This is the third and final installment of hiker Shawn Burton’s journal as he hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail last month.
One-hundred and eighteen miles complete, 49 miles to go. It’s been great getting to spend time with my brother. Today we hiked through the heart of Desolation Wilderness. We started out walking past Lake Aloha where you feel like you are on the moon. There are very few trees and granite boulders everywhere with the impressive 10,000-foot Mount Price and Pyramid Peak staring down at us from the other end of the lake. We then continued to several alpine lakes including Heather Lake, Susie Lake, Gilmore Lake and Half Moon Lake before we hiked up to 9.300 feet to cross over Dicks Pass. From Dicks Pass we had amazing 360 views of all the before mentioned lakes plus, on the other side of the pass, we could see Dicks Lake, all the Velma Lakes and my personal favorite, Fontanillis Lake — great views and easy fishing if you have a fishing pole. We ended our day at Middle Velma Lake and will unfortunately leave Desolation Wilderness tomorrow.
133 miles complete, 34 miles to go. Jon and I started today at Middle Velma Lake and within six miles we were outside Desolation Wilderness. I must be becoming a mountain snob after all the views I’ve seen over the past 11 days because I wasn’t very impressed. We did pass a nice lake called Lake Richardson, where we stopped at to filter water, but most of the hike was in a forest with limited views. We made it to Barker Pass after hiking 15 miles, which had a nice view of the lake, but Barker Pass is also used by 4×4 enthusiasts who go off road on the Rubicon Trail. Seeing the off-road vehicles kinda ruined the nature experience for me. We’re only 16 miles from Tahoe City at this point so I’m getting closer and closer! My brother Jon was a trooper; he was able to keep up with me for most of today.
149 miles completed, 18 miles to go. Today my brother and I started hiking from Barkers Pass at 7,700 feet and within four miles we had ascended to Twin Peaks at 8,800 feet. Along the way we got fantastic views of the mountains in Granite Chief Wilderness along with occasional views of Lake Tahoe. After that we mostly descended into the Ward Creek area; there were a few tough climbs along the way. Unfortunately, at the top of Twin Peaks, my brother started to show signs of pain in his back and feet. He courageously hiked another 12 tough miles to Tahoe City so we are now ahead of my original schedule. I offered at several points to run ahead to get the car and drive it back to but my brother refused (probably because he’s stubborn just like me). By the time we reached the car, my brother had covered 50 miles over four days and was beyond wiped out and glad to be back in civilization. I am very proud of him and happy that we were able to get some brother bonding time!
Now, many of you may be wondering how I am feeling after hiking 149 miles over 12 days? I have to admit I was nervous going into this hike since the longest real backpacking trip I had gone on prior to this was a roughly a 40-mile trek on the Teton Crest trail. I assumed that at some point my body would begin to break down. I have been surprised to find out on this journey that I am feeling stronger and stronger as each day passes. In fact, I’m confident enough to say I believe I could hike another 149 miles at this point. The best way to describe this feeling is that I’m “in the zone.” I have pure focus and attention on achieving this task, which I believe is increasing my performance level. On that note, I’ve decided to bang out the last 18 miles on Thursday which means I will finish my trek one day earlier than scheduled (13 days vs. original 14-day schedule). Happily, no more overnights alone also means I won’t have to use my bivy tent again which means I can avoid the darn spider that I know is still hiding in that tent from last Sunday.
167 miles complete! I am done! Before I begin describing today’s events, I wanted to personally thank Doug Goldstein, Jeff Jameson and my brother for participating in this journey with me. Jeff also played a critical role with food, gear and vehicle logistics so thanks again for the help Jeff! And I couldn’t have completed this journey without the support of my wife, Rose, who was holding down the fort while I was away. A special thanks to the Huber family as well for letting me park my car at your property for two weeks and letting me sleep here at the end of my journey. I also want to thank the McCutcheon family for helping nurse my blisters back to health and providing me a warm bed and a great steak dinner. And finally, I wanted to thank everyone for providing me best wishes and prayers along the way. It meant a lot to me.
Today started out at Tahoe City and I quickly ascended 1,000 feet to some cool looking rock formations called Painted Rock. The trail continued to climb another 500 feet to Watson Pass, then I passed through Burton Creek stare park (great name!) and then gradually descended and ascended until I ended in Kings Beach. It turned out that today was a 20-mile hike and not 18 miles, but at this point what does it matter? I was feeling very strong so I decided to push myself to see how long I could hike without taking a break — 13 miles. I took a 10-minute break and then knocked out the remaining seven miles. Total time, 6.5 hours. This was an amazing experience for me. I got to push the limits of my body and found out along the way that I can tolerate a lot more than I initially thought I could. I’ve done a lot of backpacking in Tahoe before this but I was also pleasantly surprised that out of the 167 miles I hiked, 160 miles were new to me which just shows how many great trails are out there.
One final ironic note, most of you may be surprised to hear that on this entire trek the only animal I encountered was the occasional squirrel. I saw tons of animal tracks so I knew they were out there but I must have made too much noise for them to get close. I arrived at my car after 13 days and started to drive. Within five minutes I ran into three bears rummaging through a neighbors garbage.