Dehydration Before Desolation

Marlette Peak Campground to Kingsbury
(25 miles, +3,000/-4,000 feet).

Well, I did it again.  I’m leaving the trail today because I went too fast.

On these solo trips I am always in such a hurry.  Eight days is a long time to be away from my family, so there is no way I want to be away longer than that if I can help it.  So I talk myself into some insane hiking schedule.

Add to that the fact I was hiking one of the driest sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail today, and one of my planned water stops had no water.  By the time I got to Kingsbury I was majorly dehydrated, I felt sick and weak and lonely, and I couldn’t eat anything.

I told lots of my friends I was going to thru-hike the whole Tahoe Rim Trail.  So I felt so ashamed to go back and tell them that I couldn’t.  But within moments of explaining what had happened, I had lots of people telling me they were happy I was going off trail.  I honestly did not expect that.  It was a perspective-changing moment for me.  I hope I can use it to ensure that my future attempts to hike solo are sustainable.

The day started out lovely enough, with a cotton candy sunrise and just a little bit of uphill before a long gradual hike down hill to Spooner Lake.

Great way to start the day

I slowly made my way towards Snow Valley Peak, and this northern slope still had quite a bit of snow on it.

Hill below Snow Valley Peak
Snowy shadow

At one point to avoid the snow I went off trail for a mile or so, and saw a friend.

Hello, friend

Near Snow Valley Peak I made my way back to the trail, which alternated between vast fields of dead grass alternating with dwindling snow fields.

Snow Valley Peak

On the other side of the peak, the view of Marlette Lake were absolutely lovely.

Marlette Lake

Over the course of the day I saw lots of “snow flowers,” which are flowering plants that have no chlorophyl.  They steal sugar from a regular plant by partnering with a parasitic fungus (a process known as “mycoheterotrophy”).  Such a strange and beautiful plant!

Hey, can I borrow some of your sugar?

The trail dropped pretty quickly down to Spooner Lake, where I refilled my water bottles.  I was hoping to linger here, but it was pretty buggy so I decided to press on (note to self: you should almost never “press on” — take a break!).

Spooner Lake

Climbing up from Spooner Lake I started to get some really wonderful views of the Desolation Wilderness across Lake Tahoe.


There were also more interesting living things along the way.

Lovely fugus

At one point I encountered a mountain biker whose bike was broken.  She was sitting in the middle of a snowy patch of woods on her phone watching YouTube videos to try and figure out how to fix her bike.  I offered to help, and between the two of us we figured out how to get her back piston back in and reattach the wheel to her bike.  And then off she went.  I’m so impressed with people who can get not only themselves, but a heavy bike up the trail at the same time!

Soon after encountering the mountain biker I reached a summit at South Camp Peak.

Lake Tahoe from Summit Camp Peak

The trail flattened out on a ridge that wound in and out of large snowdrifts.  After a while, I encountered a menacing sign on the side of the trail.


Apparently, they do not want hikers going into the mine.  But who would actually try it?  Here’s a photo of the totally filled-in mine entrance:

No way in

The trail travelled along a lake-facing traverse for quite a while as it descended to a crossroads where the old trail and new trail intersected.

Where the past meets the present
Trail marker on a stone

I took the new trail another few miles into Kingsbury, and by the time I got there I was sick and spent.  I tried to eat something but to no avail.  I tried grocery shopping for my resupply, but absolutely nothing sounded appealing.  I think I just got way too dehydrated today, and it is affecting everything.

I sat down and tried to decide what to do.  Within a few minutes I was googling hotels in the area with the idea that I might only stay one night.  But by the time I actually got to one, I knew it was over.  I would not make it to the Desolation Wilderness on this trip.

I need to go back home and come back to the trail some other time.  As one of my friends has already said to me, “the trail will still be there.”  Part of trying difficult things is to know when to call it quits and save your energy for another day.  That day was today….





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