Day 1: The First Day Is Always The Hardest
Monday, June 21, 2021 7:20 pm
Location: Painted Rock (7.6 miles)

Today was our first day on the Tahoe Rim Trail, and our first visit back to the Sierra since a short vacation in 2019. The mountains are still calling, and who are we to not go?

CareFree and I rolled out of bed at 7:30 am, and I got a shower. The shower was great, though I was treated to a higher flow, higher pressure shower than I had any right to get in the desert.

We walked to the nearby Denny’s for breakfast. We both got a giant pancake and meat dish, which normally would have been far too much food, were we not about to start a long hike.

Returning to the motel, we finished packing, and at the last minute, decided to call a Lyft to get us back to the airport for our shuttle to Tahoe City. We made it there about five minutes before our shuttle.

It took a little over an hour for the shuttle to get us to the transit center at Tahoe City. It was a relaxing and uneventful ride, but it was a little exciting to see the mountains in the distance that the Pacific Crest Trail carried us through a few years ago.

We walked to AlpenGlow, an outfitter in Tahoe City to get fuel canisters (which we couldn’t bring with us on the airplane). CareFree also picked up an extra pair of liner socks. We also dropped off boxes we will retrieve after we’re finished hiking, leaving behind extra stuff we won’t need until our post-hike sightseeing trip. Also at AlpenGlow were three other hikers who had just exited the Desolation Wilderness today, after having an encounter with a bear this morning. They also warned of huge swarms of mosquitoes.

Since it was hot out today, and we weren’t well acclimated to the dry desert conditions, on the way to the trailhead, we picked up a couple of cold Gatorade bottles. It definitely helped us get started, but in retrospect, we should have gotten more.

We reached the “start” of the Tahoe Rim Trail (as much as any loop trail necessarily has a start) around 12:15 pm, and after taking pictures at the start of our loop, we were on our way into the woods.

Longstride and CareFree at Mile 0
Longstride and CareFree at Mile 0

The trail immediately began going uphill, and it wasn’t even five minutes before we got our first view of Lake Tahoe.

First View of Lake Tahoe
First View of Lake Tahoe

We got off to a rather slow start, stopping for a snack break after only a mile and a half. (Though, that was the first thing we’d had to eat since breakfast, so we were legitimately hungry. I also finished the last of my Gatorade bottle, which made me realize I needed to conserve water. I had roughly three liters of water, and they needed to last until we got to a water source tomorrow morning. (Also in retrospect, I should have packed more water when we left the motel. I knew we were dry-camping, but I missed that we weren’t going to pass any water sources today.)

Besides being dry out, the trail was dusty; each of our footsteps kicked up a small dust cloud. CareFree took the lead for most of the day, so I wound up getting more than my fair share of dust. (I blew my nose out later after getting in our tent; it was disgustingly dirty. I probably should have worn my face mask, if not to keep dust out, then to help keep humidity in.)

Not being in anything resembling trail shape, plus it being hot out, did not at all help our speed today. Fortunately, at least for the first few miles, there were regular views to Lake Tahoe and the mountains to the west.

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe

Throughout the day, bicyclists passed us going in both directions. I knew the TRT allowed bikes, at least on parts, but I didn’t expect to see more hikers than hikers. The trail was clearly designed with this use-case in mind; there were places where the trail was maybe more curvy than necessary, and there were definitely banks built in some of the curves that wouldn’t be needed for a hiker-only trail.

We’ve noticed a lot of snow plants, an interesting non-photosynthesizing plant that gets its energy from a specific fungus that feeds off of certain pine trees. I saw them on the PCT, not not in the quantity I’ve seen here.

Snow Plant
Snow Plant

The most unusual sight we saw today was a pair of women camped out with three goats.

We’d set a goal of 8 miles today (and conveniently, there was a view and campsite just at that distance). But, we reached the top of a hill with a campsite and great view of Lake Tahoe about half a mile before, and stopped there. I was getting a bit more exhausted than I’d like, so we opted to stop and relax where we knew would work out for us.

It was a hard day on the trail, but I expect it’ll get easier from here, as we get used to being on-trail (and at altitude, and in extremely dry conditions).

Sadly, we couldn’t even go one day without seeing toilet paper on the ground: there was a wad on the ground near our campsite.

We quickly cooked dinner; I opted to only cook half of mine (leaving off the macaroni and cheese and settling for just ramen and tuna) to conserve water, and I was glad I did: after pouring water for cooking, I had just over a liter left, that would need to cover tonight and five miles of hiking tomorrow. Fortunately, CareFree’s water situation is a little better then mine; but it’s going to be tight regardless.

As we relaxed from the day’s hike, quite a few cyclists came and stopped at the trail crest, heading back to wherever they came from shortly before sunset.

First Campsite
First Campsite

Tomorrow‘s plan is to hike about 12 miles. The weather looks to be a little cooler, so it should be an easier hike than today was.