TRT Down for What: A Ten-Day Journey Along the Tahoe Rim Trail
It’s Friday afternoon in August 2019 and I’m excited. I have my pack on & am rifling through my purse confirming I have everything I need before we head to the airport: chap stick, money, snacks, license…. But wait, my heart quickens as I can’t seem to find my id. Fast forward 15 minutes and QuickFix & I have gone through all my bags, jacket pockets & car compartments. No luck, my id is no where to be found. With no more time to wait before we need to leave to catch our flight, I grab everything I can think of that may help: passport card with my maiden name, social security card, credit cards, marriage certificate…
Day 0 // 0 (Miles hiked this day) // 0 (Total trail miles completed)
Two flights & a delay later we land in Reno, NV at 2 am. Our gracious lyft driver takes us to our Air BnB and our tramily lets us in! A few hugs later, we collapse on the bed & get some rest. Between working all day & getting to Tahoe we’re off to quite the nonstop start!
Day 1 // 16.4 // 16.4
After eating my delicious, un-crushed raspberry pop-tart & filling up water bottles we leave for the trail! Our tramily members, Lost & Found and Search & Rescue, drove up to Reno so we piled our stuff in their car & headed for the trail. A CVS stop later (sunblock, anyone?) we’re at the Mt Rose Trail head. It felt natural to head back on trail, as if my normal life was just going through motions and heading back to the trail was heading home. After huffing & puffing (we’re all sea-level creatures) we made it up over 10K feet for our lunch break. There were so many butterflies that they’d run into you! I couldn’t tell if the wind was just pushing them around or if they were intentionally migrating, but it was WILD. Check the video out here. Views were absolutely gorgeous & I even came up with a hiker trash snow-cone idea! Scooping snow with my spoon & adding mio flavoring to it was a great peak treat.
We pushed on, still walking ridge lines and gawking at how gorgeous the trail was turning out to be. I have a weak ankle due to an old injury & mid-afternoon I tripped over absolutely nothing, rolled it & ended up on the ground. I felt horribly pathetic on my knees while unclipping my pack and letting it slide off me to the side. I rolled onto my butt & slid to the side of the trail, already rummaging around for the vitamin-I in the med kit. As QuickFix approached I was already wrapping my ankle up & dosing up on vitamin-I. This is where we met our first counter-direction thru-hikers. They were blissfully unaware to my situation & happily relayed trail information and stories our way. We finally got up to continue & I started limping along. With the help of my trekking poles (or should I more accurately call them crutches?) we made it a few more miles to a gorgeous camping spot around Brockway Summit. Home for the night, with a great sunset & stargazing opportunities.
Day 2 // 18.6 // 35.0
We woke up to a pretty sunrise & I immediately dosed up on vitamin-I and (still!) uncrushed pop-tarts. By the time we packed up & left I actually felt pretty good! My ankle was definitely swollen but not horribly painful. I chalked it up to the compression I’d been using all night via the ankle brace I brought with, knowing my ‘jankle’ (jank ankle) would cause me problems. The trail is very well used & cared for. Between mountain bikers and hikers, the path was generally clear & easy to hike. After crushing about half the miles for the day we came across a bubbling creek & some other backpackers. We took a luxurious lunch break & washed the dirt off our legs & feet. After cameling up we all continued on, still gawking at views, wildflowers & the fun we were having! It was almost like we’d never left the AT with jokes & memories always spilling out. After a final push we made it to a viewpoint and set up our tents to stealth camp. Since the sun stayed up until at least 8:30, I had plenty of time to lay around basking in the sun, eating dinner & eventually playing cards with everyone!
Day 3 // 16.5 // 50.7
You know it’s going to be a good day when it starts off by watching the sunrise from your tent. We were able to sleep without the fly because the climate is so dry & there wasn’t any inclement weather. Serious bonus when you wake up in the middle of the night & toss around to be able to stargaze from the comfort of your sleeping bag, safe from bugs! After taking my vitamin-I and filtering the water we had to carry to the viewpoint we camped at, we did a quick 6 into Tahoe City to resupply & spend a few hours at the beach! It was so natural to walk into the grocery store as hiker trash, pickup my 52oz of Fairlife chocolate milk & shop around while drinking it. We even found outdoor outlets in the shade to mooch off of while we snacked & repacked our bags.
Tahoe City was so small that the trail walks about .2 from the grocery store, which is only maybe another .1 to the public beach. We spent the early afternoon sitting on fake astro-turf, doing hiker laundry in the lake & enjoying the town food spoils of fresh food. It was nice to have 2.5 days of food to carry there and only have to carry another 2.5 from here to our next resupply point.
We rounded out the day with another 10 miles after our little Lake Tahoe siesta and had a great dinner of fresh, packed out food on a cliff overlooking mountains. (But really, what else is the TRT but gorgeous mountain, wildflower, or lake views!?) After another killer sunset, I decided I could get behind walking circles around Lake Tahoe.
Day 4 // 18.3 // 69.0
Our well maintained trail encountered some serious snow today! Shaded parts of the trail still had a good amount of snow on them from the high snowfall year. It was fun navigating the patches & figure out where switchbacks were. Even more fun to battle fear of hurting my ankle further on the slippery steeper sections of snow. After more ridge walking & meadows we took our first steps on the PCT! The TRT & PCT share around 50 miles of trail. (I think, just googled it & couldn’t find an immediate answer, so like the stereotypical millennial, I moved on.) All the TRT miles were really working to convince us what a beautiful trail the PCT is and how nice it would be to hike it… #PCT2022 ?
As the day moved on and we approached camp we came upon the most unwelcome quests… mosquitoes. In a crazed rush after a record setting 2 minutes to sent up the tent, we scrambled inside anxious for some relief. QuickFix & I sat there snacking and massaging our feet with the golf ball we carry with us happily watching mosquitoes unsuccessfully trying to get into our tent. A while passed and Lost & Found and Search & Rescue showed up, ushering us back up the trail 100 feet to a clear area of rock with a breeze blowing through. Turns out the mosquitoes weren’t interested in this area and it made for a much better camping spot.
Day 5 // 20.4 // 89.4
I have this strange ability to not really get sore while exercising. By now, QuickFix, Lost & Found, and Search & Rescue are all battling different muscle soreness or blisters whereas the biggest problem I have is remembering to pay attention to where I step! (Stupid Jankle) I’ve been off my daily vitamin-I doses, so I’m not sure if my trail legs just didn’t go away, but all that would really hurt me is my feet from the repetitive stepping. I remember this same anomaly in the 100 mile wilderness during out 2018 AT thru hike after the first couple days, too! We did daily high & lows during dinner, and all 7 people we hiked with were just struggling with soreness, blisters, hunger, etc. and I remember literally saying I felt like a million bucks & if the whole trail would be like this I’d never stop walking, ever. Needless to say I got some death glares from the most beaten up hikers in our group. No more AT reminiscing (AT class of 2018 drink) Back to the TRT… our longest day of the trip was a success! We passed countless alpine lakes and went over Dick’s Pass.
The views were gorgeous & we decided to take a dip in Lake Suzy over lunch. The last 3 miles were grueling on our feet & spirits, but we were rewarded with an easy hitch & good conversation. An Echo Lake chalet employee drove us down to South Lake Tahoe where we got a motel, gloriously greasy burgers & our resupply. The TRT is really beautiful, but man is it dusty! Even after doing real laundry, I’m not sure my shirt will ever return to the same white color it was before.
Day 6 // 14.8 // 104.2
We woke up in the motel room knowing a decision was being made by Lost & Found and Search & Rescue. S&R had horrible blisters on his feet & every step was painful. They made the decision to take a few zeroes, enjoy South Lake Tahoe and meet up with us on the next resupply point. We got a late start to the hiking day as we bummed around the motel for a while packing up, but once we were out hiking it was hard! The climbs were long & seemed steeper than previous days. Maybe it was just a combination of having more food again & missing our friends, but it was rough! Whatever the reasoning, same as life, the trail goes up & down, and by the end of our miles we were rewarded with more mountain views, wildflowers & a few flat miles.
We even made it to camp by Round Lake before 5 pm. Full disclosure: I think I feel asleep in the sun on the rocky beach after stuffing myself with dinner food! But what can I say? My trail name is Flower Power & photosynthesis is one of my favorite activities. How else does a flower get the power to grow?
Day 7 // 17.5 // 121.7
One of my favorite parts of backpacking is being able to look back at the landscape and see where you’ve come from. Now that we’re rounding out the lake it’s so cool to see where we’ve been! We started at the top right corner of the lake & at this point were mid-right bottom of the lake. The trail tends to follow the mountain ridge around the lake but does stray. By no means can you see Lake Tahoe the whole time, so whenever you come back to being able to see it, it’s fun to see how far you’ve gotten since the last viewing!
Since the TRT is a loop trail, we’ve also run into people going the other direction twice now. One pair of dudes we met on the first day had some really unfortunate & hilarious stories to tell us about lost sleeping pads, forgotten phones & taking the wrong trail down the mountain & needing to hike the 6 miles back up! All things considered, I felt like our hike was going well before we chatted with them, and once we chatted with them our hike seemed to be a piece of cake.
We’re still seeing day hikers and mountain bikers abounding on the trail, but were generally having stealth spots to ourselves. We camped by Starr Lake tonight & it was actually crowded. We had to look around for a good spot , but once we found it the people seemed to disappear a bit. The TRT is nice because everyday we saw day hikers, backpackers & mountain bikers, but it generally didn’t feel crowded or like we weren’t in the back country due to volume of people.
Day 8 // 19.0 // 140.7
Day 8 started with an easy morning of hiking downhill as we approached another main road crossing of the trail. We saw our first bike-packers, who claimed going 40 miles in a day ‘wasn’t that impressive’ and crossed under some ski-lifts. Right after lunch we crossed paths with a group of 12ish backpackers that were just .8 miles away from finishing their TRT thru hike! Didn’t realize it the night before, but all those hikers were at Starr Lake with us which is why it was so crowded. It was so fun to see them & see the Tahoe Rim Trail association & friends at the endpoint with refreshments & congratulations in hand! How fun that people from all walks of life are able to sign up for a trip like that & that it’s led by the trail association! We experienced some great trail magic when our tramily came back & reunited with us after a few days off & brought our resupply with! A bit of a bummer to not go into town to get restaurant food, but so easy & nice to have it hand delivered! At this point we were entering a long water carry, so the addition of food with 5L of water we had just filtered wasn’t exactly nice. The hill was long & grueling with a heavy pack, but friendship seriously made it so much better!! I’m impressed & saddened by hikers who don’t have a tramily. As much as I’m an introvert, I really enjoy hiking my pace & breaking / camping with friends.
Day 9 // 16.6 // 156.9
Today was a day of walking ridges and getting views of alllll of Lake Tahoe! We were exposed in the sun most of the day, but at this point we’re all so covered in dirt & sunblock that it didn’t affect us! The miles were easy & we took so many breaks because it was so beautiful! We ended our day wandering around looking for the water source, my first (tiny) blister, Lost & Found spilling some boiling water on herself, and a game of cards! It was bittersweet to know it was our last day sleeping in the woods, but exciting to know that we were almost done.
Day 10 // 14.7 // 171.2
We finished the TRT! 10 days later & we’re full or dirt & smiles! (Very, very full of dirt) We had this great experience right at the end where QuickFix & I put our poles up and Lost & Found and Search & Rescue ran under them, and then they did the same for us. It was a fun way to end at the trail head without a monument and not on top of a mountain.
10/10 Would Recommend a Tahoe Rim Trail Thru hike:
The Tahoe Rim Trail was a really great thru-hike to do while still maintaining our 9-5 day jobs, with the added bonus of getting to vacation with some of our AT tramily members.It was nice to see the TRT getting used by many day hikers, bikers & backpackers alike! It made for interesting bathroom breaks where you actually had to go hide in the woods, but that’s something we should be doing anyways… One of the trip highlights was seeing a blind hiker who was being helped along by poles & a few ‘seeing-eye humans’. The hiking community is great and it was so nice to see this blind hiker able to get out & enjoy the outdoors even being differently abled. Logistics for the TRT were actually pretty easy as well, with many reasonably priced flight options in Reno, NV. The trail itself was probably only about 45 minutes away from the airport too. We had 3 total resupplies, which meant even if you took longer to hike and did shorter mileage days, there would be no points where you really had to carry a ton of food. The weather was absolutely stunning in the beginning of August with sunshine all day every day, and the wildflowers were in peak season. The TRT would be a great alternative to the PCT this year as the hiking season will be much shorter with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As always, you can follow along on our adventures living our 9-5 corporate lives on instagram here. If the COVID-19 pandemic clears up, we’re hoping to get a Wonderland Trail thru hike in this summer.
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