Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hiking Mt. Tallac August 8, 2012

5 am. Wednesday morning. Lake Tahoe. Time for probably our biggest family adventure during our two week vacation. Our destination: Mt. Tallac.

Our backpacks were filled with water, food and treats. Two of our three dogs would carry their own backpacks filled with water. Treats were to keep the motivation going and for emergency recalls if necessary. You never know what you are going to meet on the trails and up the mountain. The weather forecast was good. 86 F and a few clouds.

My husband Jeff, our son Benjamin (BJ) and our Lab Ani hiked Mt. Tallac last year. They had taken the longer route up (Glen Alpine Trail) and split the strenuous hike into two parts with an overnight at Lake Gilmore. They loved it!
I fed the dogs about 1/3 of the their normal breakfast. Some chicken backs and green tripe. Last year our Golden Retriever Chewie could barely get up. We had put him on special food (kibble) but we did not get the anticipated result. A good friend and Golden Retriever breeder Christine Hsu of Tigana Goldens ( ) suggested I put him on raw food and a whole new door opened up to him. Chewie was born without hips (yes, no ball or socket on both sides). How long he can walk or get up will depend on how fit we can keep him. Our Vet's advice: keep him lean and exercised. He was the very reason our dog hiking business was born. Every day we hike him to keep the tissue that holds everything together as fit as possible. Here is a picture of Chewie during our Mt. Tallac hike. 7 years old and growing strong.

Although we planned to hit the trails at 6 am having kids means something is always missing or someone is not ready in time. At 6:10 am we finally rolled our truck out of the campground.

6:30 am and we hit the trail. The sun was already up and we could feel the heat bouncing of our bodies. Dang, we were too late with our start I remember thinking to myself. Should we ever hike this trail again remind me to go an hour earlier!!

We started at the Mt. Tallac trail head. The trail head starts at 6,480'. The trail climbs gradually up and along a ridge above the west side of Fallen Leaf Lake. This was our first peek of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake.

Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake

The first couple of miles went gradually up and we hiked along side of Fallen Leaf Lake. The ridge provided some great views. We expected it to be busy but not yet. It was too early for many. The kids were happily marching in front of us. In this picture I was hiking Scout and Ani, our almost 2 year old Golden Retriever and our 7 year old Labrador Retriever.

Scout, Ani, BJ and Lara
20 minutes into our hike we finally get the first glimpse of the mountain we intended to conquer. 9,735 feet above sea level. I remember I got a weird feeling of anxiety in my stomach. Suddenly my enthousiasm dropped completely out of me and I stood there asking myself the question: "Wtf am I doing here? Two adults, two kids and three dogs. What was I thinking? " A second after the thought entered my mind I hear a "Mom, come on!" from infront of me and my legs moved automatically and I followed the kid from who it came. 
Mt. Tallac ("large mountain") from Mt. Tallac Trail
Meet our canine crew: Scout (GR), Ani (LR) and wearing no backpack is our hip less dog Chewie (GR). They had just taken a dip in Floating Island Lake. 1.6 miles from the trail head.

We continued our journey and at 8:30 am we reached Cathedral Lake about 2.3 miles from the start. We are taking our time as the most difficult part is ahead. The climb along the rock wall of Mt. Tallac. Time to refuel and get ready! Below a picture of Cathedral Lake.

Cathedral Lake
Turning around from above taken picture my view was immediately different. Gone were the trees. This was the much dreaded open space that potentially becomes a problem on very hot days for inexperienced hikers. No shade, no water and a steep, rocky and dusty trail. My son remembered this part from his hike last year. He never hiked this part up but he knew it from hiking it down.
His anxiety level went up right here.

BJ and our dogs looking up at the moon
We continued our hike and we ran into one of our campground neighbors. We chatted and followed and passed later during our hike. The trail ascends into a large rocky bowl, which steepens considerably before it crosses the ridge to the south side of Mt. Tallac. I was carrying 22 lbs of water in my backpack and hiking the unsteady rocky trail really started to affect my hike. You can guess how I felt the next day. I felt muscles I didn't know I had even though I consider myself a trained hiker. The extra pounds in the pack really got me on this part!

Finally we reached the top of the rock wall. I have some pictures of our descent I will share later but this was definitely the most difficult part. Once at the top we encountered a meadow and such a different landscape I had to rub my eyes to remind myself of the surrounding we had just left behind. Simply amazing!

Backside of Mt. Tallac

We continued our hike to the top. We still had more than a mile to go and it didn't look much easier to be honest. The kids and dogs were doing great. We decided to put boots on our hip less dog. Chewie has a "different" walk due to his hips and our fear was that he would get his paws all raw. Better be safe then sorry! Right?

My daughter was enjoying the hike. She listened to music all the way. This picture just makes me smile! Lara is a great fan of Hetalia (anime) and this is one of the poses I guess. I'm still learning all the insight details of her new found passion!

We continued up and were exposed to the sheer beauty of the Sierra Nevada. No matter which direction you looked every capture was fascinating.

Lake Aloha is to the left (blocked by tree in picture)
This picture was taken during our 4th break. Hiking with kids and dogs means you adapt to their capabilities. Frequent stops means it may take you longer but it also gives you the opportunity to catch your breath, drink, fetch a snack and chat! A camelback is great way to provide water to your dog at all times without having to "unload" your backpack.
Scout. The rest of the family is in the background.

Lake Tahoe as beautiful as can be. 4.8 miles and a 3,255 feet climb.

Lake Tahoe

Conquering the top of Mt. Tallac was a huge deal for my daughter too. When she was a little girl she renamed the mountain to "scary" mountain. She now stood on top of the very mountain that once scared her. She laughed just thinking of it!

We found a good spot away from the crowd that was level and provided us the opportunity to sit and enjoy our first lunch. It was just before 11 am when we were rewarded with this spectacular view. Benjamin had an anxiety attack before the summit. Red Bull and Ibuprofen aborted a migraine attack. Do you remember the squirrel in "Over The Hedge"? Well, all the way down he wouldn't stop talking. I wonder why? 
Benjamin and the woof gang!

We ate lunch and tried to condition one chipmunk that humans do not equal food. Jeff even threatened to arrest him for stealing. Not even the dogs could keep the lil' fella away. It is sad to see that people find it okay to feed wildlife and make them dependent on our food.

Now before you close and open your eyes again and ask yourself why you are suddenly seeing everything in black and white here is my pathetic excuse: "I accidentally put my Canon on P (black and white mode) and didn't realize it." I bet you cannot read that. Good. In other words: I am your top notch amateur photographer. LOL.
Jeff hiking Chewie and Ani down the mountain standing at the entrance of the rock wall.

Now if I had the pictures color you would most likely be fascinated by the variety of rock, shrubs and trees in this next picture. The lake and the clear blue sky were spectacular in the background so you will just have to take my word for it.
 Kids are to your left in the picture

 Only a few hundred feet but the length of the trail almost equals the ascent/descent of it. Here is where we met a lot of people barely making it up while we were on our way down.

The steepest descend was over. Cathedral Lake is the first patch of water when coming down. The dogs cooled off. By now it was 1 pm and we took a long break for our second lunch.

Scout (left) and Chewie (right) enjoying a much needed cooling off at Cathedral Lake.

Bellies full of goodies and hydrated to the max a quick nap was in place. Ani and Chewie getting comfy at Cathedral Lake. Even we took a quick nap as the conditions were just "heavenly".
 Our second lunch and a fast nap did wonders!

Scout is still our little baby of the family. He too couldn't resist a nap.

Being pooped!

The ridge along Fallen Leaf Lake. This part must have gotten burned a few years ago. It was open and provided us again with a great view. Lara speed walking on the trail listening to her music!
 Working ourselves down over the ridge. The last part can be very motivating!

We did it! At 3 pm we were back at the car. We all felt proud of our acomplishment and very tired. The kids and dogs did fantastic. Our dogs are fit and capable of doing a strenuous hike. Our dogs hike an average of 3.5 miles a day. Although we feel it may have been Chewie's last big hike, we don't know what next year will bring us. Our kids had hiked throughout the whole summer with me during my client hikes and they were in top condition when we did this hike. The hike looks super easy. 4.8 miles up and 4.8 miles down. In reality the ascent and descent are very difficult. We calculated one hour per mile including breaks and we stayed well within our expectations.

 10-7 O.D. or in dog language DONE!

Mt. Tallac. "Large Mountain" in native american. Thank you for letting us be part of your existence for one single day. We had an unforgetable adventure. Of all the hikes we did you were definitely one I will not forget. Especially my legs and butt were very appreciative for the next two days. Oh, and the only reason we had our dogs on-leash: 10 miles would have otherwise been 30 miles. Afterall, they are Retrievers!

Happy Hiking!
Mt. Tallac. One more glimpse ....

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