Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Even though 2020 is basically a dumpster fire, at least we got a lot of hiking in and are able to hike well into the fall season this year, so I'm thankful for that. Where would we be in 2020 without hiking in the great outdoors?
Our hike to Herlan Peak was most definitely the longest hike we've ever been on. (At this point, we pretty much stick to day-hikes, so going over 14 miles in one day is kind of a lot.) But we've been hiking regularly all year, so we figured we could handle it.
Turns out, the distance wasn't the challenge. It was the 30-degree windchill... Maybe I should have called this one the coldest hike we've ever done. No really. We weren't exactly dressed for the tundra, but we had on layers and winter-ish gear. For me, what I had on wasn't quite enough. It felt sufficient when we started out at Tunnel Creek and for several miles after that, but once we reached the large "intersection" for Tahoe Rim Trail and Red House Flume Trail, I stopped to add another layer that I was carrying in my pack before we turned up the last section to Herlan Peak.
Oh, and did I mention that the bite on my Camelback bladder froze twice on this hike?
Before we got to this peak that overlooks Sand Harbor, we crossed a wide-open flat area where we could clearly see Marlette Lake off to our left. You can even see the golden aspens that lake is famous for in the fall.
And you could also see Lake Tahoe.
The closer we got to the peak, the colder and windier it got. I actually took very few photos at the top, because I couldn't keep my hands outside of my choppers for more than a few seconds. We agreed that we need to hike this one again in warmer weather. The view is out of this world.
Overlooking Sand Harbor from Herlan Peak.
Looking down Tahoe's east shore.
A wider view overlooking Sand Harbor.
Looking northwest, back towards Incline Village/Crystal Bay.
I think I mentioned this, but it was super cold and super windy on the peak. Once we got done taking a few photos, we wandered off the peak and tried to find a sunny-but-sheltered-from-the-wind spot to have a quick snack before we headed back down. It was hard to find any place out of the wind up there, but eventually we settled on a boulder surrounded by some brush and made that our snack spot. By this time, my fingers were frozen, so I tried to snack fast.
On the way down, it was obvious the temperature had already begun falling since our trek up (plus, you don't work up quite as much of a sweat when descending as when ascending). I was hiking as fast as I could, just so we could finish faster. After maybe a mile down from the peak, I could no longer feel my fingers. You see, this gal has something called Reynaud's Disease where blood vessels in my hands and feet overreact to cold temperatures. The smaller arteries in my fingers and toes that supply blood to my skin become narrow, limiting blood flow to those areas, causing them to go numb -- and they even change colors when an attack occurs!
So when I couldn't take it any longer, I stopped and had to place my bare hands on my bare abdomen under my clothing to try and get them warm again. As the blood flow began to return, it was excruciatingly painful -- more so than usual. It felt like someone was ripping each fingernail out very slowly. Was I crying? Shut up. Maybe a little. Out of both pain and frustration.
After maybe 10 or 15 minutes, the pain had subsided enough that I felt we could get back to our descent, as we were losing daylight fast. I bundled everything back up and made a point to intentionally "milk" the grip of each of my hiking poles to keep the circulation active. It seemed to work, but descending in elevation also helped with the temperature and wind factors. Nonetheless, I raced back down to the trailhead and was looking forward to being warm again.
On the bright side, I kept all of my fingers and toes after this hike. I'll report back when we give it another go in warmer weather.