This past weekend, I had my first hiking experience at Mount Tallac. For a while, my guy friends had been trying to get me to go hiking with them, but I kept turning them down because I didn’t know if I could handle it. (I’m not exactly the outdoorsy type!) I finally gave in this weekend since Adrian was able to get the day off to go with me. I was unsure of what to expect since Hieu told me it was a six mile hike up and a six mile hike down. However, the hike turned out to be quite refreshing and fun! I managed to keep up for the most part, so I was pretty darn proud of myself. w0ot w0ot!
Adrian and I rode with Kin and Jack to Lake Tahoe. We were a little delayed, so after meeting with the rest of the group at the cabin, we didn’t start the hike until nearly 1045AM. We had a total of 9 people in our group — Ada, Adrian, Hieu, Jack, Jonathan, Kin, Philip, Vince, and I. For the most part, the hike up was a little tough due to the on and off again inclines. Hitting flat land felt so good! After a while, we made our first official stop at Floating Island Lake.
After snapping some photos and eating some snacks, we were well on our way again.
There was a peek of changing colors happening within the forest. The burst of yellow looked so beautiful!
I pretty much lost track of time the entire day. Our destinations did not seem to take as long as it did for us to reach them. Maybe it was because I kept focusing on my feet a majority of the time in fear of tripping? 😛 Anyways, we reached our second stop at Cathedral Lake at some point. We took our longest break there as we took the time to actually eat as well.
As we continued our hike, it only got steeper. But, it also meant the views got amazing-er! Hardy har har!
We even got to see snow!
The trail became more covered with rocks than dirt. As we got higher up, I could already imagine how scary it would be going back down. I watched as several hikers coming down the trail slip. (Nothing major though!)
Our group kind of split up in half at this point as one continued on the trail. Adrian and I stuck with Ada, Philip, and Hieu as we decided to get on all fours and climb our way up some rocks instead.
As we continued on the trail, we were greeted by super friendly hikers as many said hello to us and gave encouraging words letting us know that we were near the peak.
It took us about four hours to reach the top. Looking down, I could not believe that I had made it so far.
I guess our group was also known as the “kite group” since Hieu had brought a kite with him that day. He wanted to attach his camera to the kite to get some shots, but things did not turn out as expected. The process of trying looked fun though!
We hung around for quite a bit. Perhaps a little too long. Ada and Philip hiked down by themselves first since it was getting too cold. Adrian and I were supposed to follow, but somehow ended up staying for the planned group photo. The idea was to “dress fancy” on top of the peak.
We finally started to venture down around 0445PM and we already knew we were racing against time. However, the thought did not seem to really dawn on us while we enjoyed our time at the top….
With the 7 of us leftover, Hieu, Kin, and Jon ended up hiking down a lot quicker than Adrian, Jack, Vince, and I. Our group of 4 actually lost sight of them because they went down so quickly. We found Jon lost along the trail as we nearly took the wrong turn ourselves, so we ended up hiking back down together. At Cathedral Lake, we met up with Kin, only to find out that he got lost too and had to use his GPS to lead him to back to the lake. At this point, we were wondering where Hieu was because our initial group of 4 thought Hieu was with Jon and Kin. About 5 minutes later, Vince got a text from Hieu saying that he was lost. It was still light out at this point, so we were not too worried yet.
Adrian, Jack, and I went on ahead since we thought Ada and Philip were still waiting for us at the car. Jon, Kin, and Vince stayed back to wait for Hieu to arrive at the lake. On the way back, Adrian, Jack, and I were mislead by a fork in the road that had a second trail for us to take. We were faced with a shady looking trail vs a sunny lit trail, so we ended up taking the sunny looking one. We went down an unfamiliar path and continued on until the trail suddenly stopped. Since we had gone so far already, we thought we could cross over and get back on the main trail somehow. After crossing over fallen trees and stepping on many bushes, we still could not find the trail. As the sun started to go down even lower, we finally decided to retrace our steps. Working together, we managed to get back on the main trail right before it started getting darker. When we reached the fork in the road again, we realized we had taken the wrong trail towards Fallen Leaves Lake.
None of us had a flashlight on us. Jack left his phone in the car and Adrian’s phone was completely dead. I thought my phone had died too, but luckily, I still had 78% of battery life left. Thank goodness I had a flashlight app on my phone because that became our source of light as the night grew darker and darker. Adrian, Jack, and I hiked non-stop all the way down. We were incredibly relieved by the time we reached our initial starting point. We figured the rest of the group must have gotten back to the cars before us since we had gotten lost for a good half hour, but the cars were completely empty. Ada and Philip were nowhere to be found as well, so we had no idea what had happened to everyone.
I panicked a little. It was 0800PM by the time we had reached Jack’s car and it was pitch dark out. We figured if no one showed up by 0830PM, we would have to call for help. So we headed to the bulletin board to see if we could find any information on who we could call. In the meantime, we also texted around to locate everyone and to make sure they were okay. Ada and Philip had called for a cab back to the cabin, so they were safe. We found out Jon, Kin, and Vince were on the main trail and were pretty close by. Hieu said he was about 20 minutes behind and traveling slowly by himself.
After about 15 minutes of waiting, we saw Jon, Kin, and Vince. 8 out of 9 us were safe and accounted for. However, Hieu was still hiking down alone by himself, so the Jon, Kin, and Vince stayed at the starting point to wait for Hieu’s arrival.
Adrian, Jack, and I drove to 7-Eleven to grab food to bring back to the group. At that point, Philip texted Adrian to let us know that Hieu asked him to call for help. Things were getting serious. Calling for a help was a thought that occurred in the back of my mind, but I did not think we would actually have to do it. This kind of stuff you only hear on the news, you know? You never expect for things like this to happen to any of your own friends.
By the time we got back to the group with the food, it was starting to get colder. Since help was on the way, there was not much we could do aside from wait. Jon ended up staying behind with one of the rangers as they searched for Hieu. However, there was another rescue going on the same night for a woman with a broken ankle, so that rescue took priority.
The rest of us headed back to the cabin to wait for updates. We sat around discussing all that had happened and how we all ended up lost. We discussed what we could have done better and what we should do the next time we go hiking again.
It wasn’t until 1130PM that they started searching for Hieu. Hieu had given GPS coordinates of his location, so we figured it would not take too long to find him. The search and rescue team did not find him until 0230AM and he didn’t get back until about 0500AM. What matters though is that he made it back safely.
I still can’t believe my first hiking experience turned out like this. This was definitely one of the craziest experiences I have ever had to face so far. I’m just glad everyone was safe in the end. Lesson learned indeed though. Anything could happen and it certainly did.