Into the Wild
Solo fastpacking the Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo by Rachid Dahnoun
At 6:10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 3, I sidle up to the sign at the South Kingsbury Trailhead, 2,000 feet above the southeast side of California’s Lake Tahoe. I’m about to set out on a solo fastpack of the 170-mile Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), a meandering oval track around the big lake.
My mission is exquisitely simple: run the loop around the blue beast in less than six days. I stand here, thinking, I’ll run. I’ll power hike. I might cry once or twice. But, hopefully, I’ll be back at this spot on schedule.
I’ve been qualifying everything about this trip with the word “hope.” The word is my safety net against superstition, like touching wood or crossing my fingers. I’ve never traveled 170 miles in six days on foot before. I’ve never been alone for that long, either. I have, however, been a backpacker since 1997, and took my first fastpacking trip six years ago. I’ve gone 150 miles on foot in seven days five different times, and I have been alone in the wilds for three full days.
I could have chosen to do the trip with a friend, to do it in nine days or to hike all of it rather than running as much as I’m able. But I wanted a real challenge, not something that I would achieve with relative certainty, something that I would look at with anticipation, hopefulness, intimidation.
I’ve got the requisite skill set to do this, I feel certain. But anything can happen in a wilderness and, well, at some point it’s going to get demanding. I’ve been reminding myself that my experience is my crutch.
My first few miles will be along the TRT’s newest singletrack, which was completed last year. The TRT was a vision of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, a non-profit started in 1981 to plan, build and maintain the trail. The trail itself opened in 2001 but included a bit of paved road and some trail sections that still needed work. With the finishing of this new section, the TRT was officially complete and all singletrack. Beginning a new adventure on a fresh trail just feels right.