Tahoe Rim Trail–change of plans 

Day 3

Campsite 1.5 miles from Brockway Summit TH

Miles: 9.5

Slept amazingly well last night in my halfway to nowhere campsite. Pure exhaustion. Had a weird thing before I fell asleep though. I got in bed and my legs were shaking, like I was shivering. That same kind of not controllable quaking. But I wasn’t cold. At all. A little warm, maybe. I seriously checked myself to make sure I wasn’t shivering. I think it was extreme muscle fatigue. Strange feeling. It eventually stopped. Or I fell asleep. Either way. 

I woke up around 3:30 to pee and spent a little while just staring at the stars. When you say the stars were ‘smeared’ across the sky, it’s hard to explain what that even means until you see them through the trees in a silent forest, covering every tiny inch of the sky. I guess I’m grateful for my persnickety bladder, since it gives me a chance to drink in the Milky Way. 

I knew that I’d have to implement my Brockway Summit plan, so I could sleep in. Slept until 6:30! Can you believe it? I had started to hear the birds calling and carrying on by the time I crawled out of my tent. It was a little strange–hazy out over Grey Lake. But up high. Not sure if it’s smoke? Also, my entire face feels swollen this morning. Especially my lips. I know they’re sunburned. Definitely need some sunblock/chapstick in Tahoe City. My eyes are puffy too, which I ascertained by taking a selfie. No, you can’t see it. I guess the altitude is still messing with me.  

So, I had to hike down to Grey Lake this morning for water (about .5 miles) and then back up a mile to the TRT. Grrrr. I hate backtracking. But I hate being thirsty more and there’s no more water until after Brockway Summit. So, down I hiked. Left all my stuff and just took my pack and water bottles. When I got to the lake I was feeling a little disgusted by the whole thing. I could see a fast running stream waaaay over on the other side of the bowl but the actual lake was completely marshed in. I did not want to hike all the way around not was I interested in sloshing through a swamp, so I started scouting around for any other way. Finally found a tiny little inlet stream with rocky enough banks that I could get close to the water. It was actually pretty easy to collect. Delicious and cold and mossy tasting. Took the chance to wash out socks and undies and bandanas as well. ​

​Then back up I hiked, grabbed the rest of my gear and I was off. As soon as my feet were back on the TRT I found a spot with reception to call my mom, who’s meeting to resupply me tomorrow, to change our meeting from Tahoe City to Brockway Summit trailhead. She agreed to pick me up there instead. Have I mentioned that my mom is the best? She is!

As soon as I started again, I was glad that I decided not to continue on this section yesterday. For one, it was crazy gorgeous and I would have missed it in my exhausted state. But it was also potentially very treacherous–high contouring trail with steep, steep drops and lots of rocks. And did I say gorgeous? Breathtaking. Turns out there’s this huge ass lake! And I totally got to look at it a lot today! Plus steep meadows of mules ears and lupine and a dozen other flowers I didn’t know and enormous lava plugs topping each ridge, looking all craggy and ancient and pleased with themselves, like they do. I always imagine them a little smug. Like, oh, I’m still here while this ENTIRE MOUNTAIN erodes around me. Nbd. 

Lava plugs in Mt. Rose Wilderness

I had lunch at a lovely high outcropping looking out over the lake. It was certainly my most epic lunch spot. Had another tortilla with baby bel cheese and hot sauce and fritoes. Most delicious wrap ever! Did a little blister triage as well before continuing on my way. 

Lunch view

Once I left Mt Rose Wilderness, things became decidedly less scenic (scenic being a relative term when you’re already tramping through trees and rocks and flowers and other such amazingness). I was switchbacking down down down (from around 9200 ft to my camp at 7700 ft). It was a lot of blasted out forest and second growth. There were lots of dirt road crossings and a few points where the TRT follows a dirt road for a quarter or half mile. Ugh to that. Also, it was much warmer as I descended. And then there were mountain bikers. So, I was glad to get to camp. Even though it was early. And even though I only did 9.5 miles today. I’ve got a lovely soft flat spot in the piney forest, only 1.5 miles from Brockway Summit. There are a million billion mosquitoes and they all want me with a burning passion but I am hiding in my cozy tent! Soon I will have to go out there to pee, but for now I am safe. And tomorrow I see my mama!!

sunset light at camp
Dirt legs


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. 

Tahoe Rim Trail–magical cold water

Day 1
Spooner Summit to campsite 6 miles from Mt Rose campground 

Miles: 19

I got out the door later than I wanted to this morning. Snuggling with warm snuggly girlfriend + deciding on a last minute shower (my last for over a week! Yikes!) + all the nerves and double/triple checking everything meant I wasn’t in the car until quarter to 5. Arrived at Spooner Summit around 7–even tho I overshot it and had to drive damn near to Carson city to turn around. 

Got everything squared away, took one last selfie and was on the trail quickly. Almost immediately I had to stop and pee (of course). I had to be quick about it cuz there were lots of day hikers! The trail wound around the east side of the ridge and I got my first views of the beautiful Washoe Valley in Nevada. Then there was climbing up into meadows that smelled somehow like my childhood–clean and sharp at the same time. I met Patty and Jeff from Truckee. They were on their final day of the TRT going clockwise. We had a lot of the same gear–Gossamer Gear packs and they use the Tarptent Double Rainbow. They were so cool and chill. And I felt a little bit like an imposter. Is this really me out here doing this thing? 

I made the 9.4 miles to Marlette Campground by noon. There is an amazing, magical water hand pump, in the middle of the wilderness, at Marlette Campground. You have to pump and pump and pump and then all of a sudden water gushed out and it is so so cold and…it’s basically magic. Also, there are pit toilets there. Also magic. 

I was feeling queasy and light-headed a little so I posted up in the shade, took off my shoes and socks and rested. Wrapped a cold bandana (did I already say magical cold water?) around my face, had an electrolyte drink and some snacks. I am determined that the elevation won’t mess me up so badly this trip. 

After Marlette there was lots of walking up high on ridges, looking down at the big blue lake. Lots of flowers, lots of little chipmunk friends. I felt so triumph crossing Tunnel Creek Road and seeing the sign saying Spooner was 14 miles back. Then I met the nicest older couple, just finishing their day hike. They were both carrying the MOST ENORMOUS canisters of bear spray on their belts. But they were very sweet and wished me well and God bless. They are section hiking the TRT. He said he’d done about 85% of it but she said she’d only done 50%. I invited her to come with me some time so she could catch up! Ha!

I was energized after that but started to flag about 3 miles out. Definitely checking my gps too much. I need to not do that–for my own sanity and for the sake of my battery. 

Finally arrived at camp about 7 and it was a lovely site. Well established, small breeze, no bugs and best of all? A flat rock with another taller flat rock next to it!! I had a table and chair for dinner!!!! Had couscous with dried spinach and tvp and a cup of ginger tea (for my tummy). No headache, no dizziness and I could actually eat! Did all the little camp things and got in bed a bit after 8. Feeling pretty damn good about my first day. Tomorrow is a big day–big miles, big climbs. 

Oh hey there…I’m back!

I know…blog long abandoned. What else is new on the Internet? But here I am again. Trying my best to make life happen, you know? 

And I have lots of new adventures to share! The biggest one is just about to begin. I’ll be starting my thru-hike of the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail in just a couple of days. My plan is to try to blog each day and post as I go. We’ll see how that works out!

If you’re interested in what I’m carrying, here’s a link to my pack list. I’ve tried really hard to get my base weight to around 16 lbs, so I’m pretty proud of that. 


I’ll probably post more about gear as I go along and I’ll definitely be reviewing my gear at the end of the hike.

Ok, this is really just a test post to make sure that this will still go live. And to try out posting from my phone!! Aaaaand…let’s try attaching some pics to see how those show up! Here a shot from my final shakedown hike to Loch Leven Lakes this past weekend. 

And here’s a picture of my adorable little Tarptent Rainbow!!! It’s my new best friend! I love it so!!

Please feel free to share this if you know anyone else who’d like to follow along!!

Union Valley Sanders Family Annual Chaos

Every summer for quite a few years now my family has made a pilgrimage to one lake or another. Usually for some time period between a long weekend and not-quite-a-week. We swim, we wakeboard, we camp in epic style. There are anywhere from 10 to 20 of us–kids (oh wait, are we the grown-ups now?), cousins, grandparents. Dogs.

Sometime I will have a post about growing up in a camping family, where outdoor activities were the assumed default for vacation time and any time we stayed in a motel was a definite luxury. This isn’t that post, though. This is just some pictures of what it’s like to hang out at Union Valley Reservoir for a few days and soak up the sun and water and family time.

Chewie sasses Mom while looking fabulous
10-year old enters the lake
Daughters and doggie on a stump
Mom and Dad kayak
Boat selfie. Duh
Preparing to tube
Rachel and Rylan kayak
Beans really really really loves the beach

Mount Lassen, Pt. 2

I know this second half has been a long time coming. Apologies. See the first part of our Lassen adventure here: http://laurelwalks.com/2014/07/21/mount-lassen-pt-1/#more-201

The Adventuring Commences

So here I am, sitting next to Summit Lake with ants crawling over my awesome flip-flop-and-sock combo, reveling in being so very alive right this second. Which is pretty damn amazing, all by itself.

But the camp is stirring and I head back to commence the packing up and heading out routine. We breakfast and break camp, packing and repacking packs.

We set out on the trail from the Summit Lake ranger station. It immediately winds on a plank walkway through an immposibly green meadow, then gently up.

Heading out

Continue reading “Mount Lassen, Pt. 2”

Mount Lassen, Pt. 1

I’ve been planning this backpacking trip with my girls for a long time. Well, I’ve been planning to take them backpacking since they were BORN. But this particular trip has been a long time in the works as well. There were a lot of logistics to get into place, not to mention a lot of gear to locate or purchase. (Another time I’ll do a separate post about our evolving gear list. Especially for kids, who are doing stuff like growing out of shoes before we can get home from the store (hyperbole! but barely), it’s a challenge locating gear that is sufficiently sturdy but also doesn’t destroy our budget).

After a whole lot of research (ie reading hiking blogs and generally daydreaming), I decided on Mount Lassen National Park. There are some great loop trails, the geology of the area is historically interesting (boring, Mom!) and visually exciting (yay!). It’s only about 4 hours from Sacramento, but it turns out that Lassen is one of the least visited national parks in the country. Everyone heads to Yosemite or other desitinations in the High Sierra, but we were headed north to volcano country! Bonus, a tiny portion of the trail we are to hike intersects with the PCT. Not gonna lie, that had a lot to do with my decision. I wanted my feet on the trail, even for a mile and a half.

Continue reading “Mount Lassen, Pt. 1”

Learning a Lesson

This post is only about a month late. Next up: the story of how altitude hates me and taking my girls backpacking for the first time!

I’ve been itching to get back out on the trail, especially since I want to test out my new Gregory Jade. But every weekend, EVERY WEEKEND, there is life happening that prevents hiking. One weekend–sick daughters. Another–work. Always more life that isn’t hiking. So I finally determined that I would go, alone if necessary, no matter what. I decided to hike Steven’s Trail outside of Colfax because the trailhead is right off the freeway and it promised some really amazing views of the river and a bit of challenge for shaking down my new pack. Also, is there a cave? I think there’s also a cave!

But of course, the week prior was just one long migraine for me. For those who don’t suffer from migraines (or have someone like me in your life constantly complaining about them), let me fill you in. Migraines travel in packs (herds? murders? yeah, murders) and they tend to snowball. One migraine creates neck and shoulder tension which leads to another bigger migraine which interrupts your sleep which sets you up for another and so forth. I’d been popping my Imitrex pretty much nonstop (maybe not the best plan?) but by Sunday I felt really strong and wanted to hike. Dammit. So off I went, alone as per usual…

All my hikes are selfie hikes. *sigh*

Continue reading “Learning a Lesson”