Tahoe Rim Trail: With Addie

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.

Prancing through the wildflowers!

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?!

The 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.

Blake! And one irritated dog.

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.

View of Heavenly Resort

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.

Camping under ski lifts!


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.

California!


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.

Addie enjoying the view at Star Lake

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!

The top of the arduous climb

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.

Addie retreated into the tent right after this picture.
What isn’t pictured here: mosquitoes, thousands of mosquitoes.

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.

What a way to wake up!

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.

All she’s been doing is sleeping since we’ve been back. And someone is getting a bath!

Tahoe Rim Trail: Getting Ready

Having just completed the cross-country Southern Tier Bike Route, I am not quite ready to return back to real life and the responsibilities that come with it. Pushing back my return to work date and delaying the house hunt, I decided why not whet my whistle for backpacking? While I love the adventure of bike touring and the stories and experiences that come from living off a bicycle, there is nothing quite like exploring the back-country with nothing to rely on but you and the gear you have on your back. The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) has always caught my eye as an epic thru-hike with great views in the Sierra. Only 165 miles with multiple bail out options, I set my sights on it and have been planning out this journey since even before the STBR.


The Tahoe Rim Trail, a relatively new thru-hike, circumnavigates Lake Tahoe on a relatively easy grade trail that offers epic views of the Tahoe basin. Before my 2018 JMT adventure, I spent a short time in Tahoe City and fell absolutely in love with Lake Tahoe and the depths of this blue jewel. So imagine my absolute joy when I saw that there was a thru-hike around it! And you don’t need permits!! With an explosion in interest of hiking and backpacking within the last 10 years and itchiness to get out thanks to COVID, a lot of trails and National Parks are requiring either a permit to hike or a reservation to enter. One thing about me is I hate the permit system and competing for a reservation to enter a National Park? Forget it. As of right now, the TRT does not require either of these, save for an overnight permit to enter Desolation Wilderness, but I’ll get to that later.

And another selling point of this trail? It’s completely dog friendly. Considering I was just away from Addie for 2 months and always miss her terribly when I go on trips, I wanted to take her with me to share in the adventure. She has done multiple multi-night hikes with me before that I have not documented in this blog and she handled them as if she was a packmule. She has her own backpack and carried her daily food and water. Even a 10 lb pack doesn’t slow her down! During one of our hikes she handled 18 mile days, swarms of angry hornets (she got stung at least a dozen times), and a near encounter with a rattle snake. None of this fazed her and she trekked on unbothered. She was even called the best trail dog an experienced hiker had ever encountered! I may be biased, but I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment.

Planning

A 165 mile thru-hike is not something to take lightly and thoughtful planning must be done to ensure a safe and successful hike. The resources I used to plan were the 4th edition of the Tahoe Rim Trail Guide by Tim Hausermann, Guthook for water and campsite information, various blogs, and the most useful of all – the Tahoe Rim Trail Association website. I have never come across a more concise and informative website for hiking ever. It has up to date trail/water conditions, resupply options, and all the information you would need to plan a thru-hike. I honestly could have gotten away with planning just by using this website. Needless to say, I’ll be donating to them as a thank you!

First thing’s first: Where to start? What way to go!? How long with this take!?! Well the answer to all three of these questions depend almost entirely on where to resupply. Most people complete this trail in 10-12 days. But given Addie has never gone so long on a trail, I don’t mind taking it slowly to ensure her health. So regardless, that means carrying multiple days worth of not only my food, but her’s as well. Not wanting to carry a 50 lb pack, I knew I wanted to do 2 resupply stops. A lot of folks will start at the popular Tahoe City trail head. It’s awesome that a major city is literally just feet from the trail, but the proximity to the trail seemed more appropriate for a resupply, not an entry/exit point. So it was established. Tahoe City will be a resupply stop! Another city not too far off the trail is South Lake Tahoe, which is almost exactly on the opposite side of the lake. It’s a perfect way to break up the hike, but given that it’s about 12 miles from the trail, we will either hitch or order an uber if cell service is in our favor.


So, with two resupply options solidified, the first question can be answered. Where to start? Well someplace between Lake Tahoe and South Lake Tahoe! The TRT is notorious for having a dry eastern section where there is very little reliable water sources. Unfortunately, Tahoe had a very low snow year so any water sources that aren’t rushing rivers should assumed to be dry. In order to ensure I have enough water for Addie and myself, I wanted to break up this eastern section. And it just so happens Spooner Lake outside of Carson City achieves this want perfectly. But it also causes a logistical problem. How do I get to the trailhead and where do I park my car? All sources did not recommend long term parking at less used trailheads because of human and bear break ins, so that option was out. I could park it at a hotel and pay a daily rate, but that can add up. I figured since I had just gotten done a cross country bike trip, why not ride that out and see if WarmShower hosts will be just as hospitable to a backpacker?! I sent out a message to the Wrights and asked if I could park my car at their home for the duration of my thru-hike. Not only were they very receptive towards that, but they even offered to let us stay and drive us to the trailhead the next morning!! WarmShowers never fails to amaze me. I even reached out to Blake in South Lake Tahoe to send my resupply package and spend a night off the trail. He responded that he was also thru-hiking the TRT! But found someone who was more than happy to help out. I’ll be running into him on the trail!! What are the chances!?

Now, what way to go? I didn’t put much thought into this question. From Spooner to South Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City to back to Spooner are all pretty equidistant, so direction doesn’t really matter. Most hikers go clockwise, so I decided to go with the flow of traffic to avoid encounters with other hikers (not because I’m snotty, but Addie can be).

So how long will this endeavor take? With all the time in the world, we can take it as slowly as needed. Not wanting to overtax Addie, I wanted to keep our days relatively short. I didn’t want to average more than 12 miles/day to keep her joints, paws, and mind all healthy. With special attention to water sources, I was able to achieve this mileage goal with 5 days between re-supplies and one rest day in Tahoe City. Of course, with any hike, itineraries are subject to change but I’m pretty happy with this schedule.

Oh dreaded permits. Yes, to thru-hike the TRT you do not need a permit other than a self registered one at the trailhead. But, if you’re spending a night in Desolation Wilderness (on the west side of the lake), you need an overnight permit – that you get from a lottery system. NO! But, luckily for us thru-hikers, we can bypass the lottery system and get a TRT Thru-hiker specific permit 2 weeks prior to entering Desolation Wilderness. The ranger who distributes these permits is quite possibly the most helpful woman I’ve ever spoken to and will go above and beyond to ensure that you have that permit no matter the situation.

As I mentioned earlier, California had a very low snow pack year. In years of high or even normal snowfall, a mid-June thru-hike would be a risky endeavor with a lot of the north facing slopes still holding onto feet of snow. Given that most of the snow has already melted, this year is a prime year to hike it early. Ideally, I wanted to hike the Four Passes Loop in CO as a shakedown hike, but Maroon Bells still has feet of snow. So it looks like we’re jumping headfirst into the TRT! We are starting June 15th and expecting to end June 29th, exactly 2 weeks on the trail. Plus the temperatures in June don’t rise too high. Days are in the 70s and nights drop into the 40s. Good thing I got Addie her very own sleeping bag!

So permit is acquired, re-supplies are shipped out, and itinerary is set! Big Booty Judy is all geared up to go and Addie’s pack is awaiting another journey. Addie’s nails are clipped, the Subaru’s windshield is replaced and lubed up (wow that was a frustrating experience), and we are both very excited to get going! Well I mean Addie has no idea what’s in store for her, but if she did I’m sure her tail would sprain from nonstop excited wagging.

What if things go wrong?

The older I get, the more I realize I have inherited my mother’s tendency to over worry. Little fears snowball into ripped from sleep panics in the middle of the night. So I figured why not address these fears and have a plan should worse case scenario happen.

Addie: Having my precious Addie girl with me adds a layer of concern that otherwise I wouldn’t have alone or with another human. Though I’m sure she’s going to have a blast, she didn’t consent to this hike and she will be completely and wholly dependent on me to ensure her safety and health. This is no small matter. Should something happen to her on the trail, I would never forgive myself. I have a very large (and heavy) first aid kit full of dog specific ointments and salves for cuts, scrapes, and paw health. She has booties for the rocky sections and plenty of water to stay hydrated. If at any point she lags or demonstrates any sign that she’s not having fun, I have absolutely no problem carrying her pack or full out bailing out of the hike. I have a lot of pride when it comes to my own achievements, but will gladly swallow that pride to make sure Addie is happy, healthy, and safe.

Another great concern of mine with regards to Addie is her absolute fear of thunderstorms (she’s so neurotic she’s got a lot of fears. But you would too if someone gouged out your eye as a young pup!). Having spent the majority of days on the JMT seeking shelter from storms, I understand how terrifying thunder can be in the Sierras. But after asking locals, I was told that while thunderstorms can happen at any time, they are rare in the month of June. And when they do happen, you can see them from miles away. Fingers crossed they’re right, but should one pop up I’ll quickly set up my tent and just hold Addie until the storm passes. Or just knock her out with some benadryl, ha!

With a dog it’s probably going to increase the time it takes to hitch a ride into town. Or maybe people will take more pity on a one eyed dog with a pack and stop quicker to offer assistance? Who knows, that’s a toss of the die. Fortunately, for an additional cost, Uber allows dogs. So worse comes to worse, if we have service I’ll just order an Uber.

I’m not too concerned about Addie and bear/wildlife encounters. I will have her leashed and attached to me at all times. I have heard that coyotes will lure a dog back into their pack and kill. Not on my watch! And with her nasty dog smell and collar jingling and jangling, she’ll likely act as a bear deterrent.

Water: As I mentioned before, what used to be reliable water sources in the past can no longer be counted on this year during a low snow year and drought. I have been keeping an eye on Guthook for the most up to date reports on water flow from people who are actually on the trail right now. For those sections that have 15 mile stretches of no water, I will be caching water along the trail to refill along the way. To prevent people from using the jugs I’ll be caching, I’m going to bring a few more “free” jugs to discourage looting mine. I’ll have 3 places along the trail I’ll be caching, which should hopefully be plenty.

Me: Should injury or illness befall me, there are plenty of bailout points along the TRT we can utilize to get a ride into a town. If something catastrophic happens and we’re out of cell coverage, I’ll be bringing the Garmin InReach along. I just bought SAR insurance, so I’m not overly fearful of the bill that comes along with a helicopter rescue, but that won’t even be necessary. I’m much less concerned with my well being than Addie’s. I have also gotten into watching extreme rescue shows and podcasts because, well, they’re really interesting and demonstrates the will and ability of the human body to survive horrific events. Besides entertainment, it also serves as a lesson as to what to do and what not to do in an emergency survival situation – mainly being don’t panic and ALWAYS share your itinerary with a friend/family member. I’m hoping I won’t find myself in such a situation, but it’s better to be prepared!

S

Time to go!

We are setting out Wednesday 6/9 for California. Since I’m convinced Addie will drop dead from a heart attack flying, we’re road tripping out there! We have a very loose schedule for getting into Carson City 6/14, but are giving it plenty of time for rest breaks – and even giving Sheena a visit out in Colorado! So all that’s left to do is finish going over gear, pack up the Subaru, and go! Hopefully it’ll be a great and successful trip and Addie will come home with a great trail name 🙂