After spending a couple of days checking out Squaw Valley and the start of the Western States course I made my down to Lake Tahoe. Once again I would get to enjoy a part of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). I had dinner in South Lake Tahoe and then camped overnight in the Big Meadows campground that is right on the trail.
When I had made my way along the TRT a few weeks earlier (read about that here and here) I had intended to cover the section from Mt Rose all the way through to Echo Lake, but instead made the decision to turn around not long after Star Lake (read about that decision here). I would now get a chance to follow a small section of the course from Big Meadows in the direction of Echo Lake.
I set out from the trailhead in the morning, soon crossed Highway 89 which provides access to that part of the trail, and left civilization behind, at least for the remainder of my run. I was running an out-and-back route, turning around after approximately 5 miles (8 km) where the TRT meets the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT is a long-distance hiking trail along the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges that stretches from Mexico to Canada over a distance of 2,663 miles (4,286 km). On this day I would turnaround exactly where the TRT meets the PCT so would not run the PCT at all, but I had joined short sections of it on a couple of my earlier runs and it will appear in some upcoming posts as well.
After a huge day of hiking along the Tahoe Rim Trail the previous day (read the post here) I slept very well and woke just after first light. After being on the trail until only one hour before last light the previous evening I decided to waste no time in starting out. I had a shorter day of 31 miles (50 km) planned, and would climb from my campsite at over 9000 feet (2700 metres) to my highest point of the day at around 9600 feet (over 2800 metres) within the first 2.5 miles (4 km). Then I would continue to descend throughout the day to end at 7525 feet (around 2250 metres).
I packed up my campsite, collected my food and set off while eating a Clif Bar for breakfast. I crossed over the stream feeding out of Star Lake and started my ascent for the day. I soon reached a clearing with a large mound of snow covering it and had some difficulty locating the trail on the other side, but eventually managed to continue on my way. I continued to climb along a narrow, ascending trail with occasional patches of snow.
Then, after approximately one mile the trail effectively ended at a wall of snow. There was a ravine to cross, and the entire ravine was still entirely filled with snow. The snow was deep, bumpy and had a very hard crust. I looked up and down the ravine to see whether I could get above or below the snow but it stretched on in both directions. I descended down the incline beside the snow to see whether there were any easy places to cross but none looked more promising than higher up. I could see footprints across the snow at approximately the location of the trail, but they were quite deep so the owners of those feet had possibly crossed later in the day once the snow had softened. With the amount of distance I had planned for the day I did not have the option to wait that long, and could not know for sure whether the conditions were such that it would soften even if I did wait.
Waking up at Marlette Campground (read the story of my hike there in my earlier post here), I ensured I had filled my 1.5-litre (50-oz) water bladder and my 500-ml (17-oz) soft flask since the section of the Tahoe Rim Trail I would be following was known for being particularly dry. I had slept later than expected after my early night so I started off after 8:00AM while eating a Clif Bar for breakfast.
As I climbed up from the campground I crossed a number of patches of snow but was rewarded with the best views yet of Lake Tahoe as I crested Spooner Summit. I descended down the other side and reached the trailhead perfectly on time for the rough schedule I had put together for the day. I had completed 9 miles (14.5 km) of the 36 miles (58 km) that I had planned for the day. Since my next camping spot would be in the wilderness (rather than at a designated campsite) I did have the flexibility to reduce or increase the distance I would cover.
At the trailhead I bumped into a couple who were planning to set out for a full 165-mile (265-km) thru-hike of the trail starting on the following Saturday. They had just been out on the trail to stash some water due to concerns of the dry nature of the section I was hiking. They were quite surprised when I mentioned my destination for that evening (half the distance would generally be considered a long day’s hiking) so after a couple of minutes chatting I set off again.
I climbed again on the other side and was rewarded with some more stunning views of the lake. Slightly after reaching my halfway distance for the day I stopped for lunch, resting on a shaded rock just off the trail. Lunch consisted of a couple of wraps made using tortillas filled with cream cheese, salami and capsicum (bell peppers). I had been rationing my water to ensure that I had not consumed more than half of my 2 litres (67 oz) by the halfway point of my day, which I had managed to achieve, but I knew that it was leaving my body slight dehydrated. My mouth was dry but I was setting time or distance targets for each sip of water.
My planned first day on the Tahoe Rim Trail involved a fairly short hike of around 9 miles (15 km) from the Mt Rose trailhead to the Marlette Campground. In order to test out my pack (a new Aarn 22 litre backpack) I thought that I would first attempt to head up the trail in the opposite direction to see if I could reach the peak of Mt Rose and possibly even Relay Peak (the highest point on the entire 165-mile (265-km) trail. That way I could make any necessary adjustments (plus add or remove any items) at my car before heading off for three nights on the trail.
I woke up from my first night camping in my new tent (a great lightweight tent from a Nevada City-based company called Tarptent), sleeping on my new sleeping mat (or sleeping pad as they are called in the US) and sleeping in my new sleeping bag (with both the bag and mat being produced by Therm-a-Rest). All of my gear was both lightweight and small in packed size to allow me to fit three days worth of gear for hiking and camping at elevations above 8000 feet (2400 metres) in just a 22-litre pack. I have been meaning to write some gear reviews for the running gear that I enjoy using, and might even add some reviews of some of this hiking gear, but first I need to catch up with my day-to-day running posts.
I set off from the Mt Rose trailhead up the relatively steep mountain path but within the first mile I started hitting significant patches of snow that performed a nice job of soaking my shoes. I wasn’t too concerned with getting my shoes wet, but it also made it difficult to locate the trail. I saw another person following me up the trail and asked whether he knew how far the snow patches continued for. He suggested that the snow would continue for a significant way up the trail to the peak of Mt Rose. I therefore decided that I would abort my attempt at reaching the peak, instead returning to my car. With plenty of time remaining in the day I opted to head back to Incline Village for a couple of hours to spend the extra time planning out my weekend for once I got off the trail.
After lunchtime I drove back up to Mt Rose and this time set off in a southerly direction in order to reach Marlette Campground. I crossed the Tahoe Meadows, paralleling the highway I had just driven up before turning away from the highway to enter the forest. There were small patches of snow due to the shade provided by the trees, which were easy to negotiate but did cause some difficulties in relocating the trail. Starting off at a high elevation (the Mt Rose trailhead is located at the highest year-round pass over the Sierra Mountains), I would have a net descent for the day.