The first week in July I backpacked about 60% of the Tahoe Rim Trail. I started clockwise at Tahoe City, and ended at Big Meadows Trailhead on Hwy 89 south of Lake Tahoe. The distance took me five days, averaging about 20 miles per day. Since this was my first serious backpack of the season, 20 miles seemed like a long distance, though later in the summer once I’m in good condition, it will not seem like much.
The trail is divided up into segments, and many people hike the trail in those segments, from road crossing to road crossing. I’ve done that many times, from my first completion of the trail in 2005 (#426) to leading segment hikes for the Tahoe Rim Trail Association a number of times since. I also thru-hiked the trail once, in 2009, co-leading the TRTA’s 15-day through hike. I’ve also been on parts of the trail many, many times while living in Carson City, walking up to the trail from home to head around the north side to the Granite Chief Wilderness or around the south side to the Mokelumne Wilderness.
I hiked two new sections of trail that were not present last time I hiked. The trail from Relay Peak to the Galena Creek waterfall has been rerouted along the ridge and down into Galena Creek, avoiding the long uninteresting walk on the Relay Peak road. I like this new trail, with its views to the north toward Truckee and beyond, and its more interesting and sound approach to the waterfall. Bravo, trail designers and works for this new piece. It adds about a mile to the trail, but it is well worth it. The second section is from Kingsbury North to Kingsbury South trailheads. When I first completed the trail, I walked this 3.5 mile section of road, and it was very unpleasant. It has been replaced by about 6 miles of trail. Unfortunately, the trail goes through ridiculous convolutions to avoid private land, losing 260 meters over a very boring route, then regaining it again over a slightly more interesting route. The one saving grace is that Edgewood Creek about half way through is flowing, at least at this time of year.
This is a dry year, but that shows up differently in different places. Along the north section of the trail, all the seasonal water sources are already dry and I think perhaps the normally year-round sources such as Watson Creek may dry. But on the east side where I expected it to be most dry, only the early season water sources were gone, and the mid-season sources doing just fine. Water availability affects backpacking the rim trail much more strongly than dayhiking. I usually pick up water late in the day and then dry camp between water sources, both for scheduling reasons and because dry camping provides seldom used campsite with great views. This would not be a good year to be backpacking the trail in the fall, though in average years it is one of the most interesting times.
Wildflowers are certainly present this year, but seem sparser than usual. Many places have an abundance of a few kinds of flowers, without the diversity of species that many years show.
After completing this part of the trail, I then co-lead the Spooner Summit to Kingsbury North segment day hike with Cindy and Renee, taking nine segment hikers over South Camp Peak with its perhaps-best view along the trail.
This coming week I’ll be finishing the rim trail, and co-leading another segment hike, this time the closing one from Barker Pass to Tahoe City.
Photos on PicasaWeb (sorry for the uninteresting photos of signs and down trees, but part of what I do is document trail conditions).