Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bumming it South Lake Tahoe

I woke around sunrise, which is an ungodly early hour this time of year. But I also had close to 15 miles of hiking I needed to get done by noon to meet Amanda at Big Meadow by noon like I told her I would do, so I needed an early start. It didn't hurt that the temperature was refreshingly cool. The days were unseasonably warm. Not hot, but uncomfortably warm. Later in the week, temperatures at Lake Tahoe were expected to get over 90 degrees. Up here, high in the mountains, I didn't expected temperatures to get quite so high, but even in 80s, it's uncomfortably warm. Especially when there isn't much shade.

So an early morning start I would get. =)

I ate cereal for breakfast, packed up camp, and filled up with two liters of Willow Creek water on my way out of camp.

The trail climbed a bit to the junction with Freel Peak, about a mile off-trail. I was half-tempted to take the detour since I had read earlier that it was the highest peak in the Tahoe Basin and I do like hitting high points, but I decided not to for a few different reasons. First, it would definitely make me very late for my 12:00 rendezvous with Amanda. Second, very few people in the free world have ever heard of Freel Peak, which takes out a lot of the fun that bragging normally provides. And finally, it was about 1,000 feet straight up and I've never been a big fan of climbing up a hill I'll just have to descend again.

I elected not to take this side trail to Freel Peak.
Freel Peak also cast an enormous shadow that
the TRT would be in for several miles.
But I bet the views from the top were fabulous. Maybe the next time I'm in the area.....

Shortly past the Freel Point junction, I passed a group of half a dozen people hiking in the opposite direction as me--more people than I had passed in the last two days of hiking! None of them carried any backpacking gear, so I figured they must have started that morning. The nearest trailhead, according to my map, would have been near Armstrong Pass just a few miles away. I assumed they must have been headed to Freel Peak or Star Lake for the day, then they'd turn around and head back.

Since we were headed in opposite directions, I didn't plan to stop and chat, but one of them stopped me asking about my "nose thingy." Amanda, for my birthday, had purchased a small, triangular-shaped piece of foam with a bit of velcro that attaches to sunglasses to protect the nose from sunburns. I didn't even know these things existed, but I hate using sunscreen, but I also hate the sun. I'll be the guy walking around with a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, a hat with a wide brim which is also used to hold a handkerchief in place behind my head to protect the back of my neck and my ears from burning, and wearing small glovelets in which I cut off the fingers and palms from to protect the back of my hands from burning. I suspect people see me and wonder, "If he hates the sun so much, why does he even bother going outside?"

Because I love it, that's why. Except for that pesky sun, which is too bright, too hot, and prone to causing cancer and wrinkles. And of all my body parts, it's always been my nose that seems to burn first and worst. So when Amanda presented me with the nose guard that I could just velcro to my sunglasses, it was the best present ever! And I started using it on this hike.

But I would tend to forget its there. Oh, sure, it's right on the top of my nose. I can kind of see it out of the corner of my eyes. It gets in the way when there's an itch on my nose I need to scratch. But when I'm looking outward, I tend to forget it's there, just like I forgot it was there when I went over the ridge where the trail junction with Freel Peak was located and plunged into the long morning shadows cast by the mountainous terrain.

Woolly Mules Ears
Until I met this group of half a dozen hikers and one of them asked, "Hey, I like your nose thing! Where'd you get that?"

So I stopped and took off my sunglasses, which weren't even necessary at this point since we were deep in the shade cast by Freel Peak, and showed them the nose guard. I showed how it was held in place with a small bit of velcro and that you could put it onto pretty much any pair of sunglasses. They all thought this was the coolest invention since bear canister, or at least the coolest invention since sunscreen.

"So where do you buy it? How much is it?"

I shook my head sadly. "I don't know. My girlfriend bought for me as a birthday present. I know she ordered it online somewhere, and she said it didn't cost much, but I don't know where she bought it nor how much it cost."

They nodded their heads in understanding. "Well, that's still neat! I want one! You've got a good girl--you be sure to keep her!"

Eventually, we headed off in our respective directions. I didn't put my sunglasses back on--it seemed silly to do so when I wasn't even in the sun--but near Armstrong Pass the trail finally curved out from the large morning shadow cast by Freel Peak and once again donned my sunglasses with the attached nose guard.

The rest of the hike to Big Meadow was uneventful. A lot of beautiful scenery, but it was largely devoid of people. The last few miles I passed three or four separate groups of mountain bikers, one of which also wanted to know more about my nose guard.

I arrived at the Big Meadow trailhead a few minutes after noon--technically a bit late, but I felt pretty good that I nailed the timing of my finish to within 10 minutes of my estimated arrival time. Not bad... not bad at all....

But I was immensely disappointed when I arrived at the trailhead and didn't see Amanda with an ice chest stuffed full of cold drinks and delicious snacks. No, I didn't see her at all. Instead, I saw, written in green chalk on the street, a giant "GREEN TORTUGA" with an arrow pointing right and the number 3. I hoped that the number was the campsite number and not the number of miles to the campground that Amanda had set up camp at.

So I followed the road to the right for about a half mile when it finally reached the small campground. The campground is a primitive one whose only facilities include an outhouse, some bear-proof trash cans and a bear box and picnic table for each campsite. It was extremely primitive, but the price was right: FREE! =) And Amanda was sitting at a picnic table reading a book.

I walked into the campsite, "I can't believe you made me walk all the way to the campground!" I said. "That's like half a mile! Which isn't even part of the TRT!"

"Do you want a cold Coke?"

Damn, she knew me well. You can't stay mad for long at her. =)

"Yes, please...."

I made use of the facilities, drank my cold Coke, then we jumped into the car and drove into South Lake Tahoe. We intended to spend the night at the campground, but since we had access to a car and South Lake Tahoe wasn't far away, there was no reason we had to rough it either!

Snow plant
We drove into town, deciding to eat lunch at Chevy's, a chain that Amanda is particularly fond of. We ate out on their patio, in the shade, which felt so much nicer than a stifling indoor setting. Anyhow, I had just spent the last two days hiking 30 miles while camping in the backcountry. I probably didn't smell very good so it was just as well I stayed outside. =)

Then we drove over to artTrekker's place to see if she were in. She was, and I took a shower while I was there since it would likely be my last opportunity for a shower until I completed the Tahoe Rim Trail completely. It also gave me one last chance to get on the Internet for who knows how long.

Eventually, though, it was time to head back to camp. I picked up a sandwich for dinner, and it was back to the Big Meadow campground.

Amanda packed up the tent and we cowboy camped at the campsite for the night. Amanda had to catch a flight out of Reno at around 5:00 in the morning, which meant she had to leave the campsite by around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning or some ungodly hour. When I woke up in the morning, Amanda would already be gone. So all of her gear, including the tent she brought, we pre-packed and ready to go, leaving just the ground sheet and a sleeping bag to throw in the car before she left.

That evening, when the bugs started coming out, I went into the car to escape them and read my book. I'd have gone into the tent if Amanda hadn't already taken it down. =)

The bugs weren't out for very long, though, then I went back outside to continue my reading and eventually off to sleep.

In completely unrelated news.... August is once again here, which means it's time for the annual Hike-a-Thon drive! Amanda and I are trying to raise money for the Washington Trails Association which does some great work building and maintaining trails in Washington state, and please, if you can help us out, even if it's just $5 or something, please do so! Sponsor us now!

This year, I've decided that anyone who sponsors me will be in the running to win an autographed copy of my book, A Tale of Two Trails about my exciting adventures on the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail. For anyone that donates at least $40 to the cause, I'll send you a free autographed copy! The catch is.... you have to sponsor my page. Yeah, Amanda and I are a team, and everyone likes her more, but we also have separate accounts and I'll only be looking at those who donate under my account. So if you donate $40+, I'll mail you a free copy of my book. If you donate less than $40, I'll put all of your names into the proverbial hat and choose one at random who will get a free book. =)

That $40 also can give you a membership to the WTA which includes a subscription to the Washington Trails magazine. A book, a magazine subscription and all for a good cause--just $40! =)


I have no idea what these are supposed to be for. They look like traps, and they
were on quite a few trails near the Big Meadow trailhead, but what they
would catch or why is a complete mystery to me!



As if mosquitoes weren't a big enough problem.....

That 3 better be a campsite number and not the number of miles away that the
campground was located!



1 comment:

A M Jenner said...

I want to see a picture of your nose protector.