Day: Tuesday, July 19th 2016
Miles: 1053.2 – 1080.5
Remote Camp 1053.2 – Remote Camp 1080.5
Today is the day. Tahoe is just ahead and I have the thirst for miles. To get to a point right before Lake Tahoe would really be a hugely fulfilling milestone for me. Im not sure why Tahoe has become such a target for so many hikers but once you leave the high Sierra, people clutch to notional targets for a variety of reasons and South Lake Tahoe is the biggest center of population we’ll pass until Ashland in Southern Oregon. I don’t actually intend to even stop in SLT but this meaningful target on the map heralds momentous views of the lake on the east of the trail, as well as the final heights before descending into the Northern Camifornia hills, where the blues and mental challenges take over from considerations of phaticality and remoteness. So it is that I hit the trail at 6:50AM with an intent stride and beautiful morning light to illuminate the fantastical shapes and peaks of the cities in the sky that I passed yesterday.
As I wound around the castles in the sky with views to the lower elevations and valleys to the east, I picked up enough phone coverage to check on things at home and even make a call to work to ensure everything was all set with my leave. The terrain was arid, undulating and the gravel underfoot was at times difficult to trudge through, a one foot forward, half a foot backward sensation that made things a little tiring.
I was joined along the way with some of the group from yesterday including Nelson, the various couples, Mozart, RiskyBusiness and I was very excited to meet the Legs family from Oregon whom I last met way back at Mikes Place in Southern California. All (dad, son and daughter) were looking healthy and rolling with the trail. Maybe a little thinner as with all of us! I lunched by a lake outlet for lunch and was passed at one point by some ladies out riding their horses accompanied by their dogs.
Eventually the trail took a new course up a high path, rising to a magnificent saddle with further elevation gains to a viewpoint over the lake that I lunched just downstream of. The view and winds were quite intense but I could recognize features to the south stretching days back into the trails routing.
“All I Wana do is slide down the snow!”:
I kept rolling on and took an extended rest around 4:30PM, counting the cost of the heat which had really knocked the energy out of me. Counting the cost of the day at a time of low motivation and no energy is dangerous as it usually leads to ideas of early nights and blissful bedtime. I went a bit further after popping a Noon tablet in my water to help rehydrate and did feel a lot more buzzed to continue afterwards. I met an interesting gent named Aero who was aiming southbound but ordinarily a NoBo right around the time a whole new wonderland presented itself ahead, as the trail dropped into an area of amazing blue flowers and a fragrance so intense I stopped for a while to just breathe it in.
I eventually passed Powder (another thru-hiker) and with a big evening burst of energy started to roll up one last hill with the intention of camping before Carson Pass. As I rose above the valley of flowers, I was serenaded by dancing swallows, flying and swooping low as evening shadows invaded the light space. It was a really beautiful time of the evening, only further enhanced as I saw my first newly horned buck as I reached a saddle. Enjoying multiple sunsets as I climbed and descended the trail at this point, I kept wanting to go a little further as I reached some snowfields hiding in the shadows.
Bouncing over another saddle and the sun was still beating down as the trail created to the west side of a magnificent ridge that was all but hidden to me in the east side up to now. This evening was simply getting better and better as I kept rolling forward to Carson Pass, named after the legendary Kitt Carson and another east west road pass that the trail dropped into. I decided that the lack of camping spaces here most likely pushed me into a late hike up and over the ridge towards Tahoe, and so, propelled by the incredible views I further pushed towards the great blue lake just obscured by one last ridge.
The ridge walk was incredible at this time of the evening, perfectly illuminated with a warm glow, the flowers and evening birds provided an amazingly immersive moment in time, one of those moments you pinch yourself, particularly when I realized that the thin sliver of light ahead was my first view of the great Lake Tahoe!
Venturing down towards the meadows right before Lake Tahoe, I think I had an existential moment more fulfilling than any other so far on the trail. I had made it! I had walked from Mexico to Lake Tahoe. There it is right in front of me. And I got here on my own two feet. As I settled into a small spot about 8miles from the next trailhead exit for Tahoe, I enjoyed a magnificent moonrise, and chomped down a celebratory Snickers bar, feeling like the day had truly swung through all faces of my motivation scale but so happy to be where I am, and where I am right now at this moment in life.