Week 7: Echo Lake to Emerald Bay

This section is the land of many lakes and walls of granite with the star of the show being Lake Aloha.

This was the last of our long commute to South Lake Tahoe and lucky for us, Katie Tyler’s mom, Sue, was in town and up for the drive to Echo Lake.  With our earliest start to the day yet, the drive was beautiful around Lake Tahoe.

Back at Echo Lake where we left off last week, Sue walks with us while we get our wilderness permit that is required in Desolation Wilderness.  We take photos, wave good bye and start on the trail around Echo Lake.

The lakes edge is scattered with cabins that are accessible only by boat.  It was funny to see houses right there along the Pacific Crest Trail.  Again we decide that we need to come back with the family one day and stay for the weekend for a secluded getaway.

We were warned about the rocky trail and how hard it would be to run.  This was the case right away with gigantic granite mountains to the right of us and the trail turned to crumbled granite (ankle breakers) of all sizes.  We decided we would power hike the rocks and run when the trail allowed. The lakes continued to pop up one after another, Upper Echo, Tamarack, Lake of the Woods and Lake Lucille.  Each one pristine and peacefully resting in the granite that was towering all around us.

Then we come to a junction in the trail and there was a marker pointing back towards Echo Lake.  On the other side of the marker someone had carved in ‘Aloha’ but there were arrows pointing in both directions.  After examining these arrows and indeed determining that there were two arrows pointing in opposite directions, we decided to head left.  This took us to a great looking camp area with a cute little pond full of lily pads. This was a pretty cool site but definitely not the way to Lake Aloha.  Back to the junction to try option B, head in the other direction.

Option B-Sure enough, there it is, Lake Aloha!  It was the most amazing thing we have seen this far on our adventure on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  It felt like what it might feel like to arrive on the moon! Water as far as you can see and hundred of granite islands with the Crystal Range towering in the background.  White granite covering the landscape. This is a big lake and the trail followed along the edge for about 2 miles. The site was breathtaking.

As we left Lake Aloha, the trail split again as we take a clear right turn to stay on the PCT and head towards Heather Lake.  Through the rocks the flowers are still trying to peek through and the colors against the rock really pop!

The trail starts to head down, down, down as the granite around us grows higher and higher.  As we duck down just below tree line around a switchback there is a baby ptarmigan right there on the rock in front of us and there on the other side of the trail is mama ptarmigan keeping close watch. Scurrying through the granite maze above are two marmots the size of a small dog and or a large cat.  This is the first wildlife we have seen aside from small chipmunks, squirrels and birds, pretty cool.

After passing a few small lakes we come to Heather Lake where the trail turned into a bed of shale red, gray and black rocks that skirted the lakeshore.  As we stood on the waters edge looking down the sheer rocks to the water and up at all the surrounding mountains and the silence was heavenly, there is nothing we could say except that we shared a feeling of profound gratitude to be in such an amazing place.  The beauty overtook the moment.

Onward and upward.  We start heading up towards Dick’s Peak.  Along the way we continue to find our favorite trees: old, twisted, deformed and artfully amazing.

Still through the white granite sea we are heading up and looking back at all those lakes that we have passed and even all the way back to Lake Aloha.  As we gain elevation the wildflowers start to multiply as we run through fields of color.

Not quite done with our climb but there we are looking down at Dick’s Lake.  Look…cell phone signal.  Time to stop for a short work break before moving on.  Now this really was an office with a view!

Shortly after getting back on the trail we reach the summit of Dick’s Peak.  After our celebration of making it to the highest peak of the day, we start to really head down hill on switchbacks leading us towards Dick’s Lake.  Shortly after leaving the shoreline of Dick’s, we hit a trail junction and meet up with 2 backpackers who are visiting from Michigan.  At this point we have another 4 miles down to our car that is parked at Emerald Bay but we could go another 4 miles (to lessen the load next week) and take another 4 mile trail down to the car.  The backpackers offered us more water as we only had a few sips left, but we decided that we should take the trail out now and leave the extra 4 miles for next week.  As we head down and the trail turns into more of a stairway, we were happy about our decision not to add milage.

As the un-runnable trail went straight down and our knees and ankles were feeling each step, Katie Tyler borrowed a piece of nature, a walking stick, to help her launch over the rocks.  We also saw a whole trail maintenance crew on this section building more stairs.  This was really cool to see the process in action and we made sure to thank each one of them.  After this, the trail was very windy and seemingly going nowhere, so we were excited to finally see Eagle Lake and then Eagle Falls where hundreds of sightseers were scattered.  At the base of the falls was a perfect swimming hole and we went straight to it and jumped in!  That was the perfect ending to our 20 mile day and the parking area was only a short walk away and we had lots of water waiting for us in the car… YUM.

In celebration of a big day, we met Benita Tiller, wife of Greg Tiller, for a group hug.  We got to tell her about our adventure and the amazing energy we felt out there on the trail and share some special moments and memories of Greg.   We will be sending a check in Greg Tiller’s honor to the Tahoe Forest Hospice as we have completed another section of the Tahoe Rim Trail.  Thank you Greg for your inspiration and thank you Benita for coming to meet us!

Next week we will be running our longest leg from Emerald Bay to Barker Pass.  We will dedicate our run to Project MANA.  This organization is helping North Lake Tahoe and Truckee reduce the incidence of hunger and promote nutrition through education awareness, food distribution and deliveries.  Thank you Project MANA for helping our community!

The Tahoe Rim Trail Foundation is excited about our adventure around the lake.  Without this trail us and so many would not have this spectacular, immaculate, buffed out trail available for our enjoyment.  Click here if you would like to donate to the Tahoe Rim Trail Foundation, make and honorary tribute gift, and put Katie Tyler as your Tributee.

Thanks for the support and wish us luck!