Early 2009 was when the economy cratered. Being the most junior in my department at the time, I was the first to be laid off. I received a generous severance package, had no responsibilities, and was poised to enjoy this gift bestowed upon me.
March 2009 to March 2010 was perhaps one of the best years of my life. I have been in a traditional office career since then. My professional and outdoor skill sets have both improved quite a bit since that time. And had some other milestones since that memorable year. But I must admit looking back wistfully to when I had the gift of time.
One trip I went on during this period? The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT).
If my hikes on Vermont’s Long Trail have echoed many years later, so does my hike on the TRT. But for different reasons.
The hikes on the Long Trail are what kicked start my lightweight gear philosophy, how I valued time in the wild spaces rather than the traveling community in those same places and was the first step (literally and figuratively) to the life I have at this time.
The TRT? I did learn lessons that also had an impact on future time spent in the outdoors.
But lessons of a different type.
Here’s why the TRT, and the experiences and lessons learned from that trail, were important for me:
- I learned not to hike a lettered route just for the sake of hiking a lettered route.
The TRT was a pleasant trail. Perhaps a place I’d love if I was within a four or five-hour drive. But I bought a plane ticket to fly out to nearby Reno, NV. I spent a little over five days hiking, plus travel time and a rest day, in a heavily used area. An area where the scenery was not quite as good or memorable as places just to the south of me. And, even in 2009, I was starting to develop a preference for DIY routes or places off the beaten path that are less well known or used.
I did the TRT because I wanted to get a thru-hike in the time I had available. A year later, I made a much more satisfying trip in the San Juans. A photo of which is above my kitchen table. There are still some lettered routes I’d enjoy hiking. But they are for aesthetic reasons or to be immersed more in a wild area and happens to follow a route that works for me.
- A well-defined trail or route with a lot connecting sections, and a lack of wildness, does not appeal to me.
The TRT went by ski areas, houses, popular backpacking destinations, and felt as if I was in the Boulder Open Space. A pretty enough area. But, going with the first point above, I bought a plane ticket to get there. Not a good use of the time bank or monetary funds.
I’ve done the Ring The Peak Trail not far from me twice now. A similar trail in feel to the TRT. But that trail is less than two hours driving away. So I did not mind the connecting sections. Part of the reason why I enjoyed the Benton MacKaye Trail so much is that the though the BMT was a well-defined path, it felt remote and isolated. And when I did go through population areas for brief periods, it was rural in nature. Plus I was seeing an area (the heavily wooded southern Appalachians) much different from where I grew up or where I currently call home. The TRT showed both what I like and what I don’t like when spending time outdoors!
- I started to learn not every trip has to be a multi-day backpacking trip to be enjoyable.
A road trip and cherry picking backpacks, hikes, and even camping can be just as immersive. I went on a Utah-based trip last year for my birthday. Backpacking in Dark Canyon was fantastic. But so was camping and hiking at Natural Bridges National Monument where I was not allowed to backpack. I think of the time spent on the TRT between traveling and a rest day, and that would have made one heck of a block of time in northern New Mexico in June. Lesson learned. 🙂
- After the TRT, I learned to look in the nooks and crannies found on maps.
The large map books, SummitPost, and Google Maps were utilized to find those blank green spaces on the maps. And I found some interesting areas. Areas beyound where lettered routes go.
The TRT started a gradual evolution in the way I spend my time in the outdoors. From always wanting to thru-hike a trail when I had the spare time, to thinking of a thru-hike as something that may already fit into the outdoor plans currently in play.
The TRT is a fine trail. And I am sure many will appreciate it. But, because of the TRT, I started to learn there was more to multi-day trips than just thru-hikes. And my outdoor time has immensely benefited from the lessons learned on that trip. Lessons I still apply eight years later.