I was in Tahoe this past weekend with my friend Diane and I purposely did not bring my bike.....I know...weird....right?
I was actually up there to hike...yes, I said it. I went to the mountains with the purpose of hiking and not biking.....(there would still be beer involved if that's any consolation)
The hike we were planning was from Fallen Leaf Lake to the top of Mt Tallac and to be completely honest, I was a little worried about it. I'm not much of a hiker and although I have been riding regularly for the past few months and I walk a ton at work, the act of hiking 6 miles up a mountain had me a bit freaked out. I really don't like doing stuff I'm not good at which causes me anxiety and stress.....Dumb right? Something that should be fun being stressful....just the way I'm wired....
We started fairly early and as we got ready in the parking lot to begin, I took some solace in the fact that I at least looked the part of a hiker. (there were other "hikers" there so I had a pretty good frame of reference)
I had on boots that were made for hiking, good wool socks, actual hiking poles and a camelbak stuffed with food and water. As I always say on the bike, if you're not fast, you should at least look the part and it appears that the mantra translates to hiking as well.
As we left the parking area, the trail meanders along for a ways allowing my legs (and lungs) to warm up. It wasn't long though, before the trail went up and it pretty much continued going up for the next 6 miles. And, as you can probably imagine, when you go up for 6 miles, you gain elevation....in this case almost 3500ft of elevation.
The trail was in good condition and well marked and provided amazing views along the way. If I hadn't been suffering from oxygen deprivation, I might even have enjoyed those views....
In all seriousness though, it really is a beautiful hike.
As we were nearing what I had been promised was our rest stop, Gilmore Lake, we met a guy that exclaimed his joy at seeing us....turns out he was lost. Well, technically, he wasn't lost, he just didn't know how to get from where he was to where he was supposed to be meeting his brother. (Velma Lakes)
After a few minutes comparing his map with ours, and figuring out where he needed to go, he headed out and we made the last few steps to Lake Gilmore which is an amazingly beautiful lake.
(In this pic you can see how crystal clear the water is and that the moon is still out)
We rested, ate rice krispy treats and finished off the small thermos of coffee we had brought with us. I was enjoying the break and the scenery and was actually starting to think that maybe this hike wasn't so bad after all. We had done 4 miles, I was still vertical and surprisingly I felt good.....right up to the point where Diane said, now we start going up"....
wait...what???? we've been going up for 4 miles already, what is she talking about????
Well, I found out soon enough. The last 2 miles from Lake Gilmore to the summit feels like its straight up. It's funny that one of the websites I found describes it as an easy and steady 1300 ft climb.
I stopped a few times on the last section, just to take pictures of course, not because I was dying, and the views behind us were incredible.
When you reach the top, the last several hundred yards are a scramble around and over large loose boulders. Surprisingly, there were quite a few people up and there and we arrived to the final strains of someone singing happy birthday to one of their group.....turns out he was celebrating his 70th birthday with the hike.....yes, I felt lame and weak and like a baby for all the complaining that was going on in my head.
The views from the summit are amazing. To the northwest you see the entirety of the Tahoe valley, and back to the west you see the Desolation Wilderness, several other peaks and the myriad of sparkling blue lakes that dot the wilderness area.
We found a spot out of the wind, which was blowing cold and strong at the top, and ate the sandwiches and snacks that Diane had brought along for us. As good as a nap would have been, there wasn't a flat spot to be found and the wind was cold enough to motivate us to begin our descent.
You would assume that hiking down a mountain would be easier and faster than hiking up, but that wasn't the case. The steps, loose rock and my old knees kept our pace down and required constant attention to avoid falling. The hiking poles were a huge benefit and saved me from embarrassment and possible injury on more than one occasion.
The wind kept up and the weather had cooled to the point that we had our jackets on most of the way down and with the Aspen in full color, you could tell that Autumn had arrived in the Sierras.
As we finally got to the bottom and back to our car, we had yet another Autumn celebration to look forward to....we were headed to the Oktoberfest celebration being held over at Camp Richardson....brats and beer after a long hike....what could be better?