June 25-27, 2010
Friday 23 July 2010
Where to next? The Tahoe Rim Trail.
For many years I've wanted to hike the TRT, which circumnavigates Lake Tahoe along the surrounding mountain ridges. When my brothers, Patrick and Dean, planned to hike the Echo Summit to Big Meadow section I was eager to join them. The three of us, plus Dean's fiancee Adrianna and his son Seth, set out Friday morning (June 25) to hike this 15 mile section over three days. We planned to spend Friday night at Showers Lake, hike to Round Lake on Saturday, and finish at the Big Meadow trailhead on Sunday.
The 165 mile long TRT was established in 1981 and crosses six counties in two states. It’s broken down into nine legs and shares about fifty miles with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. More information can be found on the TRT Association's website (www.tahoerimtrail.org)
Tahoe Rim Trail
The El Dorado National Forest Ranger who issued our fire permit predicted we would encounter snow at the higher elevations near Shower's Lake. We figured a patch here and there wouldn't be a problem, but we weren’t prepared for large snow drifts. We reached Round Lake Saturday afternoon, but not the way we planned.
Weather prognosticators forecasted isolated thundershowers for the mountains on Friday and clear sunny days on Saturday and Sunday, so I wasn't too surprised when I drove through rain east of Elk Grove Friday morning. I had to stop and move my pack inside the truck. I met the others at the family cabin.
We were stopped by road construction on Highway 88, on our way to leave my truck at Big Meadow trailhead and our packs got wet in the back of Dean's truck while we were delayed for about ten minutes. By the time we dropped off my truck and drove up to Echo Summit, our bags were quite wet; but we kept talking optimistically about an expected change in weather.
Echo Summit Trailhead
The rain was intermittent when we started off and I got more wet from within sweating because of our steady climb for the first couple miles. We began running into bigger and bigger patches of snow across the trail about two miles up the trail. Each time, though, we were able to pick up the trail on the other side.
By the time we reached Bryan Meadow, about three and one-half miles in, I was very wet and cold. We stopped for an extended break near the meadow when we lost the trail under a large patch of snow. Dean and Patrick scouted the area and Dean found "a" trail. We loaded up our packs and continued on for another half mile before realizing we were headed in the wrong way. We were on "a" trail, but not "the" trail we wanted.
We re-crossed the slippery ice fields back to where the trail disappeared and searched in every direction but couldn't find where it led. We had hoped to reach Shower's Lake by mid afternoon, but it was now 3:00 PM and we weren't half way there.
It was too late to continue even if we could find the trail. We decided to hike back out, spend the night at the cabin, and hike in from the Big Meadow side the following morning. Instead of eating freeze dried beef stroganoff for dinner and sleeping on the hard ground, we ate pizza and slept in comfy beds.
Saturday morning’s sky was crystal clear and we were walking across Big Meadow by 9:00 AM. I've hiked through this meadow several times on day hikes and knew it would be beautiful in June. It’s a steep half mile climb up from Highway 88, but well worth the effort. The meadow was lush green and made a postcard perfect picture beneath a brilliant blue sky.
After crossing the half-mile long meadow, we climbed to about 8000 feet over the next two miles, and then descended to the Upper Truckee River. From there it was another mile hike up the river to Round Lake. We reached it Saturday afternoon as originally planned but from the opposite direction.
There are several established, though unimproved, campsites on Round Lake. We chose one along the south shore and got settled before taking a 60 minute hike around the alpine lake. In the evening, Patrick and Dean cooked some Darn Good Chili for dinner and Patrick beat each of us at Cribbage.
We broke camp early Sunday morning (June 27), and were on the trail by 10:00 AM. I was dreading the ascent from the river to the summit at 8000 feet, but that took only about 15 minutes. After that it was all down hill to the meadow and we were back at the trailhead by 12:30 PM.
Big Meadow Trailhead
Unfortunately our first attempt at the Tahoe Rim Trail failed. We thought we might come across some snow at the upper elevations, but we never expected the trail to still be buried in it. We're already making plans to re-attempt this hike when the snow has fully melted.
Until then...where to next?