Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail: Day 9

September 9, 2011: I woke up in the early morning after the worst night's sleep of the trip. The pain in my back, hips, legs, and feet was awful. It was nerve pain, a dull, throbbing ache running down my legs into the tops of my feet. The sloped ground didn't help matters, perhaps contributed to the ailments. Mosquitoes also never went to sleep this night either, flying into my head net all night long, looking for a midnight snack. Such is life on the trail sometimes. I was ready to put in some miles nonetheless.

First thing in the morning, the trail led me into Kingsbury South, and a road walk for 3 miles or so. However, when I approached town, there were signs indicating that new portions of the TRT had just opened, avoiding most of the road walking. I wasn't really in the mood to walk through town, and I still did not have "hiker hunger," so I gladly took the new trail. There were several running streams along this new route and I filled my water capacity to the brim. Today was supposed to have another long waterless section according to the guidebook. Spooner Lake would be the next source about 13 miles away. I walked through town just briefly, through a residential neighborhood where houses were nestled amongst large granite rocks.

"Are you lost?" One man yelled from his front yard. "I don't think so!" I replied, although now I was unsure. "Keep your eyes peeled for mountain lions!" the man yelled again. "There are a couple of them taking down deer around here." As I walked towards road 207, I talked briefly to a construction worker. "You seen any wildlife?" the worker asked. "No, surprisingly I haven't seen anything," I answered. "I heard it said once," the worker said, "They see you," he laughed.

The new trail seemed to add about 3 or 4 miles to the hike. I was a little annoyed by this setback in my planned itinerary for the day, but there was nothing to do about it. Just before reaching the Kingsbury North trail junction, I met an old Naval Academy graduate, who used to live where I grew up in Maryland. We had a long conversation and I asked him if he could explain the difference between the towns around Lake Tahoe. This question seemed to excite him, as he told me the different political beliefs and cultures of the various towns, all very different as I had suspected.

Finally, I was back into the woods away from the neighborhoods. I crossed paths with another TRT rim hiker heading the opposite direction. His name was Ian, and we talked for a while. "I'm really struggling with feeling lonely out here," Ian said. He was hiking about 10 to 12 miles a day and had already been hiking for about 10 days, with probably another week to go. During our conversation, he told me he had just finished biking across the country a couple of months ago. I told him I was struggling with wanting to quit the trail after the first few days, although the thought never entered my mind along the PCT. "Maybe it is too soon to take on another trip," Ian said. "After I got home from my cross country bike ride, I immediately went back into trip planning mode, thinking that was what I wanted. Now that I'm out here, I'm not sure if that was the right decision. It's like my body and soul are still exhausted from the first trip." I told him I understood exactly what he saying and wondered if the same thing applied to me. "Take a swim in Star Lake," I suggested. "Swimming in these ice cold lakes always makes me feel better."

(Highway 50. A dangerous road crossing at 4:00 in the afternoon.)

Ian and I parted ways, and soon thereafter I ran into an elderly Canadian gentleman who had retired from the Canadian coastguard and was spending his retirement hiking whenever he could. "I prefer hiking with others," he said. "It's more exciting having someone to share the experience with. I've been very fortunate to work, have great career, and save up quite a bit of money. Now I am really enjoying retirement hiking these trails. You guys in the states have it tough right now with the economy and all, eh?"

(Spooner Lake above )

This was turning into an excellent day, great conversations and lots to ponder as a result of them. Then I ran into the two young TRT hikers that I met on "Day 4." They seemed to really be enjoying their hike. "We are going to spend like 5 days in Desolation Wilderness, climbing granite and swimming," they excitedly informed me. An hour or so later, I ran into the last TRT hiker I had met on "Day 5" who had hiked the PCT and the AT. His AT hiking buddy had left the trail a couple of days earlier, so now he was hiking solo. "My name is Saint Rick," he told me. I asked him how his hike was coming along. "It's hard to describe the TRT as a premier hiking trail with the mountain bikers on it too," he said. It seemed as though he was holding back something he wanted to say, but couldn't bring himself to do it. I shared my TRT struggles, and was really curious what was going on in his mind. I was getting the sense that this trail was making all of us confront some serious issues for some reason. The trail is not necessarily difficult to hike, yet many of us were struggling for some reason or another. Unfortunately for me, I was heading in the opposite direction so our conversation came to an end. Once again, such is trail life. Maybe Ian, St Rick, and the other young hikers met up and camped together in the evening and had a great time. Once again, I had water on my mind.Later in the afternoon, I was able to refill my water bottles at Spooner Lake. I was not thrilled about this water source, but it was the only water for the next several miles. I still had about 10 miles to go before reaching camp. On this section (3) of trail, folks are permitted to camp in two locations, North Canyon Campground, located about a mile and a half off the trail as well as a 700 foot loss in elevation, and Marlette Campground. There was no way I was going to reach Marlette, so North Canyon was my only option.

Haze continued to build through the afternoon and evening and I was starting to have a real battle of conscience. Do I simply set up camp somewhere in the woods or hike to the campground. 700 feet in elevation loss? 10 more miles? That will put me in camp at 8:00. I'm so exhausted already. I kept walking, battling what I wanted to do, and what I should do.

Finally I reached the junction with the North Canyon Campground around 7:15pm and had about a mile and a half to go downhill. I had just a little energy left so I headed for camp. It can only be described as a "death march" and brought back so many nights on the PCT where one is completely exhausted but must walk several more miles to reach a certain destination. Zombie like, I stumbled down the switchbacks until I finally reached the campground at dark at 7:45. There was a boisterous boyscout group sharing camp that night, but no matter. I was too exhausted to care. I set up camp, cooked a quick dinner, and fell fast asleep. One more day to go...


  1. Almost there. ;D

    Interesting that many TRT hikers are out there seeking to re-experience other, longer adventures. You can't go home, again.

  2. You got that right Skyhiker, well put.