Tahoe Rim Trail–very high and so low

Day 2

Campsite 6 miles before Mt Rose trailhead to Grey Lake

Miles: 16.4

I woke up some time during the night, confused by the light. Then I realized that the waning half moon had risen and was flooding my tent. The moon always comforts me and I didn’t wake up again until it was beginning to be light. I got out of my down-filled dream of a sleeping quilt (that’s right, I love it more than any other piece of gear!) around 5:15 and was feet to the trail by ten after six, weird cold coffee concoction in hand. 

I made good time the 6 miles into Mt Rose but I could tell that my little left toes were blistering as I got closer. There were quite a few mountain bikers and some day hikers but it was still early for most. 

I was weirdly nervous coming into the campground. Was I allowed to use the toilets and water? Was I supposed to ask? I didn’t know but I was thirsty and my feet hurt. I skulked around to a vault toilet that wasn’t right next to the camp host and proceeded to act like I belonged. I used the bathroom to change out of my leggings (and also for its intended purpose) and used the weird pump faucet to fill my bottles and wash my feet and socks and bandannas and teeth. Then I garage saled all my wet gear on a big flat rock, had some breakfast, and taped up my feet. Apparently I looked like I was meant to be there because nobody batted an eye. 

The walk out to the Mt Rose trailhead involves a steep road and then dashing across a very busy freeway! 

And then day hikers. Day hikers for daaaaays–all headed up to Galena Falls. And generally I am a fan of folks being out hiking, in any form. But this was ridiculous. A million unleashed dogs. Kids running down the trail shouting “‘Scuse me ‘scuse me” as they shove past people. I wouldn’t have stopped at the falls but I needed to get water there. I got out as fast as I could. 

Then the climbing began. And I knew it was a long climb. I had studied the elevation profile that morning. But…I didn’t really know. I climbed and climbed and climbed. It’s hard to explain how hard it is and it’s hard to explain how you just keep going. Because you have to. Because there is literally nothing else you can do. There’s no back. Only up. 

And there were some lovely views as I climbed. I don’t even know what all I was looking out over. The wilderness behind Mt Rose wilderness. I finally made it to mt rose summit and maybe sobbed a little in relief. Decided I’d head for relay peak. I stopped just short of the summit because I was stumbling-over-my-feet done. Took my shoes off and had a lunch of baby bels in tortillas with hot sauce. Mmmmm! There was also a snowbank just there and I stuck my feet in it for a bit. Pain/heaven. And then I ate some Oreos. And THEN I was ready to walk more.

The summit of relay peak is pretty amazing. Views in every direction. Highest point on the TRT at 10,335 ft!

Going down was long and slow, like going up but in a different way. Very long sweeping switchbacks that started to grind my knees a little. 

And here’s where I began needing to make some decisions. See, I had had a grand plan of hiking to a tent site past Grey Lake. Because I didn’t want to go all the way down to Grey Lake, which is technically not on the TRT. However, the only other source for water for the next 14 miles was either Grey Lake or an off-trail spring. If I stopped there, I’d have to camel up and carry out enough water for the next 14 miles plus camp that night. And camp would be another 3 miles on. 

Afternoon was wearing into early evening and every recalculation had me hiking until near dark. I finally reached where the spring was meant to be and realized that “slightly off-trail” meant a scramble down a steep brushy bank and trying to find a place to reach the water that wasn’t ankle deep mud. I could see it running but accessing it was difficult. Finally managed a spot, balanced rather precariously on a couple of rocks and collected a liter. For each liter I had to maneuver back to stable ground and filter it into a clean bottle. And then start all over. By the second liter, each time very nearly sliding down the bank or dumping my carefully procured water, I sat on the damp ground and sobbed. Not a little. I realized I was muttering over and over “I don’t know how to do this I don’t know how to do this.” I’d reached a point of exhaustion that prevented decision making. And yet. What was there to do? I couldn’t curl up on that steep, soggy hillside. I couldn’t plop myself down on the trail. But I could accept that I wasn’t hiking another 3 miles. Especially not carrying 5 or 6 liters of water (that would be about 10-13 extra pounds on my back, for those who don’t regular obsess over the weight of water. It weighs 2.2 lbs/liter, if you’re wondering). So I’d have to head for Grey Lake, 1.4 miles away. And annoyingly off trail. Which means this water collection hadn’t been necessary. Which I would have realized if I hadn’t been so stubborn. I finished my little cry and drank some of my freshly filtered water. It tasted like the smell of leaves in undergrowth and I realized that I was sitting in a patch of wild mint, the smell drifting in my subconscious so slowly that I didn’t even realize what it was at first. I sat for another minute, crushing the mint in my fingers and breathing. Then I shouldered my pack and scrambled myself back up the hill to the trail. 

There was still a bit of a walk to Grey Lake and a decision to make. There are two ways down to the lake. 

The first one was closer, but the second trail was shorter and had some campsites up above the lake, which meant fewer chances for tons of bugs. So I headed for the second access trail. Just past the turn-off for the first trail to Grey Lake, I encountered a huge snowbank covering the trail. The trial is already cut into the side of a steep mountain. Going over this hard slippery snow as the light was fading was very clearly a bad decision. That I had the good sense to recognize. But I was bound and fucking determined not to backtrack. Even for 1/10 of a mile. So, with my heavy load of water, I scrambled up up up the steep slope and over the top of the berm of snow. It was sketchy, for sure. And dangerous. And it got rocks in my shoes. 

I almost don’t remember reaching camp. I was stumbling. I was swatting rather more wildly than necessary at mosquitoes. I was hiccuping with effort and exhaustion. Somehow I did all the little camp things. Dinner first–water heated and food set aside to rehydrate. Then my cozy tent set up. Air mattress filled. Sleeping bag unstuffed so it could have time to fully fluff itself. Then food and bed and I don’t remember the rest. 

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