Editor’s note: Here’s part one of the promised journal of El Dorado Hills resident Shawn Burton, who embarked on a 167-mile journey around the Tahoe Basin last month.
Hello everyone, beginning today I am going to be attempting to hike the entire Tahoe Rim Trail. For those of you who don’t know, the Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165 mile trail around the ridges that bound the Tahoe Basin, climbing and descending more than 23,000 feet over the entire trail. If I average 13 miles a day I’ll be able do it in 14 days. I’m here with my buddy Doug Goldstein, who is also my boxing instructor. He’s 55 years old but he looks like he’s 35. We have 3,000 feet of climbing to do today and I’m pretty sure Doug will kick my butt on the hills. Wish me luck!
Twenty-two miles done, 145 miles to go. Doug and I just finished day two of our trek. Day one was tough. We climbed 3,000 feet over 12 miles to a spot called Gray Lake. We were going to stop at Mud Lake but we made a call at the last minute to go to Gray Lake instead because we thought there was a better chance it would be a location with running water and we were right. The location was perfect and kept us protected from the elements. Mud Lake turned out just as it sounds, a big pile of mud. Day 2 was 11 miles and brought us to the highest point on the Tahoe Rim Trail, Relay Peak at 10,338 feet. Tomorrow’s another big day going to Marlette Peak which will be about a 14-mile trek.
Day 3 has been completed. 37 miles done, 130 miles to go. Day 3 turned out to be 15 miles which, like any good hike, was all uphill in the last 6 miles — just when you are the most tired. Just like Doug and I experienced issues finding water in the Mt. Rose wilderness, day 3 was no different. There were absolutely no water sources until mile 15 when I reached Marlette Peak campground. The campground was fantastic! I have a bear locker, table to sit at, a bathroom with toilet paper and the best perk was a water pump from a well (which means no filtering required). For those of you who don’t backpack, this may not sound like much, but for a backpacker this is the equivalent to a five-star hotel. Even better, other backpackers staying here turned out to be guides for the TRT so they were able to give me a lot of tips.
They told me this section of the TRT was their favorite and I can see why. Along this trail, there were great views of Lake Tahoe, Washoe Lake and Marlette Lake but no views were better than on the Christopher Loop at Herlan Peak. Herlan Peak is supposed to be the best view in all of Lake Tahoe and after seeing it, I know it’s true. Last night I slept great (10 hours) but was woken three times by the guide groups dog which was barking at something rustling around outside (most likely a bear). The dog scared him off so that was good. Tomorrow I hike to Spooner Lake.
Day 4 is complete — 51 miles completed, 116 miles to go. I was going to sleep at Spooner Lake tonight but there is a 60 percent chance of snow Wednesday afternoon. I hiked an extra 4 miles today so I can hopefully miss the storm while I am hiking. Today was another day with great views. After 2,000 feet of climbing, I walked the Snow Valley Peak ridgeline with views of Lake Tahoe and Marlette Lake the entire way. Water was scarce again today but I was lucky enough to find a couple in the Spooner Lake parking lot that provided me water and saved me walking an extra 2 miles to the Spooner Lake ranger station.
Sixty-one miles complete, 106 miles to go. Day 5 was tough. It was bound to happen; the snow started at 6 a.m. I immediately got up and got my gear together and hammered out 10 miles with no breaks. I was soaked at the end and was lucky enough to be in an area with hotels (most of the Tahoe Rim Trail is in the middle of nowhere). I am now drying off and will enjoy a shower and real bed. This storm will dump 4 to 9 inches but then the weatherman is predicting clear skies for the next 10 days.
Seventy-two miles complete, 95 miles to go. Day 6 was a lot of fun since it was a day of transitioning between different topographies. I started from my hotel and walked up Kingsbury grade to the backside of Heavenly ski resort. I then walked a couple of miles on Heavenly’s property and even walked under some ski lifts — an interesting perspective. From there I walked up a ridge at 8,500 feet and hiked along the edge of the Sierra’s eastern side with a view of Nevada and Highway 395. For those of you not familiar with Highway 395, it is my favorite part of Nevada/California since the Sierra Nevada mountains abruptly shoot up thousands of feet from the eastern side versus increasing gradually from the California side. I am always impressed driving on Highway 395 and looking at these mountains shooting up as high as 10,000 feet. It was a great perspective being up at the top of those mountains looking down into Nevada. It was such a great view that I had to sit there and eat my lunch at a famous marker on the Tahoe Rim Trail called Bobs Big Bench. From there I climbed to 9,200 feet and walked over Monument Peak Pass which transitioned me again to the California side of the Sierra where I had great views of the Heavenly Valley and the High Meadows mountain range. As I got closer to my final destination, Star Lake, I even got great views of Lake Tahoe. The snow was pretty consistent at 4 to 6 inches along most of the route, which did slow me, down but I eventually made it to Star Lake at 9,100 feet. Star Lake was truly magical. I had the whole lake to myself so I decided to camp right alongside it. As the sun set, I ate my dinner and watched the mountain ranges beyond Star Lake reflecting off the water. It was a great day, but it quickly got very cold, down to 20 degrees, since I was at such a high elevation. I slept with all my water and electronics in my sleeping bag. Tomorrow, I hike to Freel Peak Pass at 10,000 feet then to Armstrong Pass and eventually to Highway 89 where I will meet my good friend Jeff Jameson. I’m looking forward to seeing Jeff especially since it can be quite lonely out here. If I had a volleyball, I would’ve painted a happy face on it, called it Wilson and started up a conversation with my new buddy.
Eighty-seven miles complete, 80 miles to go. I crossed the halfway point today! It was a long day today. I started hiking at 8:15 a.m. and hiked until 7 p.m. with two hours of breaks. The first 3 miles after Star Lake were difficult since the snow was 6 to 9 inches deep in most spots. I regretted not bringing my gators. There were also many ice patches along the route ; thank God for my hiking poles or I would have bailed many times. I also have to say that I am amazed that my Sprint phone has had coverage this entire trip (thanks Reid) which worked out perfectly today since the deep snow made it impossible at times to find the trail. The TRT GPS app I had helped pick up the trail again. Today had more elevation ascending and descending than any other day. Between Freel Peak, Armstrong Pass and all the other peaks and passes, I must have climbed and descended more than 3,000 feet. I finally met Jeff at his car on Highway 89 at 3:30 p.m. after hiking 10 miles nonstop and I was exhausted. After a double quarter pounder, french fries and a fresh pair of underwear, I felt like a million bucks. Jeff and I threw on our packs and hiked 3 more miles to Round Lake at 8,000 feet. They allow campfires in his part of Tahoe so the next couple of nights we’ll have a fire to keep us warm.
Stay tuned for part two …