It’s cold in the morning – the wind still thinks I’ll be lonely without it – so I cozy into my puffy before emerging into the world. Said wind is in cahoots with me, trying its best to mask the noise of my packing from my sitemate Lost and Found, who’s still trying to sleep. He’ll catch me soon enough, and I’ll probably see him in South Lake Tahoe anyway.
That’s the goal today: South Lake Tahoe, the promised land of casino buffets and warm sandy beaches, of tourists and free individual-sized pizzas1. It’s 24 miles to Echo Summit, a little longer to Echo Lake Resort where some folks recommend hitching from, but I’ll probably just stop at the highway. We’ll see how I’m feeling.
I’m not even mad at the short up and down this morning – it’s a weird town day that I’m not impatient, but this has been a long time coming. Tahoe is the end of– well, the Sierra section of Guthook’s app, at least, but also the end of bountiful water sources and short carries. From here, we head back into the desert, into NorCal, into the section that experienced thrus often disparage, if not curse. So I think about the land and the town and all the food I’m gonna eat, and it makes the first miles easier.
A set of tracks in the snow towards a road leads me astray, and I track it and backtrack it and track it again before I give up and turn on my GPS. Of course it’s not the way, and I try to use some sticks to mark the correction. Soon enough, the wind is whistling my praises and pushing me along the right path.
It’s a nice morning, lakes below me, sky above, wind in between vaguely threatening to damage my calm. I hum and sing to distract myself, pass the time.
Down up down, past lakes and dancing lupines. I am gonna miss this section.
Slowly but surely, I curve around under the Elephant’s Back and start seeing many much dayhikers and their pets, both loose and leashed. So it’s past Frog Lake and into Carson Pass.
There’s a really nice Visitor’s Center here, and pit toilets and lots of dusty, well-loved packs lining the outside walls. My people are here. Yoda’s standing inside, busy talking, but she nods; the lady manning the desk is being super-friendly to the thru signing the register at the counter, handing them a soda and cookies. I step up to sign and something has apparently changed, because she glares at me, demands I take the register somewhere else to sign. The counter must be clear at all times. Okay, fine, whatever. She’s nice enough to the next thru that comes through, though, asking what soda they’d like and handing them cookies. She eyes my exchange of pleasantries with that hiker, belatedly asks: “Oh, are you a thruhiker?” Why yes, I am. She hands me a Coke and some Oreos, but doesn’t soften at all. Shortly after, I’m basically the first she offers fresh cut watermelon to, and I’m too happy about the fresh fruit to be offended2.
So then it’s off and out of Carson Pass – there’ll be one more big up before Tahoe but there’s a short up first, to a nice meadow with an old-school cabin and barn planted in it.
The old homestead also marks the junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail, so I expect to see many more hikers before I hit South Lake Tahoe.
As expected, there are a ton of folks on trail today – not just Yoda, who I catch during one of her breaks and who passes me a bit later, but TRT hikers and section hikers and dayhikers and horsepackers and and and, everyone out enjoying this gorgeous sunshine. I’m happy to be sharing it with them.
Just before 2p, in the middle of my big up, I see what I think is sky on the ground, but which must be Lake Tahoe. I didn’t know it was so huge.
And then suddenly, that’s all of the up, and it’s basically all downhill from here.
It’s not too much later in the day that I run across Yoda in camp – her shelter’s set up, and she’s grabbing water. She’s decided not to go into town tonight since most of the day’s been burnt up – she’d basically just be there to sleep, which is extra money she doesn’t want to spend. I don’t know if I’m going to zero in Tahoe or not, but I want a bed for at least an evening. I keep going.
I said a-down, down, downity-down, closer to town-town-townity town. While this part of trail is pretty empty, I do run across four more people. Two are coming south, including Caveman, who reads my blog3; he thought he might see me on this particular outing, though he wasn’t quite sure where I was. It’s fun to stop and chat with him and his compatriot. Two are going north, like me, on the Tahoe Rim Trail – a father and son duo, doing 15 miles a day. The son is quiet, seems unsure of himself, so I offer both of them encouragement before I head on down the trail.
The descent to Echo Summit seems long, that almost-to-town impatience kicking in. I go into the bushes to relieve myself, tear yet another hole in my leggings while brushing by a downed branch that does not seem strong enough to have done this. I’m incredulous for about 30 seconds before I lapse into “meh”-ness. Maybe that branch was bored. Maybe it just needed to something to do.
Then, finally, finally, an expansive, seemingly-abandoned parking lot, and what I assume is Echo Summit.
I’m doing the dance YET AGAIN WHY IS MY BLADDER THE SIZE OF A WALNUT headed for the pit toilets in the middle of the lot when I see something move – that something, turns out is a bear. My brain gets stuck on the word “bear”. Bear bear bear. I come to after a few seconds – BEAR – and shoo it away with less calm than I should probably feel. It is standing between me and my biological needs. The bear trots off, slowly, towards the trail. I eye the pit toilets again, but my body decides that now’s not a good time for that sort of thing, so I head back to trail to find the highway.
Echo Summit proper is just a few tenths on, a smaller parking lot clearly designated for summer use and a list of trail angels tacked to a sign nearby. I text Pineapple that I’ve arrived, start calling and texting trail angels on the list to no avail. Pineapple says I should try the woman she’s staying with; she’s unavailable, too. I’m wary about hitching on the state highway – technically, it’s legal, but the cars are flying past, and honestly I’m not sure which way to hitch. But once someone stops and points me in the right direction – oops – I don’t spend too long wincing at the windtrails of passing semis before someone stops.
It’s clear as I put my stuff in the back that Bill’s a climber, and maybe an artist, too, the accoutrements of both hobbies – professions? – spread out before me. He asks me where in town I’m headed; I guess the hostel, since it seems none of the trail angels will have me, and I don’t know of anyone in town willing to split for the two nights I’m planning to be in town. He offers to check with his girlfriend – the artist – see if it’s cool if they host me. Wait, really? Really-really? I stumble over my words as I offer to pay for their hospitality; Bill declines, as he’s not in it for the money, but he offers to let me cook for them as a trade. I ask him if they like pasta and veggies with alfredo sauce, and the bargain is sealed.
We stop by the store and I grab ingredients and beverages; since Kelsey isn’t going to be home until later, I get to toss my clothes in the laundry and shower, get some loaner clothes, feel like a normal human being again. I also get to stare at the wall internet for an hour or so before I start cooking.
When the time comes, it feels good to be in a kitchen, good to be doing something that uses parts of my brain that are different from the ones required for hiking. Kelsey’s arrival and the finishing touches happen right around the same time, and we feast on my favorite on-off-trail meal. We have a good time chatting before we’re all yawning and excusing ourselves to (omg this mattress is so comfy) sleep.
Start: 1066.7 • End: 1090.7 • Day: 24.0
Notable Accomplishments: Made solid miles before 6:30p • Arrived in the Promised Land of South Lake Tahoe • Got the best hitch ever
 Yes, really. Base Camp Pizza has a thing where thrus get a free individual size pizza if they show their permits. Rad.
 Such interactions are always tough for me. I can’t prove anything particularly amiss went down, sure, but I do wonder, given the treatment of the other just as smelly/dirty hikers, how I would’ve been treated if I were white.
 This always floors me. Also, Hi Caveman! Also oh god I forgot the name of your compatriot. I hope he’s doing well, though.