Updated: Aug 1, 2022
On Tuesday, we attempted to complete this hike for the first time. When we arrived at the "trailhead" at the top of Jennifer St., the North Lake Tahoe Fire Hand Crew truck was parked at the end of the street. 🤔
My husband briefly checked in with them before we headed out on the trail. They confirmed they were stationed there for potential lightning strikes causing a fire. The partly-cloudy skies were definitely bringing in some unsettled weather, so we were keeping an eye on it, but decided to give it a go.
Just then, we received a text message that my husband's uncle Dan passed away. He'd recently been admitted to the hospital, and all day long, we'd been in tune to his shaky condition, waiting to hear if he was going to pull through.
I looked up at the sky and I wondered out loud whether we'd see a rainbow tonight.
Feeling a bit sad as one normally does after the loss of a loved one, we silently started up the ascent. Silent save for my heavy breathing... The climb was abrupt, steep, and constant. I actually had to take numerous breaks to recalibrate my feet and catch my breath, which was actually not easy. Many of the steepest sections were made up of very loose, powdery, and dry dirt, which makes it difficult to get any footholds to propel yourself up. So it was extra work to advance on the trail.
We were working pretty hard and when we reached about a half-mile and over 500 feet of elevation gain already, we heard a very loud and very close clap of thunder. We stopped in our tracks and, as disappointing as it was, decided it was time to turn back. As we were racing back down the steep trail, we started getting pelted with rain droplets. It was not a heavy rain, but the drops were big.
Then, another loud clap of thunder.
We sped up as best we could without succumbing to falling down the trail. Sometimes, small rocks on a steep section can act like slippery ball-bearings beneath your feet.
As we neared the trailhead, my husband said, "Peach, look," as he gestured up toward the sky.
I knew it.
And then that rainbow turned into a double-rainbow.
We called it Uncle Dan's Double-Rainbow.
We got back in the Jeep and said we'd give this trail another try later this week.
The very next day, in fact.
This time, because I now knew how steep the first part of the trail is, I paced myself a bit more. But that climb is tough. Just when you think you might be done climbing for a little bit, you look ahead and see another super steep section. We agreed that this trail might be the most constant steep trail we've been on.
The first 0.65 miles felt like we'd hiked 3 miles.
It took 35 minutes to get to the first "top" of the trail.
And then we kept on climbing some more after that, periodically losing sight of the actual trail. At one point, my husband observed something about the trail in a comment, and I corrected him: "This isn't a trail. This is where water flows during spring melt. It's not a trail. I don't think anyone intentionally hikes this."
See? I get mad at trails sometimes. 😆
He agreed and added that it was the perfect trail to send our friend Chad from Minnesota on the next time he and his wife visit. After several visits now, we have surmised that nothing will stop Chad or even slow him down, so we need to find the hardest challenge for him when he's here. This might be one of them.
At the one-mile mark, we'd climbed over 1300 vertical feet.
We paused for a beat. I took out my snack and proceeded to enjoy that. But I noticed my husband kept looking ahead up the trail.
I knew what he was doing, but I asked anyway:
"Why are you looking up at the trail?"
"Well, because I think we should go a little farther up there."
We just climbed an insane 1363 feet in one really hard measly mile to get here. And you're fixated on going farther?
I can't even pause long enough to enjoy my snack. Reluctantly, I start marching back up the trail toward Rose Knob looming above us.
In the process, we surpassed 1440 feet of elevation gain in just over a mile. (That's a lot of vertical.)
We reached the section that begins the climb up toward the Tahoe Rim Trail and Rose Knob above (which we'd endured once before) and he yelled behind me that I'd gone far enough. So, I stopped and quickly finished my snack, which was still in my hand. Then we turned around and made our way back down the trail to the other side of the loop that would take us back to the trailhead.
This "side" of the trail loop was longer than what we had climbed up, had many more switchbacks (I wouldn't say the first side had any switchbacks), and seemed a little bit cleaner than the side we ascended. We kept deliberating whether this side of the loop or the other would be easier to ascend. Honestly, I'm not sure. They each had their challenges.
On the way down, I told my husband this trail might be a "one and done" for me, that I didn't care to hike it again. He laughed.
We'll see. Sometimes I absolutely hate it while I'm doing it because it's so hard and I tell myself I don't ever have to hike it again, but then later, I feel like I should give it another try and I consciously opt in to the challenge. Like, I accomplished it once and survived it, and I know how hard it is, so I can do it again, and then I'll find myself hiking it again. Perhaps, I'm just a glutton for punishment. 😉 Or maybe I just like getting my feet dirty.
Jennifer Trail Loop