Saturday, December 1, 2007

Walking in a Winter Wonderland (on Section 7 of the Tahoe Rim Trail)

I got up really early this morning to take advantage of what could have been the last snow-free weekend this year. I wanted to hike section 7 of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) from Echo Lake to Barker Pass in preparation for next year's thru-hike. This 32.5-mile section is the longest single stretch of the TRT (between the official trailheads) and travels for about twenty miles through Desolation Wilderness.

As I drove up to Echo Summit on Hwy 50 around 6:30 a.m. I could just see the faint outlines of the massive mountains and for a moment I felt like I was in a different country. I had packed a lot of clothes, because the weather forecast had predicted a cold and dry day. They were right about the cold; it was FREEZING! The dry weather, well, that's another story.

I found my way to the Echo Lake trailhead. There was only one other car, which looked abandoned. This in stark contrast to the last time we went her on Memorial Day; we could hardly find a spot to park that time. Today, however, the Chalet was closed for the season and the boat service that normally runs on the hour had also packed up for the year. Everything looked abandoned.

The first flocks of snow started to fall I was putting on my different layers. I had enough water, coffee, pb&js, pretzels, and other goodies to make the 32.5 mile hike, but the sky looked ominous. I took off right around 7 and made it to the start of Desolation Wilderness (after about three miles) in about 45 minutes. The snow was just starting to stick a little bit, but by mile five, I was already walking through about two inches of snow.

Upper and Lower Echo Lake (Photo from Memorial Day Hike, the camera was frozen)

For sure, I was not going to be able to hike the entire distance. I would need to get my truck off the mountain or face having to live in the public restrooms at the trailhead until May. I pushed on past Lake Aloha to Mosquito Pass and it started getting pretty slick on the rocky sections. The snow covered several icy rocks and I barely caught myself from wiping out completely a couple of times. This was not a good time to get hurt -- even with all the extra layers (two pairs of pants, two pairs of gloves, and five layers on top), it was still freezing cold (Even the water in my CamelBak froze!) and there was nobody on the trail.

I headed back after about 6.5 miles and took it slow on the way back. I had some coffee and a few sandwiches while taking cover from the snow behind one of the many weathered, old pine trees. Sitting there and taking in the winter landscape was truly spectacular.

I made it back to the truck and was able to get back to the highway without any issues, but I don't think I could have waited much longer. I'll just have to check out this section next summer. Before going home, I checked out a few of the other trailheads nearby and of course I could not pass up a scrumptious plate of nachos at Sprouts.

I also picked up a pair of new trekking poles on my way home and I am eager to try them out in some mountainous terrain (trying lots of new things these days). I am also thinking of picking up snowshoeing this winter (the poles will work for both snowshoeing as well as trail hiking), so I can do something other than sit around and drink coffee while the kids are out snowboarding. We usually go to Squaw Valley (kids 12 and under only pay $10), but I don't know if you can snowshoe there. Does anyone know?


Susan said...

I'll be in Lake Tahoe from January 3rd to the 7th. Are you aware of any road races during that time?


Sarah said...

Check out Royal Gorge for snowshoeing - LOTS of beautiful trails! We're up there a bunch of times each winter. I think it's

Sarah (PCTR)

Catherine said...

Sounds like you had quite the hike. Sometimes I love to go out in weather like that. The mountains are so powerful.

I will sign up for TRT 50 miles. The thought of doing that 50 mile course twice for the 100 miler just doesn't work for me. I would like WS or Leadville to be my first 100.

I saw Gordy at the lottery and got one of his fliers so it looks like one last run this year on Christmas. See you there?

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