Total Miles: 171.0
No two hikes are ever the same and no matter how many miles you have under your feet there’s always something more to learn—that’s part of what makes it so much fun. Whether it’s learning how to not shower for a week or more (surprisingly easy) or learning new ways of walking when blisters or foot pain make it difficult to walk normally (harder), neither novice nor expert is exempt from constant re-education.
I’m particularly fond of the expression “an expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less.” Even the notion of expertise is one that I often think should be resisted, and vigorously, when it so often masquerades as complacency, obstinacy, condescension, and the death of personal growth. There’s a wisdom and openness to being a novice, and one I hope to always embrace.
On this particular trip with our good friends Beardoh and Sweet Pea—two people from whom there’s always a great deal to learn—Em and I tried hammocking for the first time on a long hike using homemade hammocks. The opportunity to try something new and begin to learn its nuances from such patient and skilled friends was merely this trip’s most obvious example of one simple fact: it’s always fun to be a beginner at something.
Our last night on trail was spent sharing a campsite with someone else for the first time. At a hiker-only campsite near Marlette Peak, we sat at the rare luxury of a picnic table sharing dinner and conversation with Daniel, a very friendly thru-hiker from Switzerland who was traveling the loop in the opposite direction. Meeting new people from all over the world is pretty common on much longer trails, and it was really nice to have that same experience on this hike, hearing an outsider’s perspective on both the trail and the culture of the United States.
Still with early morning shadows draped over the eastern shore of the lake, we took a quick side trip off trail to an overlook that afforded a view of not only the entirety of Lake Tahoe but almost directly down on the beautiful beaches of Sand Harbor.
With only a short day left to complete the loop, there wasn’t any particular need to rush through our breaks, especially when nature provides the ideal resting spot…
As the trail rolled gently through meadows and forest along a ridge that divides the Lake Tahoe Basin from the dry Nevada expanse stretching off to the east, it was hard to ignore that this portion of the TRT was not only far windier, but also a strange hybrid of terrain you might expect to find in both Southern California and the High Sierra. Even the valley containing Lake Washoe immediately to our east was somewhat of a conundrum—like a mirage, there was a lake in a land where it seemed no water belonged at all.
Two short miles shy of Mount Rose, we crossed a boardwalk winding through the pleasantly open Tahoe Meadows, but despite all of my pleadings no bears would magically appear. We’d have to settle for a handful of birds, rodents, and black-tailed deer to fill our list of wildlife sightings for this trail.
And just like that, we were right back where we’d started, 171 miles and a deeper suntan/sunburn later. What felt like a prelude to our planned 2020 Continental Divide Trail thru-hike with Beardoh and Sweet Pea had come to an end far too soon, as it always does. But the Tahoe Rim Trail, with its gentle grade, gorgeous scenery, and endless Sierra sunshine had capped off another great season of hiking and had us already pondering what worked, what didn’t, and what new lessons we hope to learn on the next trail.