from our club, but he’s a kick-ass mountain runner that lives at 7,000 feet year ’round. We had some pretty tough climbs on this route, with our hearts in our throat the first couple miles to the ridge. The rewards from all of our hard work paid off though, with unbelievable vistas and panoramas of the Lake Tahoe Basin and Granite Chief Wilderness.

Since we were meeting at the trailhead at 0745 in the morning, with a start time of 0800, we needed to be up there the night before. The closest place I could get to the Five Lakes Trailhead in the Olympic Valley near Alpine Meadows ski resort was Donner Memorial Campground. It was nice, but expensive for what you get. My senior discount didn’t help much with the State Parks. With the drought, the showers were only turned on Thursdays and Saturdays if I recall.

That afternoon after making camp, we took a dry run to the Five Lakes Trailhead. It was several miles up the canyon from Highway 89. When we got there, some men were repairing and cleaning up the trailhead from the recent rains. A good 20 minutes travel time to the trailhead from the campground, I gave myself 30 minutes to get there in the morning.

Rise and shine, revellie at 0600…we arrived at the trailhead at about 0740, with members already getting ready to hit the trail. After a few formalities, getting the trail map (somewhat useless…too tiny to read) and signing the waiver, we all amassed for a group photo before heading up the hill. And it was literally “UP” the hill. Not living at altitude and trying to run right out of the gate is tough. I was wearing my heart rate monitor, but no need to look and see where my heart rate was…I knew where it was…it was in my throat! The good thing about having to stop so much is that you got to look around and enjoy where you are, take pictures, smell the fresh air and lavish in my element.

Agony led to ecstasy when we finally reached the ridge. Great views to look back on at the trail junction of Five Lakes Trail to the PCT. We’re now are hiking downhill just to make the hike back up the hill with switchbacks ad infinitum. Crossed a small stream, the outflow from Five Lakes. There were a couple of Northbounders off the PCT camping near the creek as we passed. Now for the climb to the ridge-line. Switchbacks…many switchbacks. Sara was not fond of them and preferred a ladder so we could get to the top quicker.

We finally reach the ridge line, and are treated to incredible views in every direction. We can now catch a glimpse of Tahoe to the east, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort below us, the Granite Chief Wilderness to the west, and Desolation Wilderness to the southwest.

There was a cool breeze on the ridge to keep us cooled off, which became cooler when we stopped for a rest or a bite. I made sure Sara was eating something, as we couldn’t afford for her to “bonk” up here…it was a long way back to civilization. When you are on long distance legs of a trip, you have to force yourself to eat and hydrate before it’s too late. We both took SaltStick also for electrolyte balance as well. The problem with this course is water sources – the first source was about 5 miles in, when you have enough water – and the second was at Ward Creek, less than 2 miles from the finish at the lake. We had room for more water, but you have to draw the line about how much you’re willing to carry sometimes. A heavier pack can also mean less enjoyment along the way, so you decide. If I did it again, I would throw in one more 20 oz. bottle for insurance.

Though we could see Twin Peaks from Ward Peak, it seemed to take eons to get there. We met up with several “Northbounders”…most very nice…some chatty like “Driver” and his pretty wife “Pit Stop” from Mississippi that found a common language with Sara. They were on a thru-hike on the PCT, and were holding up very well. Others on the trail very focused, or withdrawn, or just plum tuckered out and didn’t have much to say.  Oh well, it’s all good.
We finally found ourselves on the backside of Twin Peaks and our waypoint, turning  onto the Tahoe Rim Trail from the Pacific Crest Trail. I had been here last year in June with the snow at Twin Peaks, but the trail was obscured by snow and debris, I never got to summit the peak. Sara was much too tired and we were so far behind schedule, it would have to wait for another time once again. (I never need much reason to come back and do it again)
Once again on the saddle between Twin Peaks and Stanford Rock, we could see down into Ward Canyon, where the Rim Trail continues. It may have been easier climbing-wise for Sara, to take the TRT down the mountain, but it was longer by at least one mile. One more mile I didn’t know if she had in the tank. We continued on to Stanford Rock Trail, which was a steep and loose climb. We stopped and waited for about 8 MTB cyclists on the way down the hill – it was very steep and they needed all the room to keep from doing an “endo” on top of us.
The climb to this ridge was tough, especially when you’re really getting trail-weary. When we finally could see the lake, it looked miles away at best.
The trail drops in altitude very slowly, so we didn’t feel like we were advancing to our destination very quickly. Switching directions, back and forth, we felt like we were in a mouse labyrinth. I tried to cheat a little for Sara’s sake and make it to Ward Creek Blvd., and get her to hitch a ride to the end. Poor thing was spent, but kept at it and never gave up until she accomplished her mission. We finally made it to Ward Creek, but needed to find a way across. There was enough water flowing to get our feet and shoes about one foot deep in the cold water (which really wouldn’t have been such a bad thing at this point). We extended our trekking poles and chose our rocks carefully to make it across with no trouble.
Once back at the road, we tried our luck with hitch-hiking our way back to the beach, so we could hopefully get a ride back to the car in Alpine Meadows. (I know that I couldn’t get a ride if my life depended on it here in Tahoe…I know, I’ve tried it several times and failed miserably. Nobody picks up old guys, even with pretty legs) But a pretty young woman with her thumb out is another story. After several attempts, one local guy with his friendly dogs in the van stopped and gave Sara a ride to the beach area where we were supposed to meet our friends to get back to the car. There was only room for one in the van with the dogs using up more than their fair-share. No problem, I still had a little left in my tank to get back. Finally, Sara and I met up at the beach to find that nobody had waited for us or left word that they were coming back at anytime soon. It was now after 6PM and we needed to get back to the car somehow. I finally reached one of the run organizers and had her come back to get us, all the way from Truckee.
Looking back it was quite a day, and Sara had much to be triumphant about. Two weeks prior, she had kicked cancer’s butt and today she kicked some big mountain butt in Tahoe. Much to be proud of, and bragging rights to boot!
In the immortal words of Peter Quincy Taggert…
“Never give up…never surrender!”
Now it’s time for a little kick-back time at the end of the long day with a campfire, some hot cocoa and of course peanut butter for me…a staple for us Marmots.
Tomorrow we head for Barker Pass for a short hike and view from one of my favorite campsites. Many flowers in bloom this time of year so we’ll be taking pictures of some of the plants in this section of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Until then…I’ll see you on my next adventure,

somewhere in the Tahoe Wilderness.

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Tahoe City to Ward Creek, Tahoe Rim Trail Run

Gorgeous weather was in store for Lake Tahoe this week and I was lucky to tag along with my friend JoAnne to Tahoe City. While she was attending a seminar for the Ross Valley Fire Department, it would give me enough time for a leisurely run/hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail to Ward Creek and back. Before starting my trek, we ventured behind the Tahoe Dam and Gatekeeper’s Quarters, where there should be water…but not this year. This year the area behind the dam is bone dry – the lake behind the Gatekeeper’s Residence has been replaced by a field of Crest Lupin, beautiful purple flowers that grow out to the water’s edge, some 100 meters away.

The TRT Trailhead starts on the west side of the bike/foot bridge that goes over the Truckee River. Depressing to see what little water is flowing for businesses like river rafting and restaurants along the Truckee. I only hope they can survive the season.

Just over the bridge is a nice picnic area with tables in the shade of large pine trees. Parking is abundant for beginning your TRT section or biking along the Tahoe Bike Path. Outhouses are nearby for any last minute needs.

This section is just under 6 miles with about 976 feet of elevation gain. It is kid and dog friendly on a leash (leash for kids optional). The trail follows the Truckee River northward for a short time before ducking into the forest of pines and cedar. (Click here for a satellite view of the section route)

From there, the trail switchbacks up the side of the canyon, following the contour as you climb away from the Truckee River. Flowers are in abundance along this section of the TRT. The bright “Daisy-like” flower of Mule Ears and the lavender blue of Stickseed flowers lined my path.

As the trail turns to the south, the first of several meadows come into view.

Not easily accessible, it’s best to wait for Page Meadows. Finally, after the last grove of trees disappears, the scene opens to the sprawling panorama of Page Meadows, perfectly showcasing the volcanic monoliths of Twin Peaks and Ward Peak in the distance.

The concrete “Boardwalk” placed there by the volunteers from the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, help keep the trail open during soggy months, insuring that the trail will still be there the following season. Once on the other side of the meadows, the trail once again finds it’s way back into the forest.

Meandering in and out of direct sun, the shady sections are welcome in the noonday sun. Several steep sections arrive just before the end of the trail segment. Forest Service Road 15N60 is a wide and a fairly steep climb or “glissade” over dirt and gravel, depending on which way you are going. There are several last distant views of Ward Canyon and mountains behind. The service road continues straight, to intersect with Ward Creek Road further east. The TRT trail, branches off to the right, towards Ward Creek Road, then crosses it to join the TRT Ward Creek to Barker Pass Segment. There is ample parking along the road on Ward Creek Road near the trailhead for either section of the TRT you wish to do.

 

A couple of bonus pictures on my way back to Tahoe City… The “New” William Kent beach area that has been under construction for more than one year is now open…with flush toilets and picnic tables in the shade and a very nice, but small, beach to bask in the sun. Parking is limited, so be patient or prepared to walk a few blocks. If you’re hungry, one of my favorite eateries in Lake Tahoe is just across the highway, the Firesign Café.

Thanks for riding along with me…until then…

See you on my next adventure, in the Tahoe wilderness

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Brockway Summit East Trailhead to Vista Point

Well this one was truly the Mother of all “out and backs”, as I got on the road at 6:30 am and drove to Donner Summit, and didn’t get home until 11:30 pm. This time I decided to take a road less traveled and got off the freeway in Cisco Grove. I haven’t been in Cisco Grove in a little over a year, previously cycling with my fellow Grizzly Peak Cycling club member Brenda. We biked a loop from downtown Truckee to Cisco Grove and back with several side excursions. This time on Donner Pass Road, I followed along the Yuba River along Highway 80, taking my time, unfettered by speeding traffic on the highway. I passed Soda Springs Ski Resort on Donner Pass Road, all but closed up for the season for the lack of snow. This was the gateway to my usual hang-out at Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort. I am certain that it was closed for the season as well. To the south, I passed the Lake Van Norden, A popular kite skiing area when there is snow. A short ways down the road I came to Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, still in operation, but at the time of this writing on March 19, Sugar Bowl has ultimately thrown in the towel for the season as well. Donner Ski Ranch had closed until next season also. It has been a dismal two years for the ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe/Donner and Truckee area, more so for the resorts in the north.

The views were still spectacular as I drove over Donner Pass Summit, overlooking Donner Lake. A virtually cloudless sky and calm winds added to the gorgeous views of Donner Lake. Walking out on one of the public fishing piers, the lack of water in the lake became increasingly obvious. Pier pilings that should have been underwater were high and dry. Luckily, the clarity of the water was unaffected.

It was close enough to lunch time for me so it was time to head to downtown Truckee, for a bite and some good coffee at the CoffeeBar Truckee. This is one of our favorite hangouts for my trail running club, the Donner Party Mountain Runners. It was a beautiful day and I found a perfect spot on one of the outside tables to enjoy my coffee and gluten-free sandwich. Good stuff.

If you’re coming from out of the area and are not familiar with parking in downtown Old Truckee, a word to the wise. Donner Pass Road, the main drag in town is very crowded and finding a parking spot is next to impossible on weekends. Some of the side streets like Jibboom where the CoffeeBar is located has additional parking, but be sure to purchase parking at one of the Parking Kiosks in town (usually at the street corner) and place the receipt on your dashboard. The open parking spaces are not free. Don’t forget to find the Kiosk and pay for your parking before returning to you car hours later to a parking ticket. OK, nuff said.

Okay now it was time for some trail time. Turning right on Bridge Street from Donner Pass Road will bring you to Highway 267. Turn right at the light and continue south on Highway 267 driving past the Truckee Airport and the Martis Valley on your left and Northstar Ski Resort on your right. Several miles past the Northstar begin the climb up to Brockway Summit, elevation 7,179’. Within the next mile on your right, you will come to a parking area for the Tahoe Rim Trail Brockway Trailhead East and West. Parking is only allowed on the right side of Highway 267 as you’re driving toward Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe. The East trailhead for the Brockway Tahoe Rim Trail is on the other side of the highway. Get there safely as you can.

Once on the forest service access road on the other side of the green barrier, walk to the top of the hill to see the TRT Brockway Trailhead Sign. In the summer season, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association places segment maps at the trailhead that you are welcome to take. (Please try to remember to slip one or two dollars into the donation pipe near the trailhead. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association operates purely on donations from people like you and I)

The trail now is fairly well marked, with very few switchbacks to contend with. At 1.25 miles from the beginning of the trailhead, the spur trail makes a sharp left, doubling back on itself, to the Vista Point. Be on the lookout for this sharp turn, as sometimes the trail post is missing. (This time it is not missing due to vandalism, but from the deer that rub themselves against the post and “crib”, or chew on the Tahoe Rim Trail signs themselves, thus knocking them over). This time, on March 8, there were still patches of snow and mud on the trail in the shaded areas. In one quarter-mile you will arrive at the summit of the Vista Point.

The rock formations resemble something from the Flintstones cartoons from years ago. There are some breathtaking views of the southeast, south and southwest. Spend some time to take it all in…afterall, you just climbed about 800 feet to enjoy the view.

After 30 minutes of photo opportunities and drinking it all in, the spectacular views and mountain fresh air, I decided to go take a look at the lake near Kings Beach.

Once on the beach, the evidence of the drought on Lake Tahoe was more evident. Standing at the waters edge, I looked back on the pier facing, that should have been in about five feet deep of water, was now some 30 or 40 yards from the lake. The outlook is pretty dismal for our water in California for the next year without snow or rain to return the lake to its natural level.

Well, once again, it’s time to hit the road, Jack. Time to get back home as nightfall is drawing near. Some 3½ to 4 hours later, I arrived back home at 2330 or 11:30 PM. That was a long day. Rest assured, I will be sleeping in tomorrow.

Thanks for following along.

See you again on my next Adventure in the Tahoe Wilderness

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Mt. Rose to Galena Falls – Snowshoes in May

OK, a new day, a new adventure. Headed back up to Mt. Rose Summit parking area for a day hike to Galena Falls and maybe Relay Peak if I can get that far with the snow. Left my bike with Max at Flume Trail Bikes for babysitting while I went out to play in the snow.

The trailhead at Mt. Rose starts on the south side of the parking area, climbing quickly to open area overlooking Tahoe Meadows. As you climb, you can see the northern part of Lake Tahoe and some of the higher peaks in the basin. The trail soon turns north into a more forested area.

Within the next 1/2 mile, the trail became more obscure with the snow. There are not as many trail markers on this section of the TRT. With the snow covering the trail, you just had to hike in the general direction of where you thought it was. Not always easy with or without the snowshoes. I had them on and off many times in an hour of hiking.

The weather was beautiful, sunny, clear and warm, so I wasn’t about to quit too soon. Finally, I came to the sharp turn in the trail below Tamarak Peak, slowly making my way to Galena Falls. The snow was getting more prevalent the deeper I got into the canyon.

At the base of the falls, I decided that the switchbacks up the side of the mountain to Relay Peak would have been more than I could do in snowshoes today. Since I was going so slow, I would not get back to the car before dusk, and I was already on the shaded side of the mountain.

The return trip back took longer than I wanted – walking on a 20% slope in snowshoes was tiring. The trail was not flat, and snowshoes weren’t designed to walk sideways. Several hours later, I’m back at the car, pretty spent from my workout today. A hot shower would be nice, but that will have to wait for another day. Back in camp, it was time for a campfire, hot tea and bedtime.

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Another day ahead… I need my beauty rest

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

Echo Lakes to Barker Pass TRT

Segment total : 32.7 miles
Minimum elevation: 6,914′
Maximum elevation: 9,381′
Total elevation gained: 6,158’
Moving Time: 12:35
Total Time: 36:57
Minimum Temp: 38°F
Maximum Temp: 94.4°F

 Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha

Starting this segment was another confusing one where I had to call on my resources from WannaRideTahoe to shuttle me from my end point at Barker Pass Road and Highway 89, to my starting point at Echo Lake Chalet. It was a long way to go for Kat and her shuttle to come halfway up the west side of the lake to pick me up. She had several parties down in Meyers to pick up and needed to be back by a certain time, so coupled with road construction we were really pushing the envelope on meeting her schedule. Finally arriving at Echo Lake Chalet off of Highway 50, Kat need to get back on the road quickly so no time for idle chitchat this time.

This time of the year there a lot of youth camps going on at the lake and the Chalet. Lots of young teenagers going to and from some activity or another. The Echo Chalet is a General Store, a deli, a Post Office and mail-drop for many PCT through hikers. The Chalet caters to long-range backpackers coming and going, plugging in their cell phones outside in one electrical outlet (everybody seems to take turns sharing) and accommodates  various requests from all thru hikers. I went into the Chalet’s General Store to see if there was any last-minute things I couldn’t live without for the next 30+ miles. Came back outside and took off my backpack, and sat down on a large log surrounding what looked like a picnic area.

There were about five other backpackers there, mostly PCT’ers picking up their reprovisioning boxes they had sent themselves weeks ago. I noticed one man had a bear vault larger than mine and thought to myself I couldn’t imagine caring one any bigger or more uncomfortable than the one I had, weighing in at 2 1/2 pounds. As it turned out, that man and I would meet once again up the trail and become hiking buddies for the next 30 miles.

Well it was now or never. I needed to get this show on the road. So I headed out on the walkway going over the dam from lower Echo Lake to find the trailhead. After several miscues mixed with a few dumb questions, I finally found the correct direction and was off. The trail started out as a fairly wide road bed, well graded and even.

Beautiful views of lower Echo Lake and surrounding hills and large billowy clouds was a nice visual start to my next adventure. The next half mile to three quarters of a mile was quite a difficult walk. A path of large broken sharp rocks made it very difficult walking surface this section of today’s hike. The rocks were not well packed, but loose, making my ankles work a little harder than I had wanted and making me wary that I was going to turn an ankle any moment.

Soon I passed that difficult section of the trail and once again was on a well packed dirt surface. By this time I had passed upper Echo Lake and Lake of the Woods. I passed one young brother and sister couple from Louisiana that were hiking back out of Lake Aloha on a day hike. We chatted for a moment, they were very pleasant and we wished each other good luck and went our separate ways.

By the time I arrived at Lake Aloha, the clouds were continuing to gather in the afternoon and the wind was building. Several other campers had arrived before me and had already staked out their claims on some prime camp spots.

I found a good spot, nestled between a cluster of five trees that would block the wind for my little tent for the night. It was a good thing I hunkered down between the trees, as the wind and threatening thunderstorms were howling all night. I probably slept about an hour or two that night.

When morning came, I emerged from my little green and red tent to find a beautiful, cloudless dawn illuminating the eastern slopes of the Crystal Range that bordered Lake Aloha to the west.

What a sight to wake up to. It seemed as though I was the only creature stirring that early in the morning. I went back to my camp quickly made one of my gourmet Starbucks Via coffee and headed out to the lake to enjoy my view and my morning brew.

The geology of Lake Aloha area was quite fascinating, with polished granite seemingly stacked vertically if you look straight down on it from above. It was as though the glacier that formed it had scraped it with fingernails, forming many long thin lakes to make up the entire 2 miles long body of Lake Aloha.

After breakfast while doing my dishes, the man about my age that I had met at the Echo Chalet who’s bear vault was bigger than mine, was walking near the lake. He was gazing over the lake and the Crystal Range in the distance, admiring its beauty and taking some photos. I said hello and introduced myself as “Tahoe Marmot” and he introduced himself as “Dioko”. He had spent the night a mile or two back at Tamarack Lake, which we found out later from several Rangers that that was a no-no, they don’t like people camping at that lake. After brief greetings and salutations, we realized we were on the same route and thought it might be a good idea to have some company along the way. The wind was still brisk in the early morning hours about 0800, but it was so difficult leave Lake Aloha behind.

The water where the colors of emerald and turquoise, sapphire blue… something that resembled the water of the submarine ride at Disneyland. Turning back to the trail, and looking up to the northeast on our right, we come to Cracked Crag. A decomposing monolith, a heap of rubble of large jagged boulders making up the southwest face. Cracked Crag is home to many marmots (my relatives of course) that make their home there, avoiding predators by hiding in the rubble. We did see one sunning himself in the warm morning sunshine as we hiked to the next trail junction at the north end of Lake Aloha.

Lake Aloha to Gilmore Lake

From there the trail turned east, passing a small waterfall next to the trail, cascading into a small, unnamed lake. Within a half-mile we were upon Heather Lake, another beautiful mountain lake with several islands scattered within it. Probably would’ve been a nice place for a swim however the shoreline seem to be mostly broken talus making it difficult to walk on. We met several other hikers coming and going, all the while the conversation seemed to be about the wind last night, how beautiful the day was today, and our next water source. The trail continued to be the sharp broken talus for another half-mile or so over a ridge until we reached Suzie Lake where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we began our 500 foot climb to our next destination for the night, Gilmore Lake. Before Gilmore, we arrived at a trail junction, to the northwest the TRT and PCT would continue on up to Dick’s Pass and to the right would take us to Gilmore Lake.

Arriving at Gilmore Lake we took our packs off to scout out our campsite for the night. While Dioko was out scouting, it gave me a chance to do some exploring myself.
At the southeastern section of the lake, was a small man-made stone dam, constructed in the 1950’s to control and maintain the water at Gilmore Lake for later use downstream.  On the other side of the dam, was the trailhead connecting to Mount Tallac, at 9,735 feet, one of the most recognizable peaks in the Tahoe basin. (Mount Tallac rises above Gilmore Lake to the northeast) Dioko returned shortly, having found a prime campsite for us for the night. There was another family of six enjoying the area with the kids swimming in the lake, but it was a little too brisk for Dioko and I so we continued on to make camp.

This would be the first night at camp together, giving us an opportunity to tell each other about ourselves. Dioko was a very interesting man, tall with long grey beard, befitting of a long distance backpacker. A far more experienced backpacker than myself, having designed and made his own backpack and hammock in lieu of a tent to sleep in. He also fashioned his own extra battery packs for charging his cell phone and camera. Though it took him 15 years to complete, he finished the entire Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine, 2,160 miles. Quite an impressive accomplishment for a man approaching 69 years old. We greeted several other groups of backpackers arriving late for the night at Gilmore Lake before turning in early ourselves. We had a long day ahead of us, climbing to Dick’s Pass at 9,400 feet.

Gilmore Lake to Phipps Creek

We had a good night’s sleep after the wind died down. Our next day began at first light with 40° temps, and after a modest breakfast and coffee for myself and sharing one with Dioko, we were off about 0730 for Dick’s Pass and our next destination for the night, Phipps Creek. There were many minor trails sprouting off from Gilmore, so we didn’t need to backtrack all the way back to the main trail to intercept the PCT to Dicks Pass. The 1,000 foot climb to Dick’s Pass was a somewhat gentle grade to the pass, with unsurpassed views of our route through Desolation so far.

We could see back to Aloha, Heather, Suzie Lakes, as well as Half Moon and Alta Morris Lakes lying below us at the base of Dick’s Peak. Pyramid Peak and the entire Crystal Range seemed close enough to touch, the day was so clear and the colors were so intense, we stopped for a bit to just take it all in. We passed several mountain springs, trickling down the hillside. Though we didn’t need any water, it was tempting to get a drink from a fresh cold mountain spring. Onward. We saw several marmots and birds along the trail to the pass. One male Western Tanager, a bright yellow bird that I have only seen a few times before. Once again we spoke with a young couple that we had previously met near Heather Lake. They had dropped their new camera their first day out, really bad news amidst all this beauty. Dioko and I exchanged our email addresses with them so we could share the photos that we were taking along the way.

At Dick’s Pass we could now see on both sides of the Desolation Wilderness. We had incredible views with visibility at least 50 miles in all directions. Our cell phones had a good signal so we took a moment to check in with friends and family, and for Dioko to update his trail journal for the last two days.

It was time to begin our descent down to Dick’s Lake, a 1,000 foot descent zigzagging along the mountain to the lake. We came upon another trail junction to Azure Lake and Maggie’s Peaks, and to the left to Dicks Lake. At that point we were greeted by three backcountry forest rangers, a man and two hearty young ladies with full packs complete with shovels, maintaining the trails in the DW. After a brief chat, checking our permits, and thanking them for their hard work we were off to Dick’s Lake for lunch and a needed break.

The lake was a beautiful sight, with unobstructed views of the pass that we just came over. Other than some campers at the southeastern end of the lake, we had the lake to ourselves. Time to move on, as we had many miles to go to Phipps Creek, our next campsite for the night.

Fontanillis Lake was another jewel in the wilderness. An elongated lake, we walked closely along the eastern shoreline at the water’s edge. At the northernmost tip of the lake was a natural dam with the water cascading over the rocks turning to a stream that continued down to Upper Velma Lake.

From atop some of the rocks we climbed on, we could see the other two Velma’s and Lake Tahoe through the pass between Maggie’s Peaks and Jake’s Peak. We had taken many breaks, and Dioko was eager to keep moving. The trail was not quite as obvious as one would hope, but Dioko’s good scouting skills found the trail on the other side of the creek, so we pressed on. We came upon four young women that seemed to be out on a day hike, a little unprepared to have hiked so far into the wilderness. They only had about 2 bottles of water between them, so we offered some of ours. They said they were drinking from the lakes and creeks and were ok, so we wished them luck and kept on our plan.

Originally we were to stay at Middle Velma, that had good water and campsites. It would have meant for a very long next day, so we pressed on to Phipps Creek for the night.

Arriving at Phipps, the creek was barely flowing. Several pools of water were accessible about 20 to 30 feet downstream. We decided to make camp for the night about 100 feet from the creek, at a nice clearing in the trees. Dioko quickly found several trees perfect for his hammock setup, and I went to work clearing a smooth open spot for my tent. He took pictures of me being so “anal” about smoothing out my tent bed with a large tree branch I found (Happy to have provided some amusement) The bugs, flies and mosquitoes lived up to their reputation of “mosquito death” of Phipps Creek.

I had just added a mosquito head net to my hiking repertoire, and put it to the test.

It worked great, and I was quite pleased with myself for actually buying something that made my day more enjoyable. The only thing with it, was my feeble brain not remembering that I was wearing it before I took a drink of soup or tea. After a couple of spills without Dioko looking I got the hang of it. One odd thing of note, is that we found an old steel skillet while returning from hiding our bear vaults. Looked as though someone had been living here years ago, living off of what we didn’t know. Several PCT thru hikers came through camp later that afternoon, but didn’t even notice us as they were zoned out from their iPods and moving at a pretty good clip. We each took turns going down to the creek to gather water to filter. Dioko used a Steri-Pen, which worked for him, but my opinion was that it was like some Ross Perot Voodoo wand that required more batteries and technology in the wilderness, and was not something that I could rely upon to be foolproof. I have an MSR Micro-filter, but traded it in on most of my long trips for a Sawyer Mini and collapsible liter bags. The Sawyer filter was an offshoot from the healthcare industry and renal dialysis, something that was very familiar to me. It only weighed 2 ounces plus the bags, and comes with a syringe to back flush the filter when it becomes clogged. After fighting swarms of mosquitos for 20 minutes I finally had all the water I needed and filtered for the next day’s trip.

Phipps Creek to Bear Creek

We both had a good sleep, not much wind throughout the night. The only thing I recall in the darkness of the moonless night were airliners flying overhead with their strobes illuminating the dark forest night. It was about 40°F in the morning and the bugs were too cold to get out of bed yet. Had a quick breakfast, shared another cup of Starbucks with Dioko and were on the trail by 0745. Dioko did not bring a camp stove on this trip or any means of heating food. I don’t always have to have a hot meal each day, but I do enjoy my hot coffee in the morning and hot peppermint tea at night. After breaking camp in the morning, we happened upon another nice campsite about 1 mile past our campsite. Nice and level off to the right, enough room for maybe two small tents.

The day was pretty sedate, not as many “wow factor” views compared to the last few days. We had several 400 foot climbs that day, the remainder of it trending downhill until we exited from the Desolation Wilderness. After about 6 miles we made our way to Richardson Lake for lunch at about 1045. The lake is outside of the DW and is accessible by 4×4’s and ATV’s. There weren’t any there at the moment. Continuing on at about 1145, we came across many downed trees across the trail. I made note of their location to report it to the TRT folks so they could clear them when they had the time. The temps got up to about 75°F, but felt hotter without the aid of trees to shade our path.

The Garmin GPS and my trail map showed Miller Creek about 2 miles from Barker Pass. Dioko had Guthook’s Tahoe Rim Trail Hiker App on his Android which showed reliable water at Bear Creek, about 1.5 miles short of the pass. Mine did not indicate the Bear Creek water source. It turned out that both sources were there and were flowing well at that time of year. The TRT Hiker App indicated a good campsite about 50 meters beyond the creek, and indeed it was.

A nice clearing for both of us. After making camp, we both went down to the creek to top off with water and do a little emergency laundry, as we were both getting a little rank at this point in the trip. After chores were done it was time for a little relaxation time for both of us. I decorating my tent with a mantlepiece of a moss-covered branch above my doorway, to give it a more lived in look. One disconcerting sight at our campsite was that of a fire ring that someone had made. The remnants of the charcoal bits of wood in the ring gave no indication that someone had tried to douse the fire after using it. They just allowed it to burn itself out. I am continually astounded by the stupidity of people entering a fragile wilderness area that has been dry as a bone for months. Dioko and I dispersed the fire ring before we left the area the next day, and reported the ring to the USFS when we got back to civilization.

Bear Creek to Barker Pass

We began our day on the trail early, on the trail by about 0715. we were eager to get things moving, as this was my last day on the trail of this section. Dioko would continue on around to Kingsbury, where he started the TRT. This was his hump day, marking the halfway point around the lake.

At the pass, we took each other’s pictures and

congratulated each other on our combined achievement.

Dioko had been a great hiking partner for the trip, enjoying the same pace and similar temperament. We wished each other the best and vowed to keep in touch. A lady from the TRT Association was there interviewing hikers about their experiences on the trail. We were only too happy to chime in. Dioko needed to press on, as he had many miles to go before bedding down for the night in Ward Canyon… and  I needed to find a ride back down the mountain to my car parked at Kaspian Campground and Highway 89. An older lady had just dropped off her husband and granddaughter for a day hike to Alpine Meadows where they lived. She was kind enough to take me back down the hill, thus concluding my 33 mile segment of the TRT through the Desolation Wilderness.

GPS Data

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/551247514


Dioko completed his TRT Challenge on August 2 and was soon back home in North Carolina to rejuvenate from his 172 mile accomplishment. We have remained in touch, and hope to hike together in the future.

I will return in two weeks to continue another segment of the TRT, Mount Rose to Brockway Summit.

I will report it here when complete.

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Until then… see ya on my next adventure in the Tahoe wilderness

The Road Goes Ever On

Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are my feet,
Still round the corner I may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but I alone.

The Hobbit ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Ward Creek to Twin Peaks TRT

GPS Track

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/515891395

There is parking for 6 to 8 cars on the south side of the road next to the Ward Canyon Trailhead. The trail drops down slightly and metal barrier crosses the service road that appears to be rarely used. The road turns to trail shortly, wandering through pine and fir trees with split log fences bordering the trail. There is not much shade, so don’t forget to use plenty of sunscreen.

After several miles you arrive at the Tahoe Rim Trail’s Ward Creek Bridge, a very stout bridge built in 2007 with a grant from the Tahoe Conservancy. It is  a good water source in spring and until midsummer, however it is a lot of work to get to. One would have to climb down underneath the bridge to get the water. It is otherwise a dry section of the TRT. The trail eventually becomes a single track going through meadows of corn lily and budding mule’s ear. You will see short fir and small pine trees standing like Christmas trees, scattered about the meadow as well. Shortly after mile three Ward Creek Trail you arrive at McCloud Falls, cascading into a heavily wooded canyon and stream bed, mostly inaccessible, unless you’re out of water and have little choice.

The trail becomes very steep at this point climbing up over rock ledges and switchbacking up the steep incline towards the ridge. All the while climbing the hill looking back over your right shoulder to see Ward Peak peering down on you, a lava promontory visible for most of your trip.

After approximately one more mile you arrive at a large open meadow with Twin Peaks in full view. As I was there in early June, there was still abundant patches of snow on northeast facing slopes, that rarely get enough sunshine to melt at the higher altitudes. In this section of Ward Creek Trail, one begins to realize how much work the TRT Association Volunteers puts into these trails. Stones and boulders weighing several hundred pounds look as though they were precisely laid out for your staircase to the top of the ridge. Please take an opportunity to thank the TRT Volunteers for all that they do keep these trails maintained for us to enjoy.

Now turning west toward the ridge line and Twin Peaks the trail follows the steep contour of the hillside cutting through groves of twisted trees trying to grow toward the sunlight. It’s easier to see in the picture what I’m trying to say.

I have been meaning to ask a ranger why these trees grew this way; did the earth shift and they had to grow differently? A question I hope have answered someday.

Finally arriving at the ridge line, proximally 8,400 feet, you arrive at the trail junction of the Stanford Rock Trail. A large flat area with low-growing Manzanita and sparsely scattered rocks decorate your path toward the TRT and PCT Trail Junction at Twin Peaks.

At this time in early June, there was still a great deal of snow to navigate through and around. With the lack of coarse markings, such as TRT Trail Medallions and blue spray paint on trees, the way to the trail was quite ambiguous. I bushwhacked my way off of the trail as I could not find it, and my Garmin 800 cycling computer that I had converted to a hiking computer, was too difficult to read for these old eyes.

I came upon the crumbling stone and rock edifice of Twin Peaks and large piles of rocks… as though a dump truck had dumped a load of rocks and boulders in my way. Eventually through dumb luck and perseverance I found my way to the top.

Limitless panoramas were there for the taking with views of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Granite Chief Wilderness to the west and Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl to the north.

It had taken me nearly 4 1/2 hours to get this far and I had already had my usual late start. It was time to get off the mountain and get back to my campsite before sundown. Of course the trip down was far easier than the trip up, with one admonition. Please make note that this is a very popular mountain bike trail. Diehard mountain bikers will join the Stanford Rock Trail from Ward Creek and come back down Ward Canyon behind you. With many 20% plus downgrades they may be coming at a pretty good clip. Most of them are pretty good about warning you are ahead of time, but just keep this in mind.

One more thing to make note of is your bug repellent and mosquito nets. From spring until fall the mosquitoes and flies own the Ward Creek Canyon. Just be forewarned. Unless you don’t mind donating several pints of your blood to the local mosquito population I suggest that you put on plenty of deet or whatever bug repellent of choice you have and/or mosquito head nets. There are several guidebooks that indicate you can camp in several areas of the Ward Canyon, all which may be true. Just bear in mind the bugs… Just may not be a pleasant night’s stay.

Once back at the trailhead it was time to head back to the lake, take a dip and give back the trail dust I borrowed for the day and relax.

TahoeMarmot2 copy-resized copyI’ll be back in camp soon to plan tomorrow’s next adventure.

Tahoe City to Brockway Summit West

This trip I tried something different – to hike with some “thirty-somethings”…you know, try to be sociable or the like. I think I just chose the wrong demographics. More on that later.

I knew the route, as I had done sections of it by myself before, but my Garmin 800 cycling computer didn’t record it correctly. Since the drought was a big factor, caching water was a good idea along the dry sections. From Tahoe City to Brockway, there are only two water sources, one would be “iffy” around Martis Peak.

I drove up a day early and cached 6 liters of water for our group at the Vista Point about 1.5 miles from the Brockway East Trailhead. I saved it to my GPS and headed back down the hill, making camp at my usual Kaspian Campground south of Sunnyside. A simple bike-in/hike-in camp without trailers and RV’s.

This trip started by joining a “Meetup” group in the San Francisco Bay area. Seemed like a good idea at the time, meet some people with similar interests, have some company along the way. The logistics were always difficult for me, hiking alone, as I never was sure how I was getting back to my car, or getting to the starting point, one or the other. With a group, we would drop off one car big enough to fit everyone at our end-point, then drive back to point “A”.

Worked in theory… more on that later…

Three of us met in the morning for breakfast at my fav west shore café, The Fire Sign Café in Sunnyside. From there we carpooled to the Mount Rose Summit parking area to drop off one car, then double-back to meet up with the others at the Tahoe City Trailhead, behind the Community Center. Ample parking, but no facilities to start your day. Be sure you take care of things before you get there. Several members of the group were already over two hours late in arriving. (Former military training: early = on time, on time = you’re late, late = you’re dead) I don’t like to wait for anyone.

So now it’s 1100, two hours plus late for getting started on the trail, it was already hot. We had 13 miles to go to get to camp at Watson Lake, our only water source on that stretch. An older dad hiking with his daughter were good company while we were close to each other. The others seemed to be in a foot race and fairly unsociable for a “social” Meetup group. (Run along children)

Day One GPS Track

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/532033636

This trip I tried out a new pack that really wasn’t the correct size for me – sometimes a good deal is not necessarily a good idea. Combined with shopping and packing when I was hungry (also not a good idea), I had too much on my back. Not even going to mention the weight of my bloody Bear Vault.

Also, I’m like a raccoon…I drink a lot of water. And at nearly 2 pounds per liter, I tanked up with 4+ liters for my first 13 miles to Watson Lake. Should be enough, right? Hot, slogging up the hill from TC, the one that never seems to end, I was running low already. To add to the discomfort, I was still in my winter mode with my comfy Keen boots I wear when snowshoeing. With the heat, and trying to keep up with the kids, I turned my feet into Dim Sum – yep, steamed ‘em soft as oatmeal. Now I have heat (I hate heat), heavy pack, low water, both feet in a solid blister. Lord take me now!

The trail from Tahoe City is a climb packed with many false summits. You get to the top of one to realize there is another even higher behind it. And the trail has a very frustrating northern direction at the beginning, giving you the feeling that you will soon be back in Truckee if the trail doesn’t turn east soon. The trail was not all frustration, as the constant climbing brought you to incredible views of the lake and the Truckee River below.

We could see people rafting down the river, what seemed like a half mile below us. Looking southwest from a lava rock promontory, I saw Twin Peaks, where I had been just the week before. That weekend, the views were endless, as often is the case in Lake Tahoe.

On this segment of the TRT, much of the soils are volcanic rocks, cinder cones and lava flows. Very rugged red lava rock contrasts with broken talus beneath your feet, sometimes catching a toe or two on the irregular trail.

Onward.

“…And miles to go before I sleep”.

I fell behind the group in short order – just as well. I decided to bivouac overlooking Tahoe City for the night. I had just 1/4 cup of water to get me through the night and several miles in the morning to Watson Lake. No dinner, no breakfast, just enough water to take my morning meds. Broke camp at 0630 and, after a never-ending climb up and around Watson Peak, arriving at the lake at 0830.

At least it was still in the cool of the morning. Broke out my MSR water filter, made one big bottle of cold mountain lake water and chugged it in a New York minute. Saved !

Water never tasted so good. I continued tanking up the rest of my bottles and Camelback bladder, and I was back on the trail, ahead of the others who were still in camp. I knew that in my “damaged” condition, they would soon catch up with me.

This is when I confirmed that I was a solo hiker – do not fix what isn’t broken

Day Two GPS Track

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/532033638

Not far after leaving the lake, I did come across Watson Creek, though not running strong was a drinkable water source. You could tell where the water source was as the vegetation was more abundant as it trickled down the hillside in the meadow.

After the creek, the trail opened up to a large meadow, covered in Mule’s Ear and Corn Lilies (poisonous, don’t eat). The Mules Ear reminded me of a faint smell of cigar, or perhaps it was just my nose.

The bright yellow flower of the Mule’s Ear and purple mountain Lupine, looked like a scene from “The Sound of Music”, painting the slopes above Tahoe City with the colors of summer. I met many day-hikers going in the opposite direction – many locals with their dogs out for a hike in the beautiful Tahoe sunshine. Someday, I will be living there full time (or buried there, whichever comes first).

Several hours later the group caught up with me and passed me. The dad and daughter team did slow down for me, as dad was also a little weary from his young daughter’s brisk pace.

She was very sweet and didn’t seem to mind slowing down for us old guys.

Just before arriving at the Fiberboard Freeway (one of the first logging roads between Highway 89 in Tahoe City and Highway 267 at Brockway Summit) we met another young lady on her way down to Watson Lake on a day hike. A school teacher from St. Louis, Missouri, out west to satisfy her hunger for adventure on her summer break. She had more gadgets on her than I had – looked like REI made out well with her before she left Missouri. Solar charger on her backpack, big enough to power the International Space Station…and the biggest can of Bear Spray that money could buy. We chatted a bit, and told her of my plans to bail out from the group at Brockway. She was so genuinely sweet to offer me a ride back to my car if I waited for her to return from Watson Lake. At my slow pace by now, I wouldn’t have to wait long.

After a long while, we arrived at the Brockway Summit West Trailhead. Our logistics now had changed. My feet were toast, and I was not too proud to throw in the towel this time. It this point, I realized why they were slowing down for me. They wanted my water cache less than 2 miles up the trail, and it might be a good idea to have on the next 10 mile dry section. They also did not do their homework and get their own Campfire Permit, which was needed for camp stoves in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

(With the drought, campfires were still forbidden) I gave them the coordinates for the water, and the permit (in my name, non-transferable so they’re SOL anyways if the ranger checks).

The young lady in the group was sweet enough to scout out the location of the Missouri license plate of the car that was taking me back to Tahoe City. Now if I just get my pack off, put my feet up for a bit and wait until my other “Trail Angel” comes back from her hike to drive me back, I’ll feel better in no time.

Not more than an hour went by before my girl emerged from the forest, as fresh looking as she went in. Loaded up her mini SUV, and off we went to Tahoe City. I noticed that her fuel gauge was at 1/4 tank or less, and happily gave her $20 for bailing me out. Being such a highly overpaid teacher (sic), she was thankful to have her favor returned. We wished each other the best of luck in our future endeavors and parted company in Tahoe City.

On the way back to my usual marmot hangout at Kaspian Campgrounds,

I stopped by my fav spot on the lake to soak my poor tired dogs. Pure heaven now; off the trail, feet in the lake, sitting back in my lawn chair. Soon I was back in camp, set up my hammock, popped open one of my non-alcoholic beers I had been saving in the cooler for such an occasion and was in marmot heaven for the next hour.

Don’t remember even making dinner that night. I started my campfire and made a cup of peppermint tea to chase down a handful of ibuprofen needed to feel normal again. As the flames of my fire grew dim, so had I. It was time to put myself and the past two days on the TRT to bed. I never cease to learn something each time I set out on the trail…

And hiking alone is not such a bad thing after all.

GPS Track (Partial)

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/532033638


The Road Goes Ever On

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

~The Hobbitt, J.R.R. Tolkein

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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…

Mount Rose to Brockway Summit TRT

Two prior attempts at this segment were unsuccessful . One time due to a snowstorm in May, and another in June due to blisters. Each direction has its share of challenges; Mount Rose to Brockway the initial climb is steep, and there is a good campsite and water for the first night. On my trip through Desolation Wilderness, my trail partner Dioko was using an app by Guthook Hikes, Tahoe Rim Trail Hiker. He swore by it, so I downloaded it for this trip. Turned out to be very useful, as it was TRT specific and solicited user-input for trail updates. Since it uses your cellphone’s GPS capability, the cell signal is not always needed.

Brockway to Mt. Rose, there is little water to be found, especially after Spring in a drought year, so you will have a dry camp the first night if you don’t cache some water at Brockway or Martis. Gray Lake is about equidistant for an overnight, so it’s becomes a toss of the coin really. This trip I chose to park at Mt. Rose Summit parking area and walk over to the Mt. Rose Campground for the night. The walk-in campgrounds for tent campers is at the top of the hill and out to the summit. Nice and removed from the trailer and RV campers. Nice vault toilets and pressure (a lot of pressure) running water at the entrance to the camp area. I took the one all the way in the back for seclusion, though there were only two other campers there. Well manicured area for the tent of coarse sand, nestled between a few trees kept me protected from the harsh winds I would have that night. New bear box, picnic table and fire ring was also there, though I only used the bear box.

I was treated to a beautiful alpenglow sunset over Mt. Rose before turning in for the night. The strong winds of 25-35 knots all night made for little sleep; I imagined myself as Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz”, ending up in Reno the next morning. I wanted seclusion, I got it, as the campground was deserted by morning. After coffee and a few protein bars, I was off for the trailhead. A nice crisp morning with a late start by most standards, I was hiking by 0830. The trail climbed quickly away from Highway 431, soon bringing me to a view point, overlooking Tahoe Meadows and a glimpse of the lake. The trail soon turned north into a wooded area, following the steep 25° contour of the hillside. I had hiked this route once before in May, but in snowshoes, finding it difficult to find the trail. After a few miles the trees dropped away for me to see Mt. Rose and vast meadow stretching into the Washoe Valley towards Reno.

In a short while I arrived at Galena Falls. Time for a snack and to top off with water from the cold waterfall. (Not the easiest to get to, safely) Soon after breaking out the trail mix and Oreos, I had a hoard of little furry new friends offering to help me eat it. (They especially like the Oreos)

Time to start up the switchbacks up to the next high meadow. After the climb above Galena Falls, the trail was not terribly steep until I crossed an access road for the communications workers for the AT&T relay station on Relay Peak.

(If you follow the road, it would bring you to a gondola that the workers use mostly in the winter time to access the relay station, when the road is not easily navigated.) Many long switchbacks later I arrived at the ridge between Mt. Houghton and Relay Peak.

From there I could see Donner Pass and Lake; nearly 360° views with visibility of 25+ miles. The trail leading from there to Relay Peak was loose crumbling talus, but the folks from the Tahoe Rim Trail Association had done a great job at keeping it well maintained.

At the ridge between the relay station and Relay Peak (10,330’) I came upon a female hiker traveling the opposite direction. We chatted for a bit, but began to notice some rather peculiar things about her. She seemed well schooled and knowledgable, but her mannerisms and rambling “one-sided” conversation struck me as very odd. Most of us hikers/backpackers would have hiking gear, you know, from a sporting goods store like REI, Moosejaw, etc. Well, not this lady. Can’t blame her for wardrobe and gear choices, but wearing railroad engineer’s gloves struck me as unusual. After about ten minutes of disjointed ramblings, I asked her if she had difficulty with high altitudes before. The “deer in the headlights” look told me I should be on my way, and bid her “happy trails”.

The view from the very windy Relay Peak was spectacular. Cotton-ball clouds resembling “The Simpsons” were blowing right over my head. 360° views of Shasta and Lassen to the north, Donner Lake and the Martis Valley to the west and the Crystal Range and Lake Tahoe to the south made the arduous climb to the top all worthwhile.

Time for another snack, photo ops and a brief rest to get my pack off. There trail down now was quite steep – many switchbacks 1,100 feet down the ridge brought me eventually to Rose Knob Peak. From there I could see Ginny Lake, far below to the south.

More of a green pond by this time of year and too far off the trail as a water source. Turning right at the trail junction at Rose Knob Peak (9,740′) and Gray Lake, I headed down to the lake for my camp for the night. A short 0.9 mile hike down behind the peak brought me to another trail junction – to the right was the stream flowing into Gray Lake – to the left, the north side of the lake with several campsites are. Fairly level and rock-free spots for about 10-12 small tents.

The stream was running strong, with stones and wooden footpaths for crossing the stream or continuing to the northeast trail around the lake. After filling up on cold, clear water, I headed for the north end of the lake to make camp for the night. At the time, I was the only one there, so I had pick of the litter. I found a site with a nice long fallen tree as my settee and picnic table. By mid-August now, the mosquitos didn’t seem to be much of a problem at Gray Lake. Nice not to wear my head net for bugs, as I forget I have it on and try to drink soup or coffee, thus spilling it down the front of me. (happy nobody is around to see my faux pas) A short time later, another solo hiker, Melissa (?) came into camp. She was doing a thru hike on the TRT before heading off to school. We made friends, had dinner and chatted for a while before adjourning to our separate tents for the night. We were both packed up and on the trail by 0730 the next day, each of us going in opposite directions. It took about one hour for me to reach the ridge and rejoin the TRT going west towards Brockway. The winds were building and a cold stiff breeze had me stop and put on more clothing. The “Buff” scarf/headgear that I bought at my fav store in Truckee (Mountain Sports & Ace Hardware), turned out to be a great buy. Kept my neck, ears and head warm along with my wool tuque.

The trail was quite open now to the south with no trees for shade or blocking the wind, with spectacular views from Incline to South Shore. The trail from Rose Knob Peak to Mt. Baldy was now a sea of drying Mule’s Ear, rustling in the wind. It has the faint smell of a cigar, at least to my nose. Picked up my pace a bit as the trail was nice and buttery and I needed some trees to block the wind and sun that was buffeting my tired old face. I didn’t need any more wrinkles on my turkey neck either.

From Mt. Baldy to Martis Peak it was uneventful. There were several times however, that I felt as though I was being watched – the same feeling that I had while in a thunderstorm over Armstrong Pass to Big Meadow – like the hair standing up on the back of your neck, knowing that you were not alone in the wilderness. I had evidence of mountain lion scat before, but not on this segment so far…may have been a bad thing…maybe he hadn’t eaten yet. In that case I’ll  pick up the pace a little more. I passed a young guy, trail running. I was relieved now that the cat had choices…new young meat, or old and tough. Below Martis Peak the trail crossed Forest Service access roads several times. I welcomed returning to the trail, as the road was marred with ruts and more rocks to avoid. I met several other day hikers on their way to Martis from Brockway Summit. One local couple was riding their mountain bikes to Martis Peak from Brockway – didn’t sound like much fun to me, and I love to bike – just not endlessly up hill. By now I had passed East Martis Peak, nearing the Vista Point 1+ miles from Brockway Summit. This is where I cached some water for myself for the dry section from Watson Lake to Gray lake several months before.  Not only was I close to finishing this segment – but my last segment, concluding my Tahoe Rim Trail Challenge for the summer.

I reached Brockway Summit that afternoon, finding my way down to the road to start my real challenge – getting a ride back to my car at Mt. Rose Summit, some 20+ miles away by car. Soon after reaching the road I befriended some hikers asking for directions for their next day’s hike. Of course I helped, which got me a lift down the road to Kings Beach. From there I walked about 1/2 mile to the bus stop that took me within 100 yards of the roundabout at Highway 431. (got a senior discount for the bus ride too!) It was hot, I was pretty damned weary already from hiking since 0730 that morning. Now I had to thumb a ride back up the mountain 8 miles to my car. HitchikingI am not good at it – I didn’t even hitchhike in High School when I looked good. Now at 62, dirty, I haven’t shaved or used deodorant in days…and I’m expecting someone to stop and pick me up – Guess not. Figuring 2 mph and 8 miles to go, I hoped to be back to the car before dark. I walked at least 2 miles up the hill before setting on the guardrail for a rest. Moments later, my angel arrived. A young man on his way home back to Reno had passed me, turned around and came back to help. He said he thought I looked like a needed a break…I did. I offered to pay him but he said it wasn’t necessary, he was going that way anyway. He was hurrying home to take his daughter out for ice cream. I handed him $20 for ice cream and his unselfish deed that saved my poor dogs from a certain fate. Good deeds and unselfish people need to be recognized – and rewarded before they get to heaven.


The conclusion of my challenge was bittersweet – I never really wanted it to end. The preparation, the learning more and more with each trip, meeting other people on the same pilgrimage as I was – became an addiction – the euphoria that you get when you went one-on-one with nature – you were self-reliant – and you made it, in the Tahoe Wilderness.

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See ya on my next adventure…in the Tahoe Wilderness

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

Maggie’s Peaks to Azure Lake, Desolation Wilderness

It was Tuesday, September 15. I was driving on Highway 50 to the Pacific Ranger Station at Pollock Pines to pick up my permit for the Desolation Wilderness for the week. From as far away as Sacramento, I could see the smoke from the fire in the distance, growing larger the closer I got to Pollock Pines.

The King Fire had just started on Sunday, but was growing rapidly with southwesterly winds and continued dry weather. I pulled into the Ranger Station to find an exodus of vehicles leaving the station. The office personnel had already evacuated and the smoke and flames were just behind the station. One half mile down the road it was growing rapidly with fire crews gathering roadside, ready to do battle with the wildfire. I still needed a permit from the Ranger Station in South Lake Tahoe, so change course for the USFS South Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Offices on College Ave. When filling out my itinerary for the permit, the young lady behind the counter informed me that they had just had a fire reported at Fontanillis Lake, my intended first night’s campsite. An illegal campfire that was quickly contained by USFS personnel. My intentions were to still make the trip.

I spent the night at Fallen Leaf campground trying to find out the most efficient way of getting to the trailhead in the morning and how I was going to get back to my car. I picked up a senior discount card for the campgrounds which helped quite a bit. $10 for lifetime gets me half off federal campground fees. It’s about time we started getting some discounts around here for our age.

My hike itinerary was to enter the wilderness at Bayview campground across from inspiration point overlooking Emerald Bay, going over Maggie Peaks down to Fontinillis Lake for the night. It was a pretty steep climb going up Maggie Peaks; I’ve done it before in April in snowshoes and it took me a lot longer but it was fairly strenuous this time with the 25 to 28 pound backpack on my back.

Parking at the Tallac trailhead at Highway 89, I had about 5 miles of a hike to get to the Bayview trailhead. I started thumbing a ride but was all in vain, even with my pretty legs I could not get a ride. I was beginning to think I couldn’t get laid if I smeared myself in bananas and jumped into a gorilla pit with a bunch of female gorillas in heat! Don’t know how long it took me but it was a long time, and it was warm and I took a lot of breaks. There were a couple of sections of 7-8% grades on the highway with very little or no shoulder. I remembered so well when riding my bike around the lake many times. I finally reached the Bayview trailhead by about 11 AM.

The trailhead is about 300 yards from Highway 89 through the Bayview campground. Right off the bat, the trail starts at a 7 to 10% grade. Many switchbacks through the wooded area finally brings you to a clearing, with a nice view of Lake Tahoe.

Another hundred feet of the trail brings you to a wonderful view of Emerald Bay.

Another half mile or so brings you to Granite Lake. While still semi-frozen in April, September it was nice and cool to get a drink from and wash my face. I carry the Sawyer Mini water filter with collapsable 1 liter bags. Only 2 ounces for the filter, comes with a straw for sipping out of the lake or stream.

By the time I reached the pass between the two peaks the Pyrocumulus clouds of smoke from the King Fire was becoming more ominous.

I kept trudging on though, only meeting a couple of people on the way up, and one young trail runner girl who passed me going down to Azure Lake. Not too far from Fontanillis lake, my destination for the night, I met another big guy with a sizable backpack coming back up the mountain stopped to chat for a while.


He told me he had just come over Dicks Pass to see an illegal campfire on the west side of Dicks Lake. It got out of hand from the two idiots that started it. He said some other backpackers and pitched in with a bucket brigade trying to extinguish the fire but with little luck. We discussed my route beyond Fontanillis which would’ve been over Dicks Pass to Gilmore Lake for the next night, summiting Mt. Tallac on Friday, then returning to my car at the Tallac Trailhead. He cautioned me to reconsider my decision to stay at Fontanillis saying the heavily wooded path and 1,400 foot climb back up over Dicks would have left me little margin for error as an escape route. After hiking about another hundred yards after he and I parted our ways, I stood staring at the enormous clouds of smoke from the King Fire. I then pondered the routes to get out of Desolation if something went horribly wrong. Since Dick’s Pass would’ve been blocked by fire the only other routes were to continue onto Velma Lakes and Phipps Pass or back the way I came over Maggie’s Pass.

I ended up choosing the latter, backtracking from where I came at the Bayview Trailhead. You will see the pictures of the smoke when I reached Maggie Peaks again from 8,400 feet.


As it turned out, that was a really good thing, as I realized they had hot showers… Just four quarters gave me three minutes of a nice hot water shower, giving back the trail dirt I had borrowed that day. I ate a nice trail dinner and was fast asleep by 1930 that night.

GPS Track

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/594408890

TahoeMarmot2 copy-resized copy
See ya on my next adventure in the Tahoe Wilderness