On Sunday, my mom Lynda and her Tennessee Walking Horse Joe joined Diego and I for a ride on the Tahoe Rim Trail. My friend Sanne and I are going to be managing an AERC endurance ride over parts of this same trail, next August, 8/25/12. You can go here: http://www.endurancetrax.com/ for more information on the Tahoe Rim Ride.
So Sunday morning, both my mom and I hooked up our rigs and loaded our horses up. Since we were going to be riding point to point, the plan was to leave my trailer at Spooner Summit, off Highway 50, and to take my mom's to the start off Kingsbury Grade. We each trailered one horse up the first haul to the top of Spooner. I parked in the main trailer parking area, which is on the south side of Hwy 50. Next time, I would pull through the USFS picnic and parking area on the north side of the highway, where the trail actually comes out, as there are a couple of pull through spots you could just fit a trailer in. Use the main trailer parking as a back-up if those spots (there are only about 4) are full. I already had my tack in my mom's trailer from riding the day before, so only had to put Diego in and we set off to the start of the trail.
Going up Kingsbury Grade (Hwy 207) is a steep haul. Definitely need to use a low gear and make judicious use of the sporadic turn-outs. You turn onto Benjamin Road North off the 207, and follow the road 2 more miles through a neighborhood to the actual trail head. These last 2 miles are quite steep and slow going. At least, for the most part, the vehicles had to do all the hard climbing work on this ride, getting us to the top of the world, leaving less climbing for the horses. There is a large dirt area to park a trailer in before the smaller paved lot. Since we were the first trailer in, we were able to get turned around and parked facing out, which was a good thing as upon our return, there were two other trailers (vehicle, not horse) there and it made getting my rig turned around a bit interesting, but still very doable.
We got saddled up and ready to go. We were careful to pack extra drinking water for ourselves, and carrots for the horses. This 12.2 mile stretch of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) has NO natural water. Ensure you have lots of extra water for yourselves, and for your horses at the end of the trail. Both of our horses drank around 5 gallons each at the end. The first part of the trail is fairly technical, climbing a series of granite steps, along a narrow single-track, right within the first half-mile. My mom rode up this section, but I stayed on foot and lead Diego up. In less than a mile, the trail was less rocky and I mounted up. There were still a few sections I would dismount for, mainly because Diego is still learning where best to place his feet, sometimes making not very wise decisions, and I would rather NOT be on him at the time. By the end of the day however, he was able to confidently follow behind Joe, watching where he went, or pick the better path himself.
I truly cannot write words to describe the beauty of the trail. The pictures do not even begin to do it justice. I had to keep my camera on-hand, ready to whip out at any time to snap the next awe-inspiring view. I found the best place to do this, was to tuck it in my bra. =) It worked great, the only problem being I kept forgetting it was in there and then "finding" it unexpectedly, like when we stopped for lunch, and while driving back home. We took pictures of the three main areas where the road(s?) would cross the trail. These were all nice big open areas that would easily accommodate a vet check. We stopped often just to enjoy the scenery and appreciate being lucky enough to ride this trail. There is a wooden bench nestled in a rock outcropping along the peak of the trail, with incredible views of Lake Tahoe. This made an excellent spot for lunch, with grazing for the horses tied to nearby trees and endless views for us. This spot is approximately 7 miles from the Kingsbury Trailhead, and 5 from the Spooner Summit side.
Since this is the shortest segment of the TRT, it does receive a fair amount of traffic. We saw about 10 mountain bikers and probably an equal number of people hiking. Everyone was very polite and courteous, correctly yielding the trail to the horses. The trail was very clearly marked and easy to follow, either with the blue arrows or badges of the TRT nailed to trees. Most of the trail was single-track, where there was simply no question as to if you were on the correct route, there was no where else to be. We walked about 70% and did a slow easy trot/gait the other 30%. We were cognizant of not wanting the horses to get to overheated and any more thirsty than they already were. It took us a total of about 4.5 hours to get from one trailer to the other, with about 30 minutes being stopped for lunch. You could ride it faster, especially during the ride where water will be provided along several points.
There were some portions that were quite rocky and required walking, others were you could trot for a bit, walk a short stretch, then trot again, and yet others were there was just a long stretch of glorious perfect footing. The elevation change was mild, being a total of about 1,600 feet over the entire distance. If riding from the Spooner side, you would have more climbing from that direction, and it would be more difficult to navigate some of the rockier portions into Kingsbury, having to go down the granite rock steps, rather than up them. If riding point to point, the Kingsbury to Spooner direction would definitely be the preferred choice, however, if you wanted just a beautiful out and back, I would recommend the Spooner side. The access to the trail is much easier (hauling a trailer up the grades) and the trail itself is better footing and less rocky coming from that direction. It would make an excellent 10 mile ride to ride up to the lake viewing area, and then back to your trailer at Spooner Summit.
Enjoy the pictures below.