Total Miles: 34.1
Before today had even begun, yesterday quite literally ended with a thud. The thud in this case was the sound of me smacking into the ground neck first as my hammock came unmoored from its webbing on one end while I was lying in it. The ground beneath me was fortunately stone free, so a few minutes and a couple of ibuprofen later, I was back hanging and off to dreamland. Thinking back on the day, I had to stifle a laugh at not only the hammock malfunction but also in remembering the hilarious resolution of the case of Sweet Pea’s missing lip balm. After having seemingly lost it the night before, the four of us stood at a trail intersection not long before the end of our day when she abruptly pronounced that she’d found the lip balm just as she reached into her sports bra and pulled it out like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. Priceless.
As morning came and the early sunlight began to awaken the stand of trees in which we slept, I reached out of my hammock to start boiling water for coffee as all four of us began to stir and start the ritual of packing up. Having slept in the middle of a 17-mile waterless stretch, the promise of the next water stop and a place to rinse out our dusty socks made for a tempting carrot to chase for the morning hours.
The north side of Lake Tahoe is not only quite arid and dusty, but also fairly devoid of water sources. Beginning on the Nevada side of the California-Nevada border which had passed without fanfare yesterday, a 32-mile stretch with only two water sources just less than a mile apart fairly well summarizes the character of the trail on this side of the lake.
It isn’t too often you can say that the views get better the more you descend, but such was the case this afternoon as we made our way down from Watson Lake. Gently tilting downhill on a trail that better resembled a single-track mountain bike trail than a hiking trail most of the day, the forest of pines and firs had almost no understory to speak of, allowing us to see hundreds of yards in every direction beneath the canopy. A few switchbacks further brought us to the best view of the day form a perch where the trees had parted to reveal the lake once again.
Off in the distance, ski areas like Mt. Rose, Heavenly, and Squaw Valley dotted the border of the lake like points on a compass. Combined with the tread marks from passing mountain bikes in addition to other thru-hikers going the opposite direction around the trail, it’s easy to see why Lake Tahoe feels like the playground of all California.
Trudging up a pleasant ascent in the final hour of our day, it was back to a land of trees straight from a Dr. Seuss book: tall, slender firs decorated in neon green shades of moss.
Looking out from our campsite on the edge of the Dr. Seuss forest, the smoky remnants of a summer’s worth of forest fires rose into the sky far in the distance to our west. The sun that had been deceptively hot all day slipped down into that haze and in doing so, morphed into an angry shade of red—a fireball piercing through the gray.