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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Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary – Hike to Barker Peak

First of September I drove up to Tahoe with several goals in mind: one was to do several day and overnight hikes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and two, was there help my friend Candice Burt with her inaugural Tahoe 200 mile endurance Trail Run. Stopped off in Truckee, as usual, to get some fresh ground coffee at Wild Cherries for the Tahoe200 race crew to burn the midnight oil with. Bought some IPA brews too, because it seems that’s all they run on is beer and coffee.

The weather was flawless the entire time I was up there, actually becoming pretty warm by mid morning. Since I was staying with Candice and her Trail animal organizers, we all stayed up a little too late and I didn’t get an early morning start on the trail. Helped with what I could, (not being a Ultra trail runner myself) then set out for a couple of day hikes on the west side near Homewood, their base-camp.  I know the Blackwood Canyon Barker Pass and Ward Canyon area very well so I thought I would take a hike to Barker Peak for some great panoramas since the weather was so nice.

The drive up Blackwood Canyon on Barker Pass Road brought me over Blackwood Creek which was completely dry, unlike my trip in June in which the stream was still flowing quite strong. The 7½ mile drive up to Barker Pass went by quickly, putting me on the trail in good time.

About one mile up the trail brings me to an overlook that I love the most for a chance to watch the sun rise over the Carson Range on the east shore of the lake. Pitching my one man tent in between several trees, and facing the opening to the east, I can assure myself of a beautiful unobstructed sunrise over the lake.

From here, it is just a few short miles to Barker Peak, with some spectacular rock formations as it is all brightly colored red and brown lava rock.

The trail conditions from my first overlook are quite normal, just plain dirt with occasional rocks. Then you approach the ridge that goes out to Barker Peak, which becomes a more volcanic soil which does not seem to support any vegetation. I scrambled out as far as I could without falling off the edge to get some pictures. I enjoyed the sights and solitude without falling off a cliff so I’ll call it a day.

Quite the view

Back to the Tahoe200 Animal House in Homewood for the night, which is always abuzz with activity at least 18 hours a day – A great meal prepared by Candice’s mom and step-dad, and always great company.


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See ya on my next adventure…in the Tahoe Wilderness