Day 1: Spooner Lake Trailhead to N. Kingsbury Trailhead – 12 miles
I really couldn’t imagine a more worse case scenario than what I find myself in right now – bar a lightning storm or a wildfires near attack. Phew, bet you weren’t ready to read that! I’ll explain more later.
Let’s start this off on a happier note. Joan and Greg are seriously the kindest folks, truly. We all had a lovely dinner together with great conversation. Addie and I retired early to get the packs ready to go and had a great night’s sleep in the cottage. This morning, giddy with anticipation, we got up early and did a final once over. We were finally ready for the TRT!
Joan dropped us off at the trail head and we were on the trail at 8 AM. Beautiful blue skies and chirping birds greeted us as we ascended up through the wilderness. As usual, Addie needed about 1 mile to get used to her pack (as has been the routine since forever, despite many trial runs). But today she just didn’t seem to shake her sluggishness. I was mildly concerned, but she was keeping up, so keeping on we did.
We had beautiful views of Lake Tahoe for the first 5 miles. The size and depth of the lake is almost frightening. But it was bustling with activities from boats to jetskis to paddle boarding. Apparently the lake is too cold to actually swim. Across the lake out to the west was a perfect view of Desolation Wilderness, shrouded in gray clouds that looked to be threatening lightning. Luckily they didn’t float over the lake to us. But we’ll be over there exploring them in a week!
Eventually, after much searching, we found the famous Tahoe Bench! Famous in so much as I’ve seen so many pictures taken on it and I really wanted a picture with Addie on it. With a prime view of Lake Tahoe and snow covered mountains peeking out in the background, is there really a more picturesque bench?!
While there, Addie showed the first signs of unhappiness. She would lay down at any given moment and would only start moving for a treat. I checked her feet and while still intact, they were covered in sap and one pad had a blister. What the heck!? She has never had issues with her feet before. I lubed them up with musher’s wax and put on her booties. Well if she refused to walk before, forget it now. She was more stubborn than a mule and made me take them off. I even decided then and there I will be carrying her pack. What’s another 10 pounds? Addie’s happiness is worth it.
The bench was a happening place! While lubing up her feet, a young man came up to it and we started to talk. Asking questions, it turns out that we knew of each other, in fact, we had been in communication for all last month! It was Blake from warm showers! He couldn’t host us in South Lake Tahoe because he was hiking the TRT and there he was making great time. He saw the shape Addie was in and was in agreement that bailing out might be in our future.
So with her pack strapped to my back and her feet all jazzed up, Addie was a new dog. She had her usual pep in her step. Faker! What a good actress – or manipulator? Either way I didn’t care Addie was back!
But not for long. Soon she lagged behind and took frequent breaks. We took a one and a half hour break which barely made her better. I couldn’t tell if she was sick, exhausted, sick from altitude, being a princess, or her feet really really hurt. Didn’t matter, she wasn’t happy so I was resigned to the notion that this was a one day attempt. We tried. It didn’t work out. Oh well. As my mom so eloquently put it, “A broken heart over not finishing a hike heals much easier than a broken heart over a beloved broken dog.”
We stopped 1 mile short of North Kings trail head for camp. It was early and Addie instantly laid down as I did camp chores. We both took short naps and I woke up to a panting Addie in a very cool tent. Thinking she had to relieve herself, I let her out and she just fell into the dirt. That’s it. We’re out of here.
I packed up camp in record time and started for the bail out point, 1 mile away. Along the way, Addie perked up. What?! She was fine! I called my parents and they calmed me down. I decided to go back, camp tonight, and call Joan to pick us up in the morning. I called Joan to give her a heads up and she was more than willing to pick us up tomorrow, literally. She even offered to watch Addie so I can finish the hike solo. Wow. I was speechless. The only caveat was they were going to San Diego Wednesday through Saturday. Addie would either have to be boarded for that or I wait to head back. This is something to further discuss with Joan and Greg tomorrow.
Addie is snoozing in her bed and it finally got dark. I feel horrible that Addie isn’t enjoying this hike like past ones, but I won’t subject her to anymore if in the morning she still isn’t acting right. We have one mile to figure it out.
Day 2: North Kingsbury Trailhead to S Fork Daggett Creek – 11.5 miles
This morning could not have started better. Addie woke me up in her usual “crawl on her belly licking me awake because it’s feeding time” fashion. I love her waking me up because it not only means snuggles but it means she’s happy. It was actually litmus test for the course of this morning. If she woke up like this maybe she’s happy. If she didn’t, then it’s definitely bail time. I let her out to do her business and eat, and she pranced around barely able to contain her energy. Great!
We walked 1.5 miles to the trail head to pick up water I stashed in case of emergency. Thank God I did, I dumped out water during the frantic camp break down yesterday to offload pack weight in case I had to carry Addie. With low water sources, it wasn’t my brightest move, but I was in panic mode!
We met Mike along the way and hiked with him for a little. He is a 69-year-old retired landscaper who lives 2 1/2 hours away. He makes the trip several times a week to hike and is constantly discovering new trails to explore. He said he’ll be hiking until the day he dies. My kind of guy!!
After we said goodbye to Mike, it was 3 miles so another bail out option. We had beautiful views of Lake Tahoe along the way. It’s crazy how blue the lake is. It’s hard to tell where the sky ends and the lake begins! If it weren’t for the mountains in the background it be impossible. It would just look like one big reflection. When we got to 207 Addie was still riddled with energy. We thanked Joan for her assistance but let her know we were trekking on. There were about 100 road bikers riding 207, something I was jealous of. After driving up at Sunday, I want to ride it! It looks beyond challenging, but worth it.
We soon got to Edgewater Creek, the first reliable water source since Spooner. I refilled water only to realize my filter was clogged. Crap. After 20 frustrating minutes, I procured 32 ounces. Record timing. UGh. I tried to unclog it but no dice. Luckily I have water purifying tablets if necessary.
We trudged on I mean trudged. Addie lost some energy, but kept up. Soon though, she was truly lagging. Though we’ve been taking lengthy breaks, it doesn’t seem enough. We took a two hour lunch and only had 2 1/2 miles left.
During those miles, we ran into a man with his dog bailing out. He believed his dog had altitude sickness, as they came from Santa Cruz without acclimating. The symptoms he described are similar to Addie’s, only I am pretty positive Addie isn’t suffering from altitude sickness. After he drops off the pooch he’s coming back. Maybe I’ll run into him again soon!
We got into camp after spending 45 minutes filling water, talk about frustrating. Because Addie’s temperament in the afternoons, I’m likely going to bail Thursday to South Lake Tahoe to get her off the trail. I’ll get back on and continue solo. It’s not fair to have her suffer.
Day 3: S. Fork Daggett Creek to Gorgeous view of Lake Tahoe – 12.7 miles
The next couple of days, the Tahoe area is experiencing a heat wave, along with the rest of the southwest. Thank God I’m not riding the southern tier now! In an effort to beat the heat, I got up early. I intentionally say effort because Addie felt like sleeping in. Much like a stubborn teenager, I had to practically force her out of the tent. Food was the only thing that she would listen to. After refilling water (we’ve switched to the tablets – I can’t deal with that stupid filter anymore) we set out at 6:30 AM. We started with an assent that didn’t seem to stop. Along the way we entered into California! I’ve never hiked into another state, so that was a new fun experience.
Our first destination was Star Lake – 5 miles away. Since Addie does best in the morning, we were able to get there quickly and take a break to enjoy the view.
Then we were off to the next checkpoint – Freel Lake trail junction. A 600 foot climb over 1.8 miles, I way underestimated how difficult it would be. Plus it was hot. Plus I was carrying 50 pounds worth of junk on my back. We took a long break when we got to the top not only because we were exhausted, but I got into talking with an Italian mountain biker. Now living in the bay area, he was bursting with Italian pride and told me 1 million different places to visit. Italy should hire him for tourisma even though he no longer lives there. It was an awesome engaging conversation, but the whole time I could only think about how badly I had to go to the bathroom. Oh the glamorous life of hiking!
We hiked another 3 miles and took a 2 1/2 hour break. The sun took mercy and hid behind some clouds. The temperature became a lot more manageable and Addie perked up. We hiked a little with Rose and Alex, a nice couple who is also through hiking the trail. Either Addie is faking it or she really loves to chase, but she was hauling it to keep up with them. I feel very comfortable taking her off leash at this point. She keeps me in sight at all times and is listening extremely well (if a treat is involved).
We made it to camp and have a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe, I can’t wait for the sunset and sunrise! People on Guthook raved about it and I guess people listened to the 5 star reviews. There are two guys who are also sharing this camp with us.
As usual, I have a plan A, B, C (and all the way down to Z) For tomorrow and it all depends on how Addie is doing. Regardless, she’s only gonna hang for this first stretch. I don’t want to hurt her or make her absolutely hate me.
Day 4: Gorgeous View of Lake Tahoe to Big Meadow Trailhead – 7 miles
We woke up to an absolutely beautiful sunrise and broke down camp. Sorry to the guys we shared the site with – they are not early risers like us.
The 7 miles to 89 were all downhill and lovely. Addie was her happy little self and did well off the leash. 89 is a bailout point and the only one until tomorrow. The whole hike I was considering what would be the best option to get Addie out. Could she handle another day out on the trail? Today was planned to be a 14.2 mile day in the heat. Is that acceptable? I decided no it isn’t. She’s done and I’m not pushing her. I looked up ubers and lyfts, and decided the best (and cheapest) option is to Lyft it to Carson City and let Addie rest. I’ll pick up my resupply from South Lake Tahoe tomorrow and get back on the trail Saturday. Joan and Greg are gracious enough to watch her. I couldn’t be luckier.
Unexpected, yes, but 100% worth it. Addie’s happiness is my priority and nothing else really matters. I feel guilty that I may have taken too long to pull her out, but now that she’s back in civilization, her tail is wagging and she’s greeting everyone with smiles.
I’m gonna miss my little trail buddy. She’s great at finishing my dinner and sharing my snacks. She forced me to slow my pace and stop to smell the roses – or the dirt or the tree or the whatever she used to try and squeeze out more of a break. But now that I don’t have to slow down for her or carry an extra 12 pounds of weight, I can complete the trail in just over a week, so I won’t be away from her for too long.