Gilmore Lake to Dick’s Lake: 4.5 miles

We crawl into the tent at 7:30. It’s almost dark. My new hiking quilt feels wonderful. It’s 6 inches longer and 4 inches wider that the other one. And it’s rated for 20 degrees! The other is rated for 30 degrees, but at 30 degrees it still required my wool base layer to be warm. When near 20 degrees I had to wear that base layer, my hiking pants, my hiking long sleeve shirt under the base layer and my down jacket. Being warm to the bone was still questionable.

Sherman on sentry duty while I pack us up to start the day. The green bags are the Odor-Proof bags that go inside the white Ursak Bear Bags.

I got that first quilt before I hiked the John Muir Trail years ago. I was looking at sleeping bags at REI in Santa Barbara and Real Cheap Sports in Ventura. I purchased a bag from Real Cheap Sports that I mostly liked. In hindsight, some of that purchase was sales pressure by a kind man working with a total novice hiker who know almost nothing and was embarrassed by how little I knew. The bag weighed over 3 pounds. It would certainly do the trick, but my mind was filled with doubt about the decision. I did know that the hiking gear mantra is “every pound on your back is 40 pounds on your knees and feet”. And, “get as light as you can and still be physically and emotionally comfortable.” I was reading about sleeping quilt on a couple hiking sites I monitored. The biggest pro/con conversation was in a John Muir Trail group. After a week of reading the current quilt conversations and searching for past ones, I decided I wanted a sleeping quilt instead of a bag. I returned the bag and felt better. I was finding my way… It was now 2 weeks before my start date. I only found one maker who could get me a quilt in time and I was grateful. That quilt was $225. $50 cheaper than the sleeping bag. And 1.5 pounds lighter. Over the years I discovered that it was too small to accommodate me and Sherman adequately. And that in my opinion the channels that hold the feathers go on the wrong direction. They go across the body. So that as you sleep and move around the feathers migrate out toward the edges and leave a thinner layer over the body. The result is a poor distribution plan. So, I’ve spent the last 4 years reading about and looking at websites of hiking quilt makers. This year I took the plunge. $425 for a quilt sounds ridiculous. However, to sleep under it at 7800 feet at a temp between 25-30 last night is amazing. Warm enough to sleep under with just the wool base layer. And… big enough for Sherman to come under when he gets cold without creating any leaking cold currents. Big whole body smile…

This is Day Two. Day One is always an unusual mental space. No matter how much planning and preparing has taken place it never matches the reality of having 30 pounds on my back with everything I’ve chosen to be the delta between life and possible death. Well, that’s a bit dramatic. General to extreme discomfort is closer. (People do die hiking. But it’s infinitely safer than driving or flying… ) Feet on the ground never matches the mental images I’ve created during the run up. Day One is opening a door whose address I know and finding a strange, unsettling and wonderful world on the other side. All there is to do is step on through. On Day Two the reality begins to be the primary influence. By Day Three, the settling in is complete. I’m taken over…

The highest peak on out sojourn is Dick’s Pass, and it’s next.

We find ourselves on a long steep grade blessed by switchbacks.

Getting up there… but still not near the top. A nice view of Half Moon Lake nestled into the hugging mountains across the valley.

Panorama from the same spot as previous photo.

As we go on…

My legs get tired. Then more tired. And yet more tired.

My steps get shorter. Then more shorter. And yet more shorter.

My breath gets labored. Then more labored. And yet more labored.

Oh yea, were headed for 9800 feet above sea level!

I wonder if my decision to start at Echo Lake and go north to Tahoe City was an error. Going this direction has us doing to most difficult terrain on the first two days. This seemed the right logistical choice at the time because when we get to Tahoe City I can get an Uber to take us back to the Echo Lake trailhead. If we went the other way I didn’t know how I’d get an Uber from Echo Lake. The signal is weak and undependable. The Chalet is closed and their phones are turned off. So the Uber promise has us going in this direction, suffering our bodies slow adaptation to the stress, strain and work demanded of it.

To be kind to ourselves I set a timer for 45 minutes. When it goes off we sit down to rest, drink water and maybe have a snack. If Sherman goes off the trail and lays down before the timer has struck, I accept his request and we take a break. The higher we go, the more frequent the breaks.

The initial glimpse of the top. But when we get there, it’s a false hope. Over that ridge is more climbing…

…and the first sight of Dick’s Lake with Fontanillis Lake beyond. The trail continues upward…

Eventually we make it to the top, which starts as a large high alpine meadow.

Then the terrain turns more into a high alpine desert, marked by this surveyed “high point”, 9800 ft above sea level. The highest point on this quadrant of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

More from the top.

We are both tired. The top of the pass is a wide curved space. I find a place off the trail in the shade to rest. We take an hour rest. It feels very indulgent and luxurious to rest for so long. We do it anyway. From our perch these dancing trees show the effect of the prevailing winds.

When we get up my body feels rested and recovered. All the metabolic signals are normal again. Sherman again is perky.

Downward ho!

As we start down I see this unusually shaped snowy patch across the valley. This is a 10x digital enlargement. The vertical dimension is striking. It must be at least a hundred feet. Imagine the depth during winter!

Downward from the pass is as steep as the upside. Also blessed by well built switchbacks.

This giant rock stops me… dumb by a sense of the unimaginable amount energy required to move this giant boulder here from who knows where, and then the added unimaginable amount of energy required to crack this giant boulder into what a human mind sees as an extraordinary sculpture. We live in Geological Time and experience our lives in Mental Time. Hence… our Climate Change Disaster.

Long steep downhill is harder on the body. Kinder on the lungs. But harder on the feet and knees. By the time we get to Dick’s Lake we are both very tired. Beat up. And, we’ve traveled less than 5 miles!

Dick’s Lake is a deeply peaceful place. There are 8-10 good pre-existing camping spots. There are two other people at the lake with us and the lake’s birds who call back and forth across the water.

We have 3-4 hours to relax before dark. We sleep long and deep.