Thursday, August 15, 2013

Adventures in Tahoe City!

Sunrise from camp over Page Meadow.
I slept in late this morning. The sunrise over Page Meadow was stunning, and I spent much of my time simply enjoying it. Then I read from my books for another hour or two. I had time to kill. I planned to go into Tahoe City, but I didn't want to arrive too early in the morning when nothing was open yet. So I lingered in camp, only three or four miles outside of Tahoe City. I could be in town in an hour, but I needed stores to be open. I wanted to eat a big lunch, not a big breakfast. (I already ate breakfast--that's the first thing I usually do in the morning when I wake up!)

Waiting until 9:00 to leave, though, kept me in camp until the mosquitoes had reached their peak. Which wasn't as bad as the Richardson Lake campsite, but had I left at 7:00 in the morning, I'd have thought there weren't any bugs at all near this campsite. =)

The trail soon arrived in Tahoe City where my first view was along the Truckee River which was packed with rafters. Raft after raft after raft. I took a few photos of them as they went by.

The Truckee River is an interesting one. One information sign I read said that 63 streams flow into Lake Tahoe, but only one runs out: the Truckee River. Even more interesting, the river never makes it to the ocean. It eventually flows into Pyramid Lake about 40 miles northeast of Reno and vanishes. Okay, maybe it doesn't vanish, but Pyramid Lake has no outlet. All of the water that flows into it is removed either through evaporation or sub-surface seepage.

Page Meadow
Which is pretty amazing when you think about. Lakes that don't have a drain are fairly uncommon to begin with, but Lake Tahoe is absolutely enormous. It's the second deepest lake in the United States and holds enough water to fill the entire state of California with nearly 14 inches of water. And not one drop of it will ever flow into the ocean.

The informational signs about Lake Tahoe had all sorts of other interesting trivia as well. For instance, the average period of time for a molecule of water in Lake Tahoe to recycle itself is nearly 700 years. More than half the water that is currently in Lake Tahoe was there when the United States was founded. Any pollutants that get into the water won't necessarily be flowing out on the Truckee River anytime soon.

The trail crosses a pedestrian bridge over the Truckee River at the edge of town, but I continued further into town where all of main facilities were located to resupply. I followed a bike path into town which led me to the Tahoe City dam.

The dam had all sorts of more interesting information about Lake Tahoe and, of course, about the dam itself. The dam only controls the water level for the top six feet of Lake Tahoe. If Tahoe's surface level fell lower than that, the Truckee River would cease to flow. Given the size of Lake Tahoe, though, just six feet of water is still an enormous volume of water.

Tahoe City is the lowest point on the Tahoe Rim Trail, and the only place where you can actually walk right up to Lake Tahoe.

My first stop in Tahoe City was the visitor's center. I didn't aim for the visitor's center first--it was just the first place I happened to see that held some interest for me. I could buy more postcards. =) And they could give me directions for where everything else of interest in town was located.

Rafters on the Truckee River.
I picked out a few postcards, then went up to the counter to pay for them. The lady at the desk turned to me.

"Guess what!" she exclaimed.

"What?" I asked, wondering where this could possibly be going.

"A trip to Greece is just $2,836!"

Okay.... that wouldn't have even been in my top 1,000 list of guesses had I actually tried to guess. =) I guess she was pricing tickets to Greece and was quite excited to find out that she could actually afford it. Since I've been to Greece before, I said it's a nice place to visit. It's true--it is a nice place to visit. I don't think I'd want to live there--despite the billboards with topless women--but it was a fun place to visit.

I paid for the postcards and asked if it was possible to see a weather report for the upcoming days. She ran a quick search on her computer and pulled up the forecast--a chance of afternoon thunderstorms every afternoon for the rest of my trip. A 30% chance each afternoon to be precise. It's a low chance, but definitely a real chance.

I also asked if there was somewhere nearby I could get on the Internet to check email and my websites, and she directed me to Vicky's Internet Cafe. (The library, unfortunately, was closed, but it was further away than I would have liked to walk anyhow.)

I walked over to the Internet cafe and spent about 45 minutes there doing my thing. I saw that it cost about $5 for every 15 minutes, so at the end I expected to pay about $15, but the woman (Vicky?) only charged me $5.

"Thank you," I told her. It was an unexpected moment of kindness. Perhaps she felt sympathy for my for thru-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. When I first walked in, she asked if I was hiking the PCT or the TRT, so I told her the TRT. I was a little surprised she asked about the PCT, though. I didn't know of any PCT thru-hikers who'd walk into Tahoe City--it wasn't on the PCT. They all either resupplied at Echo Lake or in South Lake Tahoe. I guess some of them must make it to Tahoe City if she asked about it, though.

Then I shuffled over to the large grocery store nearby--Save Mart. They had a pay phone which I used to make a few phone calls to fill everyone in on my progress. At least until my phone card ran out of money, then I started using the quarters I had in my pocket. Then those ran out and I stopped making phone calls. =)

Have you ever seen so many rafts in one place before?!
And this photo was only wide enough to capture about
half of them in the image. There are a lot more that spread
out on both sides of the photo!
Then I shopped. Oh, how I shopped! I bought cereal, and candy, and Wheat Thins, and salami, and cheese, and all sorts of other good things. One thing I did not buy was dinner--turns out, I already had enough dinners to last me for the rest of the trip. But everything I needed for breakfast and lunch for the next few days I needed to purchase, and I did so.

I also ordered a sandwich from their deli. A young girl from Romania was working the counter, and she asked if I wanted "pea cals" on my sandwich. Huh? What the heck is a pea cal? She saw the confused look on my face. "Pea cals?" she said again, louder, as if that would settle the matter.

Finally, she held up a few sliced pickles. "Oh! Pickles! Why didn't you say so! Yes, please, pickles." =) I could tell she didn't much like me and probably thought I was dumb as an ox. (Ox really are dumb, you know.) My haggard thru-hiking appearance wasn't impressing anyone--that's for sure.

I took my winnings outside where they had a bench at which, at this time of day, was actually in the shade. I ate my sandwich, drank the 1-liter bottle of Coke I bought, and ate a bag of Skittles. I only planned to hike as far as Watson Lake--the next water source on the TRT--making for a short 16-mile day of walking. Well, walking around Tahoe City might add another mile to it, but basically, it was going to be a very short day of hiking. So then I just sat around and read my book for another hour or so.

Eventually, though, the trail called, and I hefted on my pack and walked back out of town.

I picked up the trail again, on the opposite side of the bridge that crossed the Truckee River. It followed a road around the edge of town a short ways before reaching a trailhead and finally ducking back into the trees.

The Tahoe City dam only controls the water level for
the top 6 feet of Lake Tahoe.
The trail climbed steadily until it reached Thunder Cliffs and some absolutely wonderful views over the Truckee River. I counted over 50 rafts floating down it, including one large group that had about 20 boats apparently tied together floating down as one. The view was awesome. I took large quantities of photos, including more self-portraits with the help of my camera tripod.

My map suggested that Burton Creek had year-round water, but it also looked like Burton Creek didn't quite touch the TRT either. Most likely, I'd have to go off trail a bit if I wanted water from there. So I planned to get water there if I could do so without getting off the trail, but otherwise I carried enough water to get me the whole way to Watson Lake which was on the trail.

I never did see the creek, but I did arrive into Watson Lake at about 7:00 that afternoon. I was a little disappointed to see a vehicle parked at the other side of the lake and a dog swimming around in the water. I had to drink this water, people! And the rest of the night, the barking dog just grated on my nerves. At least they were at the other end of the lake, though. Not that I don't like dogs, but I really didn't want to hear it barking all the time, and I really didn't want it swimming around in my water supply.

I set up camp under a few trees. I wanted to camp out in the open, the better to see the stars, but this area had a large number of trees and the most open patch of terrain was the lake itself. But I couldn't exactly set up camp on the lake. On the trail right next to the lake might have worked, but I didn't really want to be so exposed to any of those car-campers that might decide to take a walk around the lake either. So I camped on the top of a small hill nearby, under a few trees, and largely out of view to anyone walking along the trail.

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! =)

Lake Tahoe, as seen from the dam.
These people were filling up rafts and other inflatable water toys
with air at the local gas station.

The TRT passes this fire station, which lets us know that the
fire danger is currently "very high." (Which is why campfires aren't
allowed anywhere.)

The note on this memorial reads: This rock is in memory of  all the
dogs and cats we miss in Tahoe. Please don't take these rocks. Feel free to add...
(I'm not sure what that last word is supposed to mean?)

I do a self-portrait on Thunder Cliff.

Gotta be careful not to fall backwards, though....

Ah, darn it....

View from Thunder Cliff. That's the Truckee River far below.

Can you see all the rafts in the river? From this vantage point, I counted about
50 rafts, but I couldn't get the entire length of the river into a single photo.
Each of those white dots is a raft. (Most of them are actually blue, but in the
photo, they look like white rapids.)

Skittish little thing....

View of Lake Tahoe.
And a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe!

Can you say "Suspicious Pile Of Rocks"? Yeah, so can I. So I took out
all of the rocks and found.... absolutely nothing. =)

Watson Lake

After sunset at Watson Lake. The clouds aren't looking too friendly anymore!

1 comment:

Karolina said...

"Namaste" is a hindu greeting meaning "salutations to you". I know it from my yoga class. You'd usually say it putting your hands together and bowing your head.