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Tahoe Rim Trail

Oct 2022

After my bike’s shock snapped into sad little pieces on the Arizona Trail, John and I headed back to his place in Tahoe to regroup. John had taken a month off of work for us to ride the Arizona Trail, and we still had a week or so before he had to go back to the salt mines. I figured we might as well ride the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) as it seemed like a crime that John hadn’t yet done the whole thing even after living in the area for several years. Once my bike was operable again (thanks to Aaron for sending a new shock out my way), we set off for the TRT.

 

This trip was novel in that we simply rolled out of John’s front door to start it off. Most big thru-hikes or bikepacking trips involve extremely complicated logistics, and so it was refreshing to do a multi-day ride involving no driving, easy resupplies every day, and plentiful water access throughout. The trail is extraordinarily well-marked and maintained by the finest trail stewards to ever walk the planet. The quality of trail was a welcomed relief after spending ten days bushwhacking our way through the remote deserts and highlands of Arizona. The TRT was practically a highway in comparison. In fact, some of the wilderness detours were highways!

 

We rolled out in the afternoon, and crushed a little over thirty miles of road riding to get up to Tahoe City. The miles and the hours flew by as we put down steady wattage along the well graded two-lane highway. We picked up a little food at the grocery store in town and then joined the Rim Trail proper. The climbing proved to be fun and engaging as it was consistently quite technical. As the sun set, we started scanning for good campsites. I had a hunch that a plateau I spotted just above us would offer flat campsites and great views. My suspicion was confirmed when I checked the area out, and we happily set up camp and knocked out for the night.

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John winding his way through the forest

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High country

An enchanting sunrise over the lake greeted us in the morning. We slowly packed our gear, for getting on the bike in freezing cold weather is never something one particularly looks forward to. Eventually we got rolling, and the temperatures rose nicely. We crushed some climbs in the morning and our efforts were rewarded with long, flowy descents for some time. Eventually, we had to leave the TRT for another wilderness detour, and so we descended some trails down into Kings Beach. We picked up more trail food there, and gorged ourselves on cake and meatloaf in the parking lot. The beauty of this route is that we hardly had to carry any food since we’d be passing through civilization so frequently. I could hardly walk after eating lunch, and felt like I was on the precipice of vomiting with every movement. John didn’t seem much better. So it seemed like a perfect time for us to climb 4,000 feet up toward Mt. Rose. It felt as if we were on death’s doorstep for the next three hours as we labored up the climb, I can’t recall the last time I felt so poorly. We took one break about one third of the way up, and somehow found the strength to push on and make it to the top of the climb. This was the only part of the trip that we hiked our bikes for some time. I suppose we learned a valuable lesson about nutrition that day.

 

We camped high on the ridge, now on the northeast side of the lake. I loved that the lake was visible for a good portion of the route, and the alpine setting is hard to beat. The sunset was spectacular, and we slept soundly that night under a clear sky bursting at the seams with stars. Another cold and clear morning greeted us the next day, and we started off with some undulating trail followed by a long descent down to Marlette Lake. We filled up water at a hand pump near the lake, and then edged around its eastern shore. The setting was glorious. Aspen trees rose proudly all around us, and their colors were turning a magnificent yellow that glowed magically in the sunlight. I had to stop several times to appreciate their splendor, as it is hard to “take it all in” while bombing downhill at 25 miles-per-hour on a mountain bike.

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Aspen groves

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Above the treeline

We passed Spooner Lake and continued south towards Heavenly Ski Resort. After a few hours of climbing and descending, we stopped in a tiny little neighborhood to pick up some food at the gas station, grab a burger at the sole restaurant in town, and crack on. The eastern section of trail offered interesting views down into the dry valleys of Nevada, thousands of feet below. John remembered seeing a great campsite on one of his day rides in the area, so as the sun set, we kept our eyes peeled for this fabled site. Eventually, we found it, and broke camp in this idyllic little spot. This would be our last night on trail, and so we savored the fresh mountain air even more so than usual as we drifted off to sleep.

 

Undulating trail through alpine meadows saw us to our last major climb the next morning. We climbed extremely high, well above the treeline, for our last hurrah of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Panoramic views were the rule rather than the exception for most the day. Eventually, we made it to one of Tahoe’s most famous mountain bike trails: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. John led us out, and what followed was almost an hour of insanely fun downhill. Chunky rock gardens, jumps, and more berms than one can count saw us down to well below the treeline. We stopped to session some features, as we had all day to descend and cruise across town back to John’s place. We found some jumps that the groms had been building, and played around on those for a while. It’s good to see the kids still getting after it and building sketchy jumps in their free time.

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Nevada down below John

Once on pavement, we cruised several miles back to John’s place, victorious. The trail took us about three days of riding to complete. I thoroughly enjoyed the route. It has to be one of the best maintained hiking and biking trails in the country, and doing it well into the fall meant that we avoided the crowds that normally swarm the area in the summer. I’d like to go back and hike the loop at some point.

More Aspens

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