After enjoying an all you can eat BBQ in the tiny Nevada town of Middlegate, I paid for my first night of camping in over a week at Lahotan State Park in western Nevada. $15 is a little steep, but I was more than ready for a shower. You know you’re fast approaching road trip asceticism when a 10-minute, $2.00 coin-operated state park shower feels like a luxurious eternity.
The next morning, I got out my atlas and realized I was right near Lake Tahoe, a place I’d only seen once before in the winter. A quick search on the Tahoe Rim Trail webpage and I was all set for the day: a 12-mile out-and-back hike from Spooner Pass up more than 2,000 feet of elevation to the summit of Snow Peak.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile hiking path that goes around the entire lake, following the ridge lines high above the blue, blue water. As with all long distance trails, the more miles I hiked, the more I felt like I could do the whole thing. Long distance trails (AT/ CDT/ PCT) are always my Plan Z. If all else fails in my crazy life, I’ll just go for a hike. Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid of failing. Plan Z sounds pretty great! One of these days…
After the hike, only a little tired (I try to do a 10-plus miler once a week to keep up my stamina) I decided to head down to the lake to see if I could find some free camping. Silly me. Tahoe is a pretty ritzy place and the many campsites along the water run $30 a night. No thanks.
So I went back to the trailhead. Since the TRT is a long-distance trail and people often head out for overnighters, cars can be left at the trailhead for days. There were no “No Camping” signs and I stayed for two nights, hiking on the TRT and working in the Teardrop.
The TRT trailhead turned out to be a great place to meet fellow travelers! On my first day, a local who introduced himself as Tahoe Ted stopped by to ask me about the Teardrop. We got to talking and it turned out he was a ski-mountaineer. I plied him for mountain tips and gave him one of my Blonde Coyote cards and he asked if I was in need of some hospitality – a home-cooked meal, a shower, a place to park my Teardrop. Absolutely!
A little while later, a woman stopped by with her son, again to ask about the Teardrop (I told you it’s a great conversation starter) and she too invited me to dinner. Just like that, I was booked for home-cooked meals two nights in a row! Tahoe knows hospitality!
Ted ended up taking me for an awesome hike in his “backyard” — Squaw Valley ski resort, a world-famous mountain, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Despite having spent the past 25 winters skiing Squaw’s epically steep slopes, Ted had never gone for a hike on the mountain in the summer. Even relatively snow-free, he really did know that mountain like the back of his hand and gave me a great tour on our way up Shirley Canyon to Shirley Lake.
The hike was plenty epic: 8-miles out and back up 1,500 feet of very rocky elevation, but Ted kept suggesting off trail routes up the impassible-looking slopes to intersect with some of his favorite ski trails. I hope when I’m 69 years old like Tahoe Ted, I still have that kind of off trail ambition!
Between hiking with Ted and dinner with Lisa and her family, I now feel like Tahoe is one of my home bases on the road. Amazing how you can visit a place on a whim, stay for a week and meet some great new friends! Thanks for the hospitality, Tahoe! I’ll be back!