Total Miles: 121.5
The southern portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail sweeps well away from the lake itself, so much so that it’s possible to forget the lake is even there at all let alone your orientation to it. Today, however, we began making our turn back towards the lake while also heading closer to the Nevada state line and the drier eastern portion of the hike.
We rolled along the easy downhill miles to start the day, stopping frequently to inspect various trees and photograph their bark, cones and foliage in an effort to identify each of them. By the time the day had drawn to a close we’d become pretty adept at identifying hemlock, Sierra juniper, two different firs and five of the six pine species that are native to the Lake Tahoe basin. Just like that, we’d gained a more familiar relationship with the forests we’ve had the pleasure of hiking past these last 7 days.
From the very first day of this hike, we’d seen periodic colored flagging and small signs strategically placed every so often along the trail, all in preparation for a series of ultra marathon races to be run this week, with a large number of the miles taking place on the trail itself. Given that the races started yesterday—the longest of which being a 200-miler—we weren’t exactly sure when we might begin to see runners coming from the direction we were heading. Being popular with mountain bikers in addition to hikers, the trail is already a fairly well used route, so we were also curious to see exactly how much traffic we’d encounter on this Saturday afternoon.
Just before our lunch break and a return to more frequent views of the lake, the first runner came trotting down the trail towards us. We didn’t know whether she’d already run 50 miles or 100 miles, but she looked like she was just out for an afternoon run, gliding down the mountain. An hour or so later, a man came running by and over the next several hours the number of runners passing us steadily increased as we climbed our way up to a high pass. Each of them seemed genuinely shocked and appreciative as we stepped off the trail to let them pass, cheering them on as they went by. Many miles from an aid station and laboring under another day of beating sun I doubt any of them were expecting to have a cheering section out here. It was a pretty impressive sight to see all of the runners, and it was a small reminder that it’s good for the soul to encourage others in the pursuit of their goals, even perfect strangers.
By mid afternoon we’d setup a small hammock village at the shore of Star Lake, eating our way through our dwindling food bags before tomorrow’s resupply and watching the occasional runner or two pass along the lake on their way up the mountain. It’s anyone’s guess how many more will shuffle past during the night.