Total Miles: 103.9
Just as the sun began to crest the distant ridge, we were already saying our goodbyes to the Desolation Wilderness. The uncharacteristically rock-choked trail that had begun almost upon entering the wilderness yesterday continued for a few final miles as we hewed closely to the shore of Echo Lake, admiring the many small cabins perched on bedrock above the water’s edge and accessible only by foot or boat.
Nearing the end of the lake, our meager hope was—contrary to what we’d heard from other hikers yesterday—that the store at the end of the lake would indeed be open, and able to sate our appetite for ice cream and soda (two things that of course should be on the menu at 8am). Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Many tears ensued. Good thing I took this photo of Emily and Beardoh before we got the bad news…
Upon leaving Echo Lake, the trail meandered its way for a mile or two before crossing a highway and beginning its climb back up into the high country, passing a campsite where Beardoh, Sweet Pea, and I had stayed during our 2016 hike of the PCT. What was immediately noticeable was how quiet the trail was today in contrast to the many backpackers we had seen through the Desolation Wilderness yesterday. Gone were the crowds and all that was left to us was an empty trail through the familiar Sierra full of nothing but solitude and endless views.
There was even enough quiet for Ace to see a bear dart across the trail while walking a few minutes behind us in the early afternoon. Jealousy from Beardoh, Sweet Pea, and I promptly followed. But it’s hard to stay too disappointed when all you have in front of you are wide open spaces and a trail snaking its way through alternating stands of pine and fir, punctuated by meadows of dry golden grasses fluttering in a soft breeze and shimmering under the late day sun.
Somewhere along this walk that John Muir himself would have enjoyed, we crossed not only the halfway point of the Tahoe Rim Trail but the 100-mile mark, which is always a fun milestone when you consider what walking that distance—let alone a thousand or two—amounts to in the context of life back home in the city.
A handful of miles before the end of our day, we bid goodbye to the Pacific Crest Trail, its path continuing south for another 1100 miles to the Mexico border, as we made a hard left turn on the Tahoe Rim Trail in a large meadow that seemed ripe for a bear to be ambling through.
A few hundred yards uphill from the aptly named Round Lake, we settled into our hammocks and continued refining the list we began a few nights ago on the identifying characteristics of all the conifer species in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Like good friends you grow in time to understand and hold dear, so too do I hope to learn more about these thickets of giants we hike past, their qualities, their preferences, their uniqueness, and their eccentricities.