In a landnot too far away from where I lived, and at a time most college students are partying; I thought(keyword thought) I would thru-hike the Tahoe Rim Trail. One-hundred eighty miles of grandeur and intimidating aesthetics. I had an itinerary prescribing me a lovely 20 or so miles a day; giving me nine days until completion. Unfortunately, a less than pleasurable series of events occurred on this trip. Overal I’d say that the excursion was, although not very successful, an exciting venture into one of natures greatest places; Lake Tahoe.
Saturday, April 4th, 2015
My parents offered to drive me up to the Tahoe city trailhead. We headed off from my house at 6AM stopping only to relieve the dogs’ bowels and to grab breakfast, not necessarily at the same time. My day of hiking started off a little late, around 11AM. The weather consisted of a gently warming sun with a cool crisp breeze necessitating that I put on my windbreaker. After, oh say fourteen miles, my body was telling me that I was not in the kind of shape required to complete the daunting task of one-hundred eighty miles in nine days. A thought that I pushed aside for the time being, trying to push myself further. I continued to climb through the storm that had started coming in a few hours earlier. Soon, I finally reached one of my water sources, Watson Lake. Cold and tired I sat, taking a break before gathering some water. As I went to retrieve some aqua with my Platypus, It was, to my dismay, not filling up. Despite my internal conversation, objecting at the thought of scooping my plastic reservoir through the ice-cold water; it was my only choice. Once my container was full, my hands were shaking with frigid despair. I quickly opened one of my packages that contained shake-activated hand warmers, only to find that they were duds. As a result, I resorted to old fashioned methods: Dried my hands on my base-layer top, put my gloves on, and did a whole lot of push-ups. It worked, and I went on my way through the aggravating snow blowing against my face.
I finished up the day at eighteen miles, just a few miles short of Brockway Summit. The hike was arduous and defeating. Leaving me sore, upset, but still insistent on enjoying my time. Therefore, I altered my original plans. I cut my mileage per day in half, as well as I designated Mt.Rose summit to be my culminating piece. From there, a round trip would be around eighty miles, imposing a program of eight to twelve miles per day. “Tomorrow will be a better day,” I thought.
Sunday, April 5th, 2015
“Happy easter!” I said as I poked my head out of the tent at 7AM to find a 2-inch layer of snow cascaded among the ground. It may have been a little nippy, but the beauty of this white forest I could not ignore. This day was a fairly easy day, or so I thought. I only had to hike about three to five miles to get to Brockway Summit, but I knew these lowly miles required some steep ascents. Also, keep in mind that the storm was still going strong.
Leaving camp around 8AM, I arrived on Brockway Summit sometime in the early evening. I found myself an enticing little spot tucked behind some large boulders, sheltering me from the wind, or at least most of it. I had all of Lake Tahoe for my viewing pleasure, I mean, I would when the storm decided to clear up. Which seemed a very dubious proposition. I feel I also must note that on this night I realized that I had one book with me. That’s one book not enough; for I had way too much down time, and not enough in-tent entertainment. I couldn’t possibly sleep for eleven hours every night, so most I just lay awake contemplating my future, my relationships, and my ambitions.
Monday, April 6th, 2015
I woke up this morning to the warm and cozy feeling of the sun shining upon my tent. As I unzipped my vestibule, I peered out to see this view that you could swear came out of Backpacker magazine. Believe me, I took full advantage of this wondrous morning. I spent the morning outside my tent gazing at this breathtaking panorama while slowly savoring my Cliff bar and M&Ms.
The trek to Rose Knob Peak began at 9AM. I knew I had a grueling day ahead of me; 2,000 feet of elevation change coming to the apex at 9,600 feet. Though taxing, I enjoyed the hike. Walking on four feet of old, solidified snow was what most of this day consisted of. Any evidence of good, warm dirt was dissipating the further I went up. I was pleased to find another storm, this time a little worse, rolling in just as I was setting up camp at 6PM. The wind was howling and this was the moment I found out how ergonomically dreadful my tent truly was. As I lay in my sleeping bag reading my book, “The Shack”,(which was really good!) I could feel the chilling wind slipping in between the rain fly, acutely dropping the temperature inside. This night was by far the worst and gave a horribly ominous outlook to the rest of my hike that, I’ll be honest, I was no longer looking forward to.
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
7AM, my watch alarm wakes me as on every other day. Still cold, windy, and as I look down through my tent I blurt out expletives. I see that I had forgotten to stick my shoes inside my sleeping bag to keep them warm. I quickly grab them, stick them in my stuff sack, and place them inside my sleeping bag as I try to wait out some of the storm. I had realized that summiting Mt.Rose was unachievable so I decided to head back down when suitable. I read and shivered until 10AM when I noticed the weather subsided a tad. I get out of my bag and put on my shoes, or more like shove my feet in these wintry, wooden clogs. As I pack up my tent, I can’t tell if my toes are going numb or if my shoes are simply restricting all toe movement. You can imagine, frostbite was a real concern to me. Once my Osprey Atmos 65 is on my back, I race down the trail(my footprints in the snow) trying to not only warm my feet up, but to also get down to dry, solid ground. I run and run only to find more and more snow. I pass through Brockway summit and fortunately for me the sun decides to poke it’s head out and parade me with soothingly tepid rays. I decide to set up camp right across from the main road at the trailhead. With my arrival being around 3pm I found it the most opportune time to take a nap, being that I haven’t had warmth like this in days. An hour and a half later I poke my head out to find a very distinguished looking man and his furry, alaskan friend going for a stroll. Judging by his accent I believe he himself was of Indian descent. He then asked if he could take a picture of me in my, at least now, natural environment. I said said yes, but I couldn’t shake this odd feeling of kind-hearted obscurity that he radiated. We exchanged the normal formalities: Where are you from? What are you doing? Etcetera. Then he proceeded to congratulate me on my journey thus far, patted me on the shoulder, and wished me well. I’m aware that this may seem like nothing more than a kind man, but there was some aura about him that sticks in my head to this day. From there, I took a stroll of my own down the snowy side-trails. Sun breaking through the trees, a beautiful golden panorama accented the snow in a very profound way. I gave into some silent prayer and headed back to my tent. I returned at 545pm, unzipped my vestibule, snuggled in my 20 degree North face, opened up The Shack, and called it a night around 830pm.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
I rise from a peaceful slumber at the usual 7am. I get out of my tent to the wonderful continuity of the sun. I take my time packing my gear up and around 830am I head off. My destination Is Watson lake, well, actually it was a little beyond Watson lake, but I was already out of water. Both my Platypus reservoirs were bone dry, thus resulting in my tunnel-vision of the lake…appropriately. I had one of those lovely, straight up kinda hikes before me. As excited as I was for this trial of dehydration as I like to call it, I wanted nothing more than just a few sips of H2O. My goal quickly became the foundation of my persistent fortitude over the next several hours. 12pm Hits hard with vast, deep snow. According to my map I’m nearing the lake, and according to my frustration the snow is ever deepening. Every step I take I’m starting to sink; my patience is thinning and my frustration is building. I pass through over an hour in this retched, snow laden hell, to find that I somehow am still not at the lake. At this point I lose my temper for the first time in ages. I throw down my pack, yell between my teeth and side-kick the nearest trees. I curse mother nature and the impossibility of my given situation, as if by pointing out the unlikely circumstance I will rid myself of it. Once I’m done throwing my well deserved tantrum I sit down and eat, it’s around 130pm at this point. Subsequently, I take a deep breath and trek on. Forty-five minutes later I reach the lake and rush to my water filter. Before I start filtering I take off my shoes and try to dry my socks, I made the intelligent decision of not taking off my second layer(my only other pair) once I got to camp near Brockway. Now both my socks are soaking wet, the sun has disappeared and the snow only seems to be getting deeper. As you can imagine I’m crying for water this point so I drink straight from my filter. I then fill up only one canteen, because I know I only have about a day ahead of me and there are many sources of water in my future. Luckily I had the standard wool/polyester blend socks so despite them still being wet and cold they provided the insulation I needed. When I get on my feet I pass by a group of campers, obviously knowing the weather before them. They had hiked in with snow boots, ski poles, and big, puffy jackets. Quickly I notice that my trail has disappeared, completely. I am forced to re-track the previous hikers footprints in the snow, and I mean that literally. I avoid the general snow and step in their holes to prevent any further dousing of my shoes. Eventually their footprints go into a side trail I am not familiar with and isn’t on the map, forcing me to part ways. Looking at my poorly configured map and this misplaced signs in front of me, I get lost for about thirty minutes until I find my way to a road that seems to lead to another road, which leads to a trail that dumps off into another road, that leads to a paved road, that connects to the main drag, which will get me to my destination. You can imagine my head was spinning. Through this whole journey of muddy side roads I vowed to god that I would contact the Tahoe Rim Trail Organization and inform them of this inconsistency between their map and the actual trails/roads. Eventually I reached a precipice that contained an attached trail which seemed to lead straight down. I walked down, but it was more like scrambling. It is now 645pm, I’m concluding my day at a promising 7-way trailhead. I seemed to have come to a local, generously used trail that has a lovely map attached to the trailhead post. It shows me exactly where I need to venture tomorrow morning and allows me to comfortably set up my tent and sleep with ease.
Thursday, April 9th, 2015
“Beep, beep, beep.” 7am sunshine right outside my tent. I don’t need to see it, I can feel it through my tent walls. I get out to a lovely morning and like the day before I take my time. My father should be arriving at our rendezvous point at 3pm. As I pack my tent a very cheery woman with her two dogs stopped by. We spoke a few paragraphs about my journey, and her affinity with Tahoe. She then told me the horrible currency that the weather is supposed to be beautiful for the next few days. I found that to be one of the most ironic misfortunes I’ve had in a while, being that I just hiked back through all these obstacles to rid myself of any more impending weather. We share farewells and head our separate ways, her to the dog park, me to highway. It’s a fairly low-stress hike, only two hours down a level path. Shortly, I arrive at the highway and proceed down the bike lane. At this point I am no longer a hiker, I am a homeless man with a nice backpack, at least, that’s how I was perceived. Circling 12pm I meet the beloved pizzeria in North Lake Tahoe where I scarfed down some of the best pizza you’ll ever have. I left a while later to sit at a bench nearby where I waited for my father with two very welcoming homeless gentlemen. One of them even offered a fresh, unopened can of Irish Malt liquor. I gratefully declined and thanked him for his generosity. For the next hour and a half we sat and chatted together about the meaning of life, the gregarious nature of Tahoeans, and the quality of the locally cultivated cannabis. Just past 315pm my dad called and informed me of his whereabouts across the street; I offered my best to the kindest of strangers and went on my way. I hug my father, jump in the front seat and venture off to reacquaint myself with my not so cozy bed. A lovely and adventurous spring break it was.