Into the Wild - Page 3
Photo by Rachid Dahnoun
It’s Day Three, and I stand knee-deep in Watson Lake, a little blip of standing water above the north side of Lake Tahoe, soaking my sore feet. I’ve already power hiked and run around 27 miles today. But my destination, a hotel room in Tahoe City and a treat to myself for making it halfway around the lake, is another half-marathon down the trail.
But I feel physically better today. To traverse the TRT in six days, I’ve got to average 28 miles per day, so I’m playing catch-up on yesterday’s lost miles. As I soak, I envy the people lounging on the other side of lake. A mountain biker rolls up, interrupting the ugly thought spiral. He asks if I have means for purifying water as he’s running low.
As I fix him up with clean water, we idly chat. Mostly he wants to know why I’m still wearing my socks and shoes to soak my feet. I don’t want to tell him my real answer—that I didn’t think I could sniff back the foot-pain-based tears long enough to undress my feet—so I say that maybe my wet feet will soothe my toes a little longer down the trail. My logic isn’t sound, but he doesn’t seem to care. He just smiles and tells me about some rock formations down the trail.
This is a moment of symbiosis: my water-purification chemicals make his ride a little smoother and his positive attitude helps shift my own mood. I head on, stopping at a trail intersection to check the map. There I encounter two mountain bikers. I must look a little awful, because they insist on giving me a snack. This, the random generosity of people in the woods, restores my disposition even more.
With fortifications of spirit and stomach, I run today’s last half marathon hard. It takes me under three hours, which is a damn fine pace for traveling with a pack. I am elated when I pop out into a neighborhood at the edge of Tahoe City. This is the point in a trip, where, with friends, we’d whoop and high-five. But I simply jog toward the main drag.
It’s a summer Friday night, and Tahoe City is alive with women in sundresses, expensive cars cruising the strip and music emanating from restaurants’ open patios. I, on the other hand, have filthy legs, trekking poles and no idea where to go. Then a police car stops in front of me.
“You’ve been in the backcountry,” says the officer.
“What gave it away?” I respond, laughing, a little embarrassed.
“You look like you could use some help.”
I tell him I’m looking for my hotel and a good restaurant. He points me in the right direction on both accounts, and then asks a couple of questions about my trip. Before he drives off he says, “You’ll do it! You’re halfway there!”
The rest of my night involves a hot shower, sushi and just one beer—I don’t plan to screw up my recovery again—and eight hours of sleep in a soft bed. I study the trail map over dinner and scribble a note in the middle of it, in the blue waters of Lake Tahoe. “No one goes totally alone.”