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  1. #1
    Senior Member twentybelow's Avatar
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    Tahoe Rim Trail - Days 5-9 ( Part 2)

    * Go HERE for part 1 of this trip report

    Day 5: We broke camp at 8:20. For reference, Marlette Campground is located at MM 54.5. About 2 miles farther down the trail, the path emerged out onto an alpine meadow that seemingly went on forever. No trees, no shrubs, only low-growing ground cover and wildflowers. It looked as though we were suddenly transported to another country. The views were simply incredible. To the west, Marlette Lake below us in the foreground, Lake Tahoe beyond that, and the rugged Sierras as a backdrop on the distant horizon. To the east, the Carson Valley, Lake Washoe, and the mountains beyond. We knew our cameras couldn't begin to capture what we were seeing, but we couldn't help stopping every 100 steps to make an attempt. We were both totally overwhelmed with the natural beauty. It was like sensory overload. As I said, this wasn't just an overlook. This incredible view went on for over an hour as we advanced southward on the trail. And as if that wasn't enough, the wildflowers! Acres and acres of them in every direction. Every color of the rainbow was represented. If you closed your eyes, you would swear you were in a floral shop, the fragrance was so intense. How fortunate are those who live within 100 miles of this place! If I was a local resident, I'd come here often and linger all day.

    The view west with Marlette Lake in foreground


    Spring is in the air.... in August!

    After retrieving our previously mentioned water cache near the Spooner Summit Trailhead at MM 63.6, we stopped for a leisurely 90-minute lunch beyond the road crossing (US 50) where we found picnic tables and pit toilets. A chipmunk entertained us while we ate. Chipmunks are by far the most common animal you will see along the trail. They are everywhere, skittering to-and-fro. Seeing 200 of the creatures per hour in some spots would not be an exaggeration. I saw a sign that said they might carry plague. Seems unlikely that something so cute could harbor such a wretched and often fatal disease.

    After lunch we scaled the switchbacks back to the ridgeline, again hauling a full gallon of water each for the anticipated dry camp and streamless stretch of trail. Our goal for the evening was a meadow on the western flank of “South Camp Peak”, somewhere near MM 69.0. When we first got to the meadow, we were again taken with the breathtaking views to the west. We dropped our packs and took a break, and then while my wife took a catnap, I scouted the area at the edge of the meadow for a suitable place to hang our hammocks. I found a few places that would do, but wanting something better I kept wandering farther and farther away from my wife and our packs. Eventually I found a great spot about a half-mile yonder, and low-and-behold... I also found “Bill”, the guy we had camped next to the previous night. Our chosen camp locations were far enough apart to afford us plenty of privacy, and it was nice to run into someone we already knew. By this time I had been “gone” for about 45 minutes and unbeknownst to me, my wife was becoming very concerned about my long absence. Needless to say, she was quite relieved when I finally reappeared to escort her to our home for the night. By now it was getting pretty late so we hung our hammocks quickly, cooked up some dinner, and then made our way back out to the meadow for the sunset. It was a long day and we had walked 14.4 miles (not including my scouting run), the most so far. We were both exhausted, so we retired before it was even fully dark.

    The elevation at this campsite was 8805' and the low temperature that night was 51 degrees. I'd rate this place 9.5/10.

    "Well?? Gimme something!"

    Sunset from camp 5 meadow

    Day 6: Broke camp at 9:20am. Our first stop was “the bench”, a rustic wooden seat that is located near a rock pile towards the south end of this long ridgetop meadow. There was another couple there when we arrived, so we did the obligatory camera-swap and snapped some photos. The view from here is pretty much the same one we saw yesterday, except in morning light instead of late-afternoon light. A panorama like this never gets old.

    "The Bench"

    After the bench, and before we had even gone a mile along the trail, my poor wife slipped on some loose gravel and rolled her ankle. She knew immediately that it was more than just a minor sprain when she heard an audible pop. We stopped and applied a Salonpas patch (an analgesic) and then wrapped it with an ace bandage. She also took some Arnica which is an herbal pain reliever. Unfortunately, we were many miles from the nearest road. The injury wasn't life threatening so there was no need for extraordinary measures like calling for an air evac, so she laced back up and hobbled onward using her trekking poles as a quasi-crutch. By her own account, the pain increased substantially whenever she stopped walking, so continuing to move forward at a slow pace seemed to be the best strategy, all things considered.

    Also, shortly after the injury occurred, a mountain biker came past, noticed my wife hobbling, and stopped to see if we needed help. Turns out he was an orthopedic surgeon! She ended up getting a free trailside consultation from an expert on such injuries. He reasoned that there was likely no broken bone if she was able to walk on it at all, and of course advised RICE... Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation as soon as possible.

    We stayed together for the next several miles, and eventually decided that I would zoom ahead, drop my pack at the road, hike back up the trail, and carry her pack the remaining distance. Shortly after we split up, there was a side trail (which she wrongly assumed was the TRT) that entered a neighborhood, so she ended up being able to get off her feet before I even made it down to the highway two miles beyond that point. There was cell service so we were able to stay in contact. In the end, we called a cab which picked us up in two different locations and then took us to where our car was parked at the Brockway Trailhead. From there we drove all the way back to SLT, picked up an inflatable ankle brace from CVS, and had a nice dinner at Izabella's Ristorante before heading over to the AirBnB that we had previously reserved for the night.

    Although this was an unexpected and unfortunate turn of events, it turned out OK. No permanent damage was done. We agreed that I would continue hiking the trail solo for a few days while she rested and recuperated. We already had another AirBnB booked three days from now when we would re-evaluate. The hope was that she would be able to resume the hike at some point.

    Before Injury

    Day 7: After breakfast at Denny's, my wife dropped me off where the trail crosses Kingsbury Grade (aka NV 207) at 11:45am. This is exactly where I ended up the day before and where the cab driver picked me up, MM 78.2.

    The original plan for the previous day was for us to hike to MM 81.5, take a half-mile side trail into a neighborhood where there was a bus stop, and ride the bus into SLT. I had the bus schedule on my phone, as well as a stash of $2 bills in my pack, which is the fare for seniors (gotta have exact change, and a $2 bill weighs half as much as two $1 bills!). For the “last mile” from the end of the bus line to our AirBnB we were going to use Lime Scooters. I already had the Lime app on my phone and we were eager to try out those gizmos. Sadly, we never got to have that bit of fun.

    Much of the climb back up to the ridge was on or adjacent to the property of Heavenly Ski Resort. I've only skied in the east... Poconos in PA, Whiteface in NY, Killington in VT, etc., but I've consistently heard how much better skiing is in the west. I hope to have an opportunity to check it out someday and Heavenly seems like a good place to do that.

    As usual for the TRT, there were often great views of the surrounding countryside, especially of the Carson Valley from “Point McKenna” at MM 84.5. I went thru Monument Pass, which was quite scenic. The area looked like a lunar landscape, different from anything I had seen along the trail up to that point.

    View from Point McKenna

    I came upon three separate maintenance crews in my days on the trail. In talking with some of them, I confirmed that they are all volunteers. It takes some serious work to keep a trail like this clear of deadfalls, blowdowns, rockslides, and various other hazards. Thank you guys and gals!

    Thanks to all trail maintenance volunteers everywhere!

    I ended up camping at Star Lake, MM 89.6, a very nice location to spend the night. I saw a couple of other folks that I recognized from previous encounters along the trail, but the lakeshore was pretty empty. Total mileage for the day was 11.4 and the low temperature overnight was 51 degrees with calm wind. The elevation here was 9095'. I'd rate this camp 9.5/10.

    Hanging out at Star Lake

    camp 6 at Star Lake

    the kitchen caboodle

    Day 8: There was a light breeze at daybreak. Broke camp at 8:40am. Met “Bob” around midday, a guy about my age who was also thru-hiking the trail clockwise. Like myself, he was also on day 8 but unlike me he would be done two days from now! By his own account he had done several 20-mile days and didn't seem to be enjoying his trip all that much. Although I naturally go faster when traveling solo and CAN do 20 miles or more in a day, anything over 15 miles starts feeling less like fun and more like work. Maybe that would change on a longer trail like the PCT or CDT. I don't know, but hopefully I'll find out someday. In the meantime, today I celebrated passing the halfway point of this thru-hike at MM 105.

    The portion of the trail I am in now has plenty of water sources so there is no need to carry more than a liter or so at a time. Of course, everybody is different, but I seem to require about a liter for each 5 miles of travel to stay well-hydrated. Yes, temperature, humidity, pack weight, and terrain all affect this to some degree, but as a general rule and average, that's what works for me. I also employ the “strategy” of only breathing through my nose. My personal rule is, if I can't get enough air through my nose on the uphill grinds, I'm moving too fast and it's time to slow down or take a short break. This serves to automatically keep my heart rate from redlining AND reduces the amount of fluid loss through evaporation in my airway. At least that's my theory. YMMV.

    The trail passes near the Luther Campground at around MM 104. You can't actually see the campground from the trail, but there is a narrow paved road that leads to it. When the trail emerges from the woods onto this paved road, there is no sign or other indication where the TRT continues. Fortunately, I caught up to Bob again at this spot and he had a guidebook that said to make our way to the SW corner of the parking lot. That bit of info saved me from needing to fire up the “Backcountry Navigator” app on my phone to figure it out.

    Speaking of cell phones, let me talk a bit about navigation apps and the electronic devices I choose to carry. First and foremost, the ubiquitous smartphone. Virtually everyone has one now, and it's no wonder; they are so useful. For backpacking, having your smartphone with you is a no-brainer in my opinion. Of course, assuming there is a cell signal where you happen to be in the woods, they are a handy communication device that enables you to stay in touch with home or work, connect with a hiking partner you have become separated from, summon emergency services, get an updated weather report, check your email, or even watch a netflix movie in your hammock. But what good are they without “service”, which is often pretty weak or non-existent in the backcountry? Perhaps most importantly, they can keep you from getting lost. There are several good navigation apps out there that enable you to pre-download maps before you leave home, and then use said maps, combined with the satellite GPS capability built into most smartphones, to geo-locate and display your exact position on the map without needing a cell signal. Thus you can always know your location relative to any trail or landmark. This can be a lifesaver if you find yourself completely disoriented, or merely a timesaver to help put you back on track if you happen to take a wrong turn. Also, if you want to venture off-trail and try to find that cave you know is out there somewhere but are worried about finding your way back, the app can record a series of virtual breadcrumbs as you walk so that you can always retrace your steps, day or night, or even in the midst of a whiteout with zero visibility. There are some situations where a paper map and compass are useless but a smartphone can save your bacon. The app can also tell you your average hiking speed, show you a profile of the trail's elevation changes, act as a super-accurate pedometer, and display your exact GPS coordinates to help SAR locate you quickly in an medical emergency.

    Aside from the critical capabilities of communication and navigation, a smartphone can also perform many other helpful functions for you in the woods, some of which you may not have thought of. Even without “service” it can: take pictures and record video; tell you the time; be a spare flashlight; play music; help you identify stars, planets, and constellations; be a timer so you don't over- or under-cook your ready-in-7-minutes Knorr's dinner; wake you up; lull you to sleep with soothing ocean sounds or an e-book; be a mirror for fixing your hair in the morning or getting that gnat out of your eye; check the 30-degree angle of your hammock suspension; remind you that it's your brother's birthday today; make a shopping list for the next time you're in town to re-supply; calculate how much money you still have in your hiking budget after that last in-town splurge; and alert you when you finally DO have cell service. Plus, there are innumerable apps out there that can expand that list tenfold. Some are obviously frivolous, but as an example, one potentially useful app I have on my phone is from the red cross and will show you how to treat common medical situations in the woods when getting to a hospital or clinic quickly may not be possible. I haven't ever needed it, but it's there and weighs nothing.

    In addition to the smartphone, I also carry an auxiliary battery and short cable to recharge the phone if needed, wired headphones that are required to use the built-in FM radio in my phone in case I need to get a weather report when there is no service, and a small thermometer that also records the daily high and low temperature. I primarily use the thermometer to help with evaluating gear and clothing. That's it. For a little more than half a pound of carry weight you get all that capability. So if you haven't yet gotten a navigation app, get one and learn how to use it. You'll be glad you did.

    Screenshot of Backcountry Navigator from my phone

    Ok, back to the story. I paused here at the road to re-arrange the stuff in my pack because it was beginning to look and sound like we might have a thunderstorm. What? They have those here? It was funny because this was the first time in all 8 days I had been on the trail that there was even the slightest threat of rain. Nor had it rained at all on the three day trip from Missouri. I had gotten lax about keeping all the stuff that absolutely needed to stay dry INSIDE the compactor bag that I use to line the inside of my backpack. After shuffling things around a bit, I was ready for a downpour if it occurred. I wondered... would this be the day that I finally got to test out the new (to me) dyneema (formerly cuban fiber) tarp that I picked up on the classifieds about a month before departure? (thanks, Rex Clifton!) Stay tuned to find out!

    I found the continuation of the TRT as Bob said in the SW corner of the parking lot. In addition to being the entrance for Luther Campground, this lot also serves as the Big Meadow Trailhead. As I was exiting the lot onto the single track, a coyote scooted across my path. I didn't have time to get the camera out, but a coyote is hardly picture-worthy anyway, unless of course it has an Acme Brand Rocket Sled attached to it. In a short distance the trail crossed a major paved road, CA 89. From there the climb began in earnest via switchbacks. It was here that the rain started. Well, sort of. It was more like an ultra-light shower, not even enough to warrant putting on my now easily accessible rain jacket. Not much farther along, the path emerged into, of all places, Big Meadow. Honestly, I don't know why they call it that; there are much larger meadows all over the place. This one was small by comparison. Anyway, meadows are always pleasant to walk through. Except perhaps during a thunderstorm. Tempting fate, I pushed on. Alas, I didn't get struck. One-tenth of a mile later I was back in the woods and the ascent began again. The sprinkle lasted maybe 10-15 minutes and it was done. My t-shirt was dry about 5 minutes later. After a long, 3-mile uphill climb, I rolled into Round Lake at MM 107.5 around 5:45pm. I quickly found a good spot with two nice trees very close to the water's edge, pitched the hammock, and proceeded to cook dinner. As I ate from my cookpot, I wandered around the perimeter of the lake to explore a bit. From the opposite shore I had a good view of a large cliff that was now illuminated with the red light of the setting sun. Very nice! Content in the knowledge that there was no better place on the lake to hang my hammock than where I already had, I returned to my spot. There was a large dead tree trunk lying on the beach which made a good seat for filtering water, and while doing so a fellow camper joined me for some conversation as day turned into night.

    It had been a long day, 17.9 miles on-trail and probably another half mile exploring the lake. The low temp was 48 overnight, and the elevation at Round Lake was 8041'. I'd rate this camping spot 9/10.

    So... did I end up hanging the tarp this night? NO! The clouds moved away and the sky cleared before I even arrived at the lake. Gotta love it!

    Camp 7 at Round Lake

    Sunset at Round Lake

    View from the hammock in the morning

    Day 9: Re-supply day! Broke camp at 8:50am. It was a pretty uneventful day. That said, there was never a single day on the trail that didn't have awesome long-range views. And even where the trail passes through dense forest, it's still unbelievably gorgeous. Majestic pines are everywhere you look. Massive cedars with trunks larger around than I've ever seen in my life. I've already gone on and on about the wildflowers which are prolific here. I jotted in my notes that the trail often looks professionally landscaped. By that I mean it's so beautiful that it's easy to believe there's a guiding hand deciding what to plant and where for maximum aesthetic effect. After being here, I think I now have an inkling of what heaven must look like. The sights, the sounds, the smells, all sublime. Even the textures are striking. I didn't encounter any thorny plants anywhere on the trail. Is that just the because of the time of year? I don't know, but I DO know that not once was I poked, pricked, stabbed, or otherwise assaulted by something growing here. And believe me, there were plenty of places where I brushed against many different species of plant life. Ok, you get the idea. If you're looking for a good place to hike, THIS IS IT.

    I reached the southernmost point on the TRT at MM 109.7 and it joins the PCT right there. From that junction, the trail generally headed north through a very pretty valley. Someone used to live here; a few old outbuildings are still standing, leftovers from an old homestead. What a peaceful place! Next I came to Showers Lake where I drew some water. There were a few campers here and it looked like they'd been here for awhile. This is definitely a very nice place where one could spend a few days enjoying the gorgeous scenery and exploring the area from a base camp. I'd have liked to stay longer, maybe pitch the hammock in a shady spot and let the wind rock me to sleep until lunchtime, then go for a swim after lunch and sprawl out on a rock in the sun to dry off. Gotta come back here someday for sure!

    Had my actual (vs. imaginary) lunch around MM 116 in Bryan Meadow which was very nice.

    TRT / PCT Junction

    Meadow at PCT Junction

    Showers Lake

    Yet another meadow full of wildflowers

    Views that just won't quit!

    Lunch at picturesque Bryan Meadow

    Made it to the Echo Summit Trailhead (US 50) at MM120 around 3:40pm. The pre-arranged rendezvous time was 4pm, but the wife was 20 minutes early so neither of us had to wait! Perfect timing!

    An update on her condition: She stayed at a motel for the past two days and nights and rested the ankle the whole time. The swelling has mostly abated and she's feeling much better. However, the next leg of the trail is through Desolation Wilderness and the terrain there is very different from the rest of the TRT. We've read that you are basically walking on shards of granite the whole way through. Miles and miles of difficult, ankle-wrenching trail is what awaits all who enter that area. So.... it seems prudent that she not risk it. I will continue solo for another two days and then we'll re-evaluate again.

    In the meantime, before picking me up she had already checked us into the AirBnB (#2). After being apprised of her situation and condition, the host, Randy, went out of his way to offer assistance. He carried her backpack and other belongings up to the room, brought extra pillows so she could prop up her sore foot, made a batch of freshly-ground coffee, and even offered her some organic, locally-sourced ointment that had THC in it (legal in California) (I think). Legal or not, she says it worked very well and she felt instant pain relief. Imagine that! Thank you Randy!

    After a quick shower and change of clothes we headed out to dinner at “Izzy's Burger Spa” in SLT which came highly recommended. It was good. Not spectacular, just good food reasonably priced. They had outdoor seating which made it even better. I would eat there again.

    To be continued in part 3

  2. #2
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    looking forward to part 3

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