Sunkist, Bluejay, and I had less than four miles to walk today. This was fortunate because the short distance would give us extra time once we got into town.
We were heading to South Lake Tahoe. It would be filled with tourists nearly any time of year, but especially so today in the middle of the Labor Day weekend.
We had no reservations for tonight, so we started out the day uncertain where we'd be staying.
I left camp on Tamarack Lake shortly before sunrise. It was located about a tenth of a mile from the PCT.
The problem I had yesterday while walking over rocks to the lake became worse today on the way back to the trail. With no defined path, I had to guess the path in the dim light of dawn.
Once I was back on the PCT, there was only a half mile to go before reaching the southern boundary of Desolation Wilderness. By the time I got there, the sky was brightening and I could see the north end of Upper Echo Lake.
Echo Lake is really two lakes, which are connected by a narrow channel. My destination was the south end of Lower Echo Lake.
As with all of the lakes in this area, the basins of the upper and lower lakes were carved by glaciers. High, granite ridges ran along the length of these two lakes.
The tallest point on the ridge to my right was Ralston Peak and the first land to catch light from the rising sun.
The trail followed the shore of the two lakes for the next 2.6 miles. For much of the way, the trail went past lakeside cottages. Some looked as if they had already been closed for the season.
The lakes freeze over in the winter, and at above 7,400 feet in elevation, that comes early.
A small store/cafe called Echo Lake Chalet was located at the south end of Lower Echo Lake. It opened at 8 a.m. and I arrived a couple of minutes after that.
Sunkist and Bluejay were already there. I ordered a coffee, and upon their recommendation, added a cinnamon roll. It was delicious.
We called for an Uber to take us to South Lake Tahoe, about 25 minutes away. When the driver arrived, we asked to be dropped off at Mellow Mountain Hostel.
We were told the only space available for us was a small patch of dirt behind the building where we could have set up our tents. It was a cramped area directly under the building's air conditioner unit. For that luxury, the rate was $18 each, which didn't include laundry.
We declined, hoping we wouldn't have to come back later after failing to find a place to stay. We called a few other places while walking to the main highway through town, but all of the motels were full.
As we walked by a motel called Stardust Lodge, we decided on a whim to ask if they had any vacancies. With great surprise, we learned a two-room suite was available. It had two beds and a sleeper sofa, which was perfect for us.
When split three ways, the cost was $100 each. That was considerably more pricey than the patch of dirt by the air conditioner, but we were glad to pay it. Better still, laundry and breakfast were included.
We had arrived too early for the room to be ready, but we didn't have to wait long. Then after getting cleaned up and doing laundry, we walked down the street to eat lunch at Base Camp Pizza. The retail area surrounding the restaurant was filled with tourists.
Next, we dodged more tourists as we walked a short distance to a grocery store. We only needed to purchase food for three days, enough to get us to Sonora Pass.
Back at the motel, we called Sonora Pass Resupply to confirm our food pick up when we arrived there. Those were arrangements we made while staying in Bend more than two weeks ago. We also made reservations for staying in Independence, which is where we should be in less than three weeks.
By this time, Sunkist told us she'd reached her limit of South Lake Tahoe. She didn't want to go out again to fight the crowds for dinner. We agreed to order Chinese food, which I used the DoorDash app to do.
This turned out to be a fiasco, taking nearly two hours from the time we ordered to the time we finally got our food. We didn't receive it until nearly hiker midnight.
Tomorrow we will return to the calming quiet of the uncrowded trail. It won't be soon enough.