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.