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Backpacker Magazine – August 2010

Tahoe Rim Trail: Above it All

On a thru-hike of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail, two brothers get some perspective - on America's largest alpine lake, and each other.

by: Charles Bethea

The author treks along Carson Ridge (Ryan Heffernan)
The author treks along Carson Ridge (Ryan Heffernan)
Bouldering next to Round Lake (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Bouldering next to Round Lake (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Charles and Rob arguing logistics (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Charles and Rob arguing logistics (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Showers Lake: the author and
Showers Lake: the author and "silver surfer" (Ryan Heffernan)
Crossing a meadow near Showers Lake (Ryan Heffernan)
Crossing a meadow near Showers Lake (Ryan Heffernan)

So I hatched a plan for us to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail last August. Truth is, I needed a transformative experience myself. I'd opened my eyes one day in the spring and realized that I'd been asleep for four years in a small desert town. I'd come for a job and stayed for a girl, and now both are long gone. I needed a jolt, some natural beauty, and risk that didn't involve reservation casinos. This big lake, circled by a trail high above towns full of potential, giant burritos, and the occasional beer, looked like the ticket. Logistics would be easy, costs minimal, and the fresh air, cold water, and chance to play big brother refreshing. One thing I didn't foresee: Rob hiking in a speedo. Or that he'd bring one for me.

When walking a circle, you can start anywhere. We choose Lower Echo Lake trailhead, about 25 miles south of Tahoe City, California. It begins an extraordinary stretch of trail through the Desolation Wilderness; it seemed smart to hit some of the best scenery right off the bat, when our city legs will need the inspiration. In the parking lot, just before setting out, I rummage through Rob's overstuffed pack, pulling out excess gear - shamanic woolen vest, prayer beads, and mutton-chop comb, to name a few - and putting stuff back in the car. As a former Appalachian Trail thru-hiker (and Rob's older, seemingly wiser, brother by four years), I have no qualms about preemptively lightening his load. But he stops me when I fish out two shiny pieces of fabric.   



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READERS COMMENTS

Emily Hogan
Jul 12, 2012

My big life-changing trip didn't happen until I was 50, and it was a trip to Utah. I had been there before, and always loved it. This time, it was like a religious awakening. All we did was hike the day trails in Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands, but I couldn't get enough of it. I decided I wanted to be a geologist. I've still got quite a lot of college credits to earn, and I doubt I'll ever get a job because of it (I work at the Heard Museum in Phoenix), but I'm happy with the path my life is on (and those paths I walked in Utah).

One question -- what's Giardia? An illness? A Flower? An Italian philosopher . . . ?

Paul Mags
Nov 08, 2010

Charles and I corresponded before the trip. Gave him some info...maybe this doc (since updated) will help any potential TRTers. Good trail for those want to see what a thru-hike may be like. :)
http://www.pmags.com/ring-around-the-lake-tahoe-rim-trail-journal-2009#impressions

TRT Hiker Gal
Aug 26, 2010

That should read 'east' side of camp. Sorry for the typo.

Star Lake is a good spot for water on the Kingsbury-Big Meadow segment and a great place to camp. Looking forward to the Echo/Barker segment soon. I'm half done with the trail.

TRT Hiker Gal
Aug 26, 2010

Hi Sparksrick, if you take the left fork at Marlette Peak, you can take a short path on the ease side of the campground to a water well with a hand pump. Ice cold and so yummy. The path from camp meets back up with the east fork not far from camp so its not out of the way. Its still on the TRT.

John I. Gutierrez
Aug 26, 2010

Thanks for this!

John I. Gutierrez
Aug 26, 2010

Thanks for this!

Sparksrick
Aug 26, 2010

Maps, Hauserman's guide is good, Harrison's Recreation Map is a handy topo, but I think the Take It Outdoors Trailview Map is essential. I've referenced it more than either of the first two for my 165-mile section hike. I agree, the Echo/Barker section is fairly spectacular. My least favorite section was Tahoe City to Brockway. I agree, the east side is dry, dry, and may require a water cache at Tunnel Creek road.

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