While relaxing on my deck last night, I received a text from my new friend Matt asking if I wanted to join he and his Sacramento friends for a 'dawn-ish' hike of the Five Lakes trail early this morning. Being a self proclaimed adventure junkie who also happens to be a Tahoe local, I didn't ask many questions but quickly agreed to meet them around 7am. With every sip of wine that followed late into the night, I quickly started to regret my eager commitment. But I set my alarm for six and hoped for the best.
After a long and glorious contrast shower, several cups of strong black coffee, a high protein breakfast bar, and with my Camelback diligently packed, Gibson (my wonder mutt) and I were out the door at half past seven. We arrived at the trail head close to eight, met by the sincere smiles of four strong and determined men, who were ready to rock it.
I've hiked the Five Lakes trail a few times over the past couple years, but every time is a new experience and today was nothing less. On this brisk but beautiful morning, the sun was shining fiercely and most of the tourists were still snuggled up in bed at their vacation homes...equaling my idea of serene bliss!
The initial ascent is a little burly with a steady and steep climb up from the road, and amazing alpine views are found within mere minutes. The sights and sounds of the flora and fauna were partnered only by the dripping sweat and heavy panting of those not accustomed to the 7000 feet of elevation. The trail itself is impeccably maintained but rocky at times, not unlike most trails here in the High Sierras. There's a series of switchbacks and a whole lot of rock up top, before you enter into the Granite Chief Wilderness boundary..pretty much the first and only shaded part of the entire trail. It sure is a beautiful place to see and experience, regardless of how many times you've been down that dusty path. It's some unreal scenery up there on that mountain!
I was too busy talking (per usual) to choose the best trail at the three-way juncture, but life certainly doesn't suck when that's the toughest decision of your day! Needless to say, I chose the wrong path (if there is such a thing), but we turned ourselves around after not too long and headed back to the main lake. A five minute break, being eaten by five hundred newly hatched mosquitoes, and we were ready to rock it back on down the trail, where Matt and I soon met up with Jay, Tim, and Erich (who had taken off sprinting upwards and onwards from the road an hour earlier). Soon thereafter they were off and running again, this time inspiring me to follow suit. It's true...I much prefer to run down a trail than up...although my incredibly weak ankles often disagree with this choice. Add an injured dog on a leash and it makes for quite a challenging trail run. But I rallied nonetheless and often reminded myself (and Gibson) to take it slow.
About half way down (or up, depending on your direction), there's a retired chairlift tower just off the trail. Jay (being baby porcupine eating Jay) decided to give it a go...he handed off the video camera and scurried up, to what were likely the best views of the day. When he pretended to slip on his way down the ladder, he damn near gave me a heart attack, but with two feet firmly planted back on the ground, we were off and running once more. Sadly, it wasn't too much longer before we were back where it all began...now trading our dusty trail shoes for flip flops and stretching our worked muscles while making a plan for the well deserved beers that would soon follow.
Under normal circumstances I might be embarrassed to arrive at a bar before they've even opened, but certainly not today! We waited it out at the River Ranch and laughed our way through a few thirst quenching cold ones. All this excitement before noon...today was just another day in paradise!!!