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Week 8: Emerald Bay to Barker Pass

“Its not foul if there’s fish”!

Yes!  We finally made it to running skirt day (which happens to be in honor of Katie C’s birthday) and our longest segment of the 14 around Lake Tahoe.  With a total day of 24 miles, we celebrated with a hug and a big high five.

This week we thank Katie C’s aunt, Nancy O’Neill for our ride to the trailhead at 6:30am.  We drop a car way up at the top of Barker Pass where we will end our run and continue onto the Bayview trailhead just past the Eagle Falls trailhead where we ended our run last week.  These trails merge about half way up into the trail that spurs off the PCT/TRT.  After getting our wilderness permit, we fiddle around with the GPS watch, trying to get it going because our phone GPS probably won’t last for this one.  No dice, so we waive good bye to Aunt Nancy and we’re off on the trail heading straight up!

Just about a mile up the trail the view opened up and we were looking way down on the iconic Emerald Bay.  After a few photos and some more watch maneuvering, the watch was on and tracking.  And we were back to the straight up switchback trail.  The trail was very steep,  the air was humid, and the day was really starting to warm up.

We finally make it to where the Bayview/Eagle Falls  trails merge and we get a break from the steep calf burners just as we pass by a mountain pond nestled in as the granite rocks tower above.  We took it all in before the trail headed up again and turned to granite stairs with the rainbow of wildflowers popping up.  This took us through the last stretch up to the Rim.

Finally!  After the 5 mile ascent, we made it back to where we left off last week, the Bayview junction just above Dick’s lake looking over the mountains to Lake Tahoe.

We head straight towards Fontanillis Lake.  Another amazing mountain lake surrounded by solid granite with plenty of good jumping rocks (although we didn’t test any out).  The trail followed all the way along the shoreline and we were the only ones in sight after passing a pair of backpackers heading out.

On the North side of the lake we skip over some rocks to get past the creek running out of Fontanillis and duck back into the woods to a soft dirt trail perfect for running.  Cruising through the woods and AAAAHHH!… Something big, brown and moving on the trail ahead of us… Oh, it’s a deer.  She didn’t mind that we were passing by so we stopped and stared at each other for a bit.  While Katie C marveled at the deer, Katie T thanked the trees and gave one a big hug just before we kept on our trail towards the Velmas.

Just around the corner we made it to the lake and just as we were keeping pace around the lake someone said, “Hello again”  We said, “again?  Where did we see you?”  He said, “down on the Bayview trail, wow, you’re still running?”  We said, ” yes, we had to do 4 extra miles when you kept left on Bayview because we can’t miss any part of the Tahoe Rim Trail.”  He said, “Cool, you girls are awesome!”  Well, that made us feel good!

From here we skirted (pun intended) around a maze of lakes and just as we left them all we were looking back at them all stacked behind us.

On we went-over a bridge, through a marsh with lush Corn Lilies lining the trail, and up slightly through some ankle breakers. Katie C was not doing very well at this point after eating a bar and was feeling weak and queasy.  Katie T to kept it positive and we kept moving forward.  As we got to the top of this small hill and the views opened up overlooking Desolation Wilderness, we were ready to pick up the pace again.

Feeling deprived of lake sightings as we’ve gone about 10 miles without seeing one,  there was Richardson Lake!  We were so excited that we talked about jumping in and how we had to be close to the end and what we were going to do once we got to the car.  Instead of guessing, we decided to get out the trusty map to see if it was a few miles and we should stay dry or if the trailhead was right there and we could walk out wet.

So, we know that our calculation on the map and even the markers on the trailhead have been misleading but this map was telling us that we had 13 more miles to go vs the 6 we were anticipating… ooops… guess we miscounted that one.  Okay, where can we get more water?  We are on the edge of Richardson Lake and there is no sign of any life anywhere nearby.  We just needed to conserve water and keep plugging along.

Katie T decided that we needed to think positive and envision someone to be on the trail with a water pump.  Katie C knew there were no more lakes ahead but saw a creek on the map and decided that this imaginary backpacker would be there.

Out of some crazy chance, after not seeing anyone (nobody) since the Velmas, there he was! Our imagined backpacker sitting on the side of the creek.  Was this really happening?!  Yes, he had just pumped water himself and was just taking a rest before heading north where the water sources were questionable.  Katie T asked if it was safe water?  He said it’s not fowl because there were live fish swimming in it!  Katie C was all for it and a very thirsty Katie T had to trust Mr. Magical Backpacker.  He let us use the water purifying pump and we filled up a water bottle each and just for good measure as we were filling up a 3rd, we mentioned that we needed more water because we were caught off guard about how much further we had to go to get to Barker Pass.  According to his book, we were only about 5 miles away… not 13!  So, this was good news but we were still VERY thankful for the water and agreed to leave him a bottle in a secret spot under the picnic table at the Barker Pass trailhead.

Hop, hop, hop across the stream and on we go with an undetermined distance ahead of us.  Shortly down the trail there is a trail sign marking Barker Pass as 4 miles more.  Well, we sure do have enough water for that!

We were feeling the 20 mile hurt but knew that we needed to keep moving.  The trail continued to offer everything from gigantic trees towering above, to small creek crossings, to wildflowers that have already run their course and are turning brown, to tall wildflower fields that towered above our head flowing uphill to the right and scattering down to the left.

Just as we thought the end would never show…  There it was! We did it.  24 miles on the trail we made it back to the car full of fresh, cold water!!  We did it, the longest stretch of our adventure around Lake Tahoe!  6 more sections to go!

We will proudly be sending a celebration check to Project MANA to help their efforts in feeding the hungry and promoting nutrition around North Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

Next week we will be running from Barker Pass to Ward Canyon.  We will be running for the Truckee Donner LandTrust whose motto is: “To preserve and protect scenic, historic and recreational lands with high natural resource values in the greater Truckee Donner region”. Over the years, The Truckee Donner Land Trust has protected over 33,000 acres, ensuring continued recreational access and protecting lands for future generations. They are determined to protect another 24,500 acres in the coming years with a value of over $40 million. Thank you!

Wish us luck!