28 June 2015: Mount Rose TH to Mud Lake. 8.4 miles.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is probably the most kid- and dog-friendly trail I’ve hiked. Most of the trail is open to mountain bikes, and the entire trail is shared with equestrians. This means lots of easy grades. The trail is incredibly well-maintained (shout-out to all the trail crews we met! thanks!). In addition to being pretty easy terrain, there are lots of options for resupplies and bail-out points. This is not a remote backcountry trail; you cross a lot of roads and are never too far from a town.
The biggest challenge on the TRT is water, especially after several years of west-coast drought. We planned two water caches to get us through the longest dry stretches: one at the Brockway Summit trailhead and one at the Kingsbury North trailhead. By stashing a few gallons at these points we ensured that the furthest we would have to carry all of our water was only 12 miles, rather than 20. For our speed, that made the difference between one day’s worth of water and two days’ worth! A faster hiker could plan around the stretches and bomb through them in a day, but that wasn’t really an option for us, especially since we had one person carrying the bulk of the water for four beings.
We decided to start with one of the most spectacular sections of trail, the Mt. Rose Wilderness. This stretch is high and dry. We hiked the highest point on the trail, Relay Peak (elev. 10,338), our first day out. For the rest of you flatlanders out there, I’d recommend starting with a lower-elevation section, or camping near the trailhead the day before in order to acclimate. 10,000 feet may not seem like much, but for my sea-level-born husband, it was too much. PPL has learned the hard way (several times!) that he is very altitude sensitive. If we’d been smart, we would have reserved a campsite at the Mt. Rose campground in advance to give our bodies a chance to transition from sea level to Sierra altitudes. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday night and the Mt. Rose campground was full; we managed to snag a room at a Reno Motel 6 instead. (Tip to those who travel with dogs: Motel 6 has a universal “Dogs Stay for Free” policy.) Next time, I’ll plan our first night in advance.
Because we slept in town and still had to cache our Brockway Summit water in the morning, we didn’t arrive at the trail head until almost noon. A typically late start for us; thank goodness for long, midsummer days! By the end of the day, PPL was nauseous, headachy, and pretty much useless. It drizzled intermittently all afternoon. Despite all that, it really was a glorious day. We had amazing lake views all day, we encountered snow drifts around Relay Peak, and marvelled at all the wildflowers. After we set up the tent, PPL crawled inside and left me to do pretty much all the chores. I cooked a dinner he couldn’t eat, but at least SB was thrilled by black beans and couscous. Apparently, babies’ hiker-hunger sets in early!
Mud Lake gets a bad rap as being a gross, silty pond. I honestly didn’t think it was all that bad compared to a lot of the ponds I’ve seen. According to our guide book, the water at Gray Lake, which is down a short alternate trail, is much nicer; it seems a lot of TRT thru-hikers make the detour and camp at Gray Lake instead. Mud Lake was shallow, for sure, but the water, once filtered, was fine (if I were using chlorine or iodine drops, I might feel differently!). Klein and SB both had a great time splashing in the shallows. Plus, we had the whole place to ourselves!
Water note: We actually encountered way more water today than we anticipated. Galena Falls was gushing gloriously, and the spring at the junction of the TRT and the Incline Lake Trail was also running nicely.