Monday, September 12, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day 1

September 1, 2011: I was officially on vacation. The morning of September 1st, I had the usual list of last minute chores that needed to be done before heading to Tahoe. The biggest among them was getting my time sheets into work, which is always a hassle and usually requires contacting several different people in different locations in California to make sure everything is straight. One by one, I was crossing items off my checklist, until I was finally able to hit the road by 12:30pm. I knew I was going to be cutting it short, since I needed to reach the ranger station in Pollock Pines before 4:30. There, I was going to secure my permit to camp overnight in the Desolation Wilderness, a popular section along the TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail). According to Google, it would take me about 3 hours and 45 minutes to reach the Ranger Station.

I hit the road, thinking for sure I probably forgot something. About an hour into my drive, I realized that I forgot my paperback version of Walden that I was planning on reading while on the trail. Not bad, I could manage without, nothing life threatening. Anyhow, I was getting hungry and needed to eat some lunch. It's been a personal goal of mine to give up fast food for good. I'd gone about three months without stepping foot, or passing through the drive thru of any fast food joint in the area. In a moment of weakness, I passed a Carl's Jr. and before I knew it, was walking inside with a growling stomach and hearty appetite. I checked my watch, and felt the guilt increase as I ordered to dine in, rather than carry out, so I could fully enjoy this rare treat of a greasy, juicy burger and fries. I knew I didn't have time to spare, but couldn't resist. The 15 minutes it required to fully ingest this abundance of greasy caloric goodness, proved to be fatal. 3 hours later, I arrived at the Pollock Pines Ranger Station at 4:33, and it was closed, completely abandoned by the staff.

I cursed myself and of course blamed Carl Jr. for this major screw up before the hike began. I began to run my options through my head and had already moved onto plan B. I would stop by Echo Lakes in South Lake Tahoe and pick up a permit there. Then I looked at the wall of the Ranger Station and they had the permits I was looking for that they carry in Echo Lakes. To my dismay, they were only for day hikes, and overnight permits had to be secured online, or at the closed Ranger Station where I was standing. Just then, a tiny woman in a park ranger uniform, carrying a rectangular pot filled with marigolds, said "Hello! Can I help you?"

(Special thanks to the friendly park ranger above who let me use her home computer)

I explained my situation, how I missed my chance to get a permit for Desolation Wilderness by three minutes, that I was planning on hiking the TRT, and so on. We discussed my options, all of which weren't really doable, if I was planning on finishing in the time I was allotted for vacation.

"Why don't you just come to my house and use my computer?" The ranger asked.

"Won't it still take a few weeks to get the permit?" I asked in return. (Every other time I've ordered permits online, it has taken several weeks for it to actually arrive in the mail.)

"No," the ranger said. "You can do it all online and print out the permit at my house."

How did I miss this simple solution before beginning the hike? I'm an idiot! The permit process is very, very easy if anyone reads this and wants to get a permit for Desolation Wilderness. Basically, all you have to do set up a simple profile, and then choose "Desolation Wilderness" and pick the area and time you plan on camping there. Print out your permit when finished and walla! Simple as that, you are ready to go camping. You can start the permit process on the Eldorado National Forest website and it will walk you through the process I described above.

Once the permit was secured, I said goodbye and began my drive toward the lake. I was still hoping to reach the Tahoe Meadows parking area which was located on the opposite side of the lake. It was a pleasant drive, skies were clear, darkening, and I was able to see some of the towns around Tahoe.

I reached the trail head just after the sun had set. I decided to sleep in my car that night and start fresh in the morning. Already, I was close to 9,000 feet in elevation. I figured it would be a good chance to acclimate as well. Surprisingly, it was quite warm that night, and I didn't sleep the best, a trend that would continue throughout the week.

For now, I was very happy and relieved to be right where I wanted to be: In the Sierra, on schedule, and ready for adventure...


  1. I wasn't aware that Lake Tahoe is in the middle of Munchkinland. Or have you eaten one of Alice's magic mushrooms?