Planning the Tahoe Rim Trail
Sunday, June 20, 2021 5:50 am

Every trail requires at least a little preparation, and the Tahoe Rim Trail is no different. Fortunately, with several trails worth of experience under our belts, we were able to plan this hike in record time.

One of the main reasons my partner, CareFree, and I selected the Tahoe Rim Trail was because of its length. At 171 miles, it would be just long enough that we could hike it in two weeks without pushing ourselves too hard, and also give us a little time to sightsee after we finish. This would fit comfortably in the roughly four week window CareFree would have in the US, partially imposed by the requirement to spend two weeks outside of the EU before entering the US.

Although we had decided a couple of months ago to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail, we didn’t really start planning until the beginning of June, once she arrived in Mexico to begin her “quarantine”.

The Tahoe Rim Trail being short (by our standards), there wasn’t a whole lot to plan. The first decision was how to get to the trail. I knew (I think from hearing other hikers on the PCT talk about it) that there was a bus that ran between Reno and Tahoe City, the “start” of the trail. That then suggested we fly in to Reno. (We’d briefly considered taking a train, but coming from Maryland, that would have eaten up too much of the limited time window we had.)

Getting to and from the trail settled, the next, and most important, decision was where we were going to resupply, which would determine how much food we’d need on each leg of the trail. This was hugely important because we couldn’t let each leg get too long, since we’d have to be able to fit all our food in bear canisters.

Another important decision was where to zero. Without being in trail shape, it didn’t seem likely we could hike the whole trail without at least stopping for a day to rest. And pushing too hard at the start of a hike seemed like a recipe for failure: when we hiked the Benton MacKaye trail two years ago, I feel like our pushing too far before our first zero led to my injury that hike.

Based on my positive experience of South Lake Tahoe during my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, we decided to zero there, and then further opted to return to town for a second resupply a few days later.

Unfortunately, that made the first leg of the hike seven days, which was pretty much the limit in terms of what we could stuff into our bear cans. I suspect we probably could have made an additional stop in Kings Beach and either sent a mail drop or actually done resupply in-town, but that was so close to the beginning of the trail that it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth.

In the last couple of days before we left for the trail, we did a frantic whirlwind of hotel and shuttle reservations, and a couple of trips to REI to pick up some gear. (CareFree needed a new bear can, and got a new pack; I needed a new long-sleeve shirt to hike in since my shirt from the PCT was well worn.)

We obtained California Campfire permits — required everywhere in California, and also in Nevada on the Tahoe Rim Trail. (While we don’t plan on actually having a camp fire, the permits are also required for using stoves.) This was easily obtained given we had to complete the same process for our PCT hikes.

The last thing we need for our hike is a permit to enter and camp in the Desolation Wilderness. We’re starting without the permit, since we won’t need it for another week and a half, but it appears it’s going to be slightly harder to obtain than I initially realized, since due to COVID, both of the offices near South Lake Tahoe that provide permits are not open to visitors. I’m confident well find a way to make it work, though, since we won’t reach the Desolation Wilderness until a week and a half after we start, and the office is able to process requests via email.

We also downloaded a number of resources from the Tahoe Rim Trail’s website, including a list of water sources. This is somewhat redundant given we’re using Atlas Guides’ Guthook app for trail information, but, it’s not like electronic information weighs anything, so why not have it available?

That’s pretty much everything we did in terms of prepping for the Tahoe Rim Trail. Soon, we’ll head out to the trail!

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