Monday, 12 September 2016

Trip out to Lake Tahoe and hiking Mount Tallac

So it was the labor day weekend and I was in California. I'd just seen an Instagram photograph of one of the rock climbers I follow and it had an amazing view of Lake Tahoe from Mount Tallac. Thus the seed was born that I might just give it a shot! I'd originally planned to do it as a day trip. Wake up super early before sunrise and drive direct to the trailhead. On a whim though, I decided that I didn't really want to do a 3 hour drive before a hike and maybe I should just go up the night before and at least I would be able to start early without worrying about waking up on time and the drive to reach before the sun got really hot. So I went over to South Lake Tahoe with the idea of finding cheap accommodation just for the night before the hike. One thing I didn't consider was that on the drive up North, there was a whole hour worth of driving where there was no radio reception. Normally I don't really pay attention to what is playing, but an hour of static can be really tedious! I was continuously pressing the scan button hoping that I was moving into the range of a station! Having made the trip on the spur of the moment without actually bring additional stuff meant all my power banks (4 of them) were not with me and I wanted to conserve my battery life for navigation use rather than playing tunes!

One thing I definitely did not consider was that being the long weekend, EVERYBODY WAS OUT TOO! Looking through Booking.com told me there wasn't really any hostels I could stay in and the cheapest place was going to be at least 150usd and that was at a neighbouring town instead of near the trailhead!! Well being the epic cheapskate I was, I decided to just sleep in the back of the car. How bad could it be after all. So I went to a Starbucks to charge my devices and searched for a suitable place where I could park overnight. I ended up deciding to just park at the open air carpark of Harrahs casino. It was lighted and there was no parking fee either. I guess to cater to all the gamblers who might not be staying in the hotel but just there to play. Accomodation settled! Sort of anyway. Owards to the next matter, actual information on what I would be hiking.

A quick browse of the different reviews on the trail, one of the things that stood out to me was the number of people talking about having enough water. I frequently saw 3-4 L coming up as the recommended amount. As such I dropped by a supermarket on the way and picked up a gallon(3.8L) jug of water, a quart (950ml) of isotonic drink and some snacks to munch on. Ended up with a pack that weighs about 7 kilos.

Before actually going, I had actually mentioned my upcoming trip to a Bestbuy employee. He had helped me when I was purchasing a camera to replace my stolen one( Lost my canon EOSM with 17-40mm F4 :'( while in Tulum, Mexico). He mentioned that there was a place called Bonsai Rock at the lake which had great photos during sunrise and sunset.  As such I made a brief stop there to as it did not really require any serious hiking, just a short bit of scrambling, though the path down was pretty steep! Shoes and long pants recommended.
Bonsai Rock
Even with the harsh mid day sun, the views were amazing. I should have stayed around to catch the sunset but I figured I'd hang out at South Lake Tahoe instead which was closer to the Mt. Tallac trailhead.

Anyway, at about 11pm, I figured it was a good time to catch some Zzzzs. I wanted to catch the sunrise too before starting my hike. Well 3 hours into my nap at about 3am, I was reminded just how different weather can be in the US compared to Singapore. I hadn't really brought any extra layers, figuring it would be about the same as central California at most dropping to 10-15 degrees Celcius at night. Boy was I wrong! A quick look at google told me it was 3 degrees outside with a "feels like 1 degree celcius" note... No wonder I kept waking up feeling cold. All I'd brought along was a light jacket to block the wind.

It really was cold!!! NBCCB freezing.
By 3.30am, I couldn't take it anymore and decided I'd just hang out in the casino instead. At least it would be warmer inside. Fortunately they also had a restaurant which was serving a late night menu. I guess all that gambling means you get people turning up hungry at all hours of the day or night! They also had a cool breakfast special! Only $4.95 for 2 eggs any style, bacon or sausage and toast. So I had brekkie at 4am in the morning and waited for time to pass.
Beach just beside Boathouse on the Pier on Lake Tahoe

Anyway, after making a short stop by the lake to see the sunrise, it was still freezing so i didn't linger, I headed over to the trailhead to begin my hike!! Everyone seemed to be carrying a lot less than me though. I was beginnig to think i had over prepared as most of them had only a bit more than a litre of water whereas I had a monstrous supply! But I have to say there were very many amazing views throughout the hike to the summit! Many a times I would think I had made it just on the spectacular views only to realise it was still a ways more!




All in, it took me 3.5 hours to reach the peak and another 2.5 hours to descend. I ended up only consuming a 1.5L of water. Turns out all those reviews were for water consumption during the summer months and at the cusp of winter, you really don't need that much especially if you're also starting early before the sun is out. Definitely worth the effort though!

After all of the driving and lack of sleep, I also crashed for 14hrs straight the following night... After a hot shower of course!