Day 76: Tahoe No Bueno

July 5
Mileage 10
Mile 1084 to mile 1094

I wake in the morning to my tent, going FWAP-FWAP-FWAP-FWAP-FWAP in the wind.

“Tent!” I say, and I tear it down. It’s ten miles to Highway 50, where we can hitch to Lake Tahoe, and Spark and I blearily eat a little breakfast, pack our things away and set out. After an hour or so of hiking I stop for second breakfast and Muk Muk appears- she camped just a few miles before us, in mosquito hell. I sit with her in the sun while she boils instant coffee, offering me some from her tin pot.

“It’s decaf,” she says. “I accidentaly bought decaf.”

Afterwards I hike on, and when I reach the highway Spark is not there. There’s a text from him- he waited for a long time for me before hitching. Dang, I think. I can’t hike that fast. As I’m standing there, staring at the cars flying by, a little sedan pulls up on the shoulder. The doors pop open and NoDay, MeHap and Instigate pile out. They were just up the road at Echo Lake, picking up a box, and now they’re back at highway 50 to hitch to Tahoe. We caught up with them with our 29 mile days.  

It’s good to be reunited and within minutes we’ve all got rides to town. Instigate and I get a ride in the same car, a man and his young son, on holiday.

“You guys smell bad,” says the boy, as he cranks open the window.

The man drops us off at El Nido motel but the door to the office is locked and we sit on the concrete stoop, waiting. It’s Friday, the day after fourth of July, and all the motels are full. We’d heard that El Nido might have something and so we sit on the stoop, watching the traffic congestion on the main drag, wondering why we wanted to come to Lake Tahoe in the first place.

“Ugh,” I say. “It’s awful here.”

Instigate has a violin she’s sent herself and she unwraps it, rosins her bow, and begins to play. A door pops open and a woman wanders over.

“You want some ice water?” She says. She hands us two sweaty plastic tumblers. The ice hurts my teeth but water is amazing. I haven’t had any since right before the highway.

“You know where the manager is?” I say.

“Nah,” she says.

Eventually the manager arrives and tells us that the motel’s all full. And then he tells us that we shouldn’t hang out on his stoop, because we look like riffraff.

“We were only hanging out here because the office was locked and we were waiting for you,” I say.

We walk up the main drag in the direction of the post office, which is apparently about a hundred miles away. It’s hot and loud and the wind smells like exhaust. We pass a motel, the Bear’s Den, with a VACANCY sign and I stop into the office. They have a room, they say. Just one bed. Can I put five people in there? Sure, but there’s no air conditioning.

I drop off my pack and set out for the post office. By the time I get there I’m thirsty and exhausted, and I wait in the long line for my packages. Toyo is there! And I say hello, and then finally I get my boxes and I can go back to the hotel. Except instead of walking, I think, I’ll take the bus this time. There’s a free bus that goes right there.

I wait at the bus stop for what feels like an hour. I’m hot and dehydrated and the cars keep blowing by, vrooo vrooo vrooo. As I wait I can feel the day ticking away, those few precious moments that I have to do a million little things. When I finally get back to the hotel I am near panicking. I drink a liter of tapwater and stand in the cold shower for a long time. Then I lay facedown on the rickety mattress, feeling paralyzed. I need a week, I think. I need a whole week to get everything done.

But there isn’t a week.

I work on my blog for a while and then Instigate, Spark, MeHap and NoDay arrive with beer and we all sprawl around the room, wilted in the heat. (FYI- I don’t actually blog on the trail- I walk for thirteen hours a day, and there isn’t any time. I only write posts when I’m in town, and then I “schedule” them so they pop up every day while I’m hiking. So when I’m in town it’s an anxious frenzy of blogging, on top of all the other errands I need to do. There’s rarely a moment to actually relax, and I don’t usually breathe easy again until I’m back on the trail.)

It’s hot and crowded in our hotel room. Spark takes a shower and while he’s in the bathroom NoDay puts his clothes in the freezer, along with all the towels. Then MeHap puts on NoDay’s town dress, and NoDay puts on MeHap’s hiking outfit. Spark eventually finds his clothes and then we set out into the evening, which is beginning to cool, to find some dinner.

The thai place is crowded, the pizza place is too expensive, and we end up at a little mexican joint where we order massive plates of delicious food. Then we stumble back to the motel room and arrange ourselves the best we can- two people on the rickety bed and the rest of us on the floor. The floor feels good and comforting underneath me- I don’t sleep so well in beds these days. All the windows are open and outside, I can hear the sounds of traffic. I think about how no place is how you expect it to be, and the best thing to do is not want things in the first place. But it’s so hard, I think. So hard.


NoHap & MeDay


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5 thoughts on “Day 76: Tahoe No Bueno

  1. Part of the fun is following your blog on google maps and reconnecting with places I’ve been before. I’ve been to South Lake Tahoe once, and I went to a killer mexican restaurant there three times while visiting. Next door to your motel room. I loved the food and salsa bar while there. Looks like you enjoyed it too. Hike on.

  2. I don’t get it. If you don’t “blog” (write??) while on the trail, how do you reconstruct each post to include all the details of that day? Notes? Good memory? Fake it? Keep rockin!!

  3. Jessica, I’ve also wondered how she works in so much detail, as well as the sheer logistics of it all at that most basic level. I’ve assumed it’s trail magic. Each night, Packer Elves descend on her phone and type up the blogs, awaiting only her approval.

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