I didn’t realize how depleted I was from the weekend until I went to a spin class at the college and could barely push the pedals. Any normal person would probably think that hiking 20 miles and then mountain biking 25 the next day deserved at least one day off. Not me, however. I will not accept that I’m capable of fatigue. Except for now.
To recap, for the events themselves are more interesting than my whining about them.
The Hike: The dog and I arrived at the Bayview trailhead by Emerald Bay about 7.15 am, and were soon hiking our way, up, up, up 1200 feet into the Desolation Wilderness. It was still dawning light, and cold – the thermometer read 30 F in South Lake Tahoe, and it only cooled off as we climbed. Our destination was Lake Schmidell (pronounced either Shmi-dell or Shmy-dell, depending on who you talk to), about 9 miles in from our starting point.
I had assumed that the cold temps and the end of summer would result in less people. How wrong I was. Within the first hour I had passed 14 people – one group of what looked to be high school students, and a couple of individuals. I felt sorry for the kids, as they all appeared grossly underdressed (cotton t-shirts & shorts). After that, Soleil & I were blissfully alone for the next few hours, until we arrived at Schmidell. We didn’t stay long, only because I had an encounter with a guy – probably harmless – that put me on edge. He looked like he’d been out there a long time (longer than the 17 days he told me during his soliloquy), and something about him made the dog act strange. So before I freaked myself out by imagining the worst, we scooted.
There’s something infinitely pleasing about passing people hiking into Desolation (with large backpacks on) while you skip out, having already traveled more in one day than they will in 2 days. Smug? Yeah, but realize that part of this smugness is heavily tainted by the utter exhaustion and low-blood sugar I’m experiencing by then.
The Bike Ride: I had agreed to meet up with a friend, V, and a bunch of her friends to do a point-to-point mountain bike ride along the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). I’m not one who does the group thing often…or well, and figured it would be good to get out of my comfort zone and ride with some near strangers. Plus, N was out of town, so it wasn’t like I had my usual riding buddy.
I was picked up by C and D, married triathletes, about 7 am, and we headed over to the Red Hut on Kingsbury to meet the rest of the group. While I’m not a big breakfast person, I did manage some oatmeal (veritable heresy at a place renowned for its waffle sandwiches and other ‘light’ fare, but I really didn’t want to have to deal with it again later). We then drove up to V’s house, set up the bikes and headed up towards the Stagecoach Lodge at Heavenly, where the TRT begins. The goal was to ride to Big Meadow, by Luther Pass.
We spent a long time going up. My altimeter later told me we did 3,450 feet of climbing, and I think it was more. From Stagecoach the trail winds around and up towards Monument Pass. It seems innocuous on the map, but between the soft sand, the near sheer drops in the Mott and Killebrew Canyon areas (which, as a Heavenly passholder, I love seeing in summer…just not necessarily while on my bike), I spent a fair bit of time walking my bike.
From Monument Pass, it’s a veritable walk in the park to Star Lake. Yes, there’s some sand, but the singletrack is fun and swoopy, there are no severe cliff drops, and the views are sublime. Lake Tahoe? Check. Freel Peak? Check. Wind-gnarled juniper trees? Check. While there were some climbs and some technical bits, it was such a welcome change to be pedaling this section that I didn’t mind the fact that my heart rate was somewhere between 500 and a million beats per minute.
Star Lake is one of those hidden treasures that’s all the sweeter because of the effort you put in to get there. Whether you’re hiking or mountain biking, it’s about 9 miles in from the east side (where we came in from), and well longer from the west side (Luther Pass/Big Meadow). We saw a few hikers there, but we hadn’t come across any other mountain bikers. The lake sits at 9,100 feet, and is surrounded on three sides (not that a lake necessarily has sides) by fairly steep mountains. The fourth ‘side’ looks out onto Lake Tahoe.
After a bit of a respite, the group trundled onwards and upwards to Freel Pass, which sits about 9,700 feet give or take a few hundred. At this elevation, anaerobic activity is tough, and the last climb just about killed all of us…except for the perky triathlete, J, who wore no layers and carried little food. He was the one that rode ahead for a few miles and would then double back to see how we were all doing. Kind of like a dog, really. I didn’t share this thought with the group, as I was the new chick and didn’t want to make enemies this far from civilization.
The top of Freel Pass was idyllic, and not just because I got to eat. From that point on it was all downhill for me. I had made the decision that morning to bail out at Armstrong Pass and ride back home, thus missing out on the last 9 miles (and 800 feet of climbing) of the TRT. It was a fun descent to my turnoff, with little technical rock steps and manageable drops. At the turnoff point, J decided to descend as well, as he, too, had a dog who had been locked up inside since 7 am. He showed me the trail back towards my house, a hidden turnoff that allowed me to ride nearly the whole way back (barring 2 miles) on dirt. Total mileage – 24.5 miles. Total time: 6 hours 49 minutes. Total sleep needed to recover from the weekend: 4 days.