Oboz Truist Caryn Tijsseling is a nutrition coach who believes in balanced nutrition, healthy lifestyle choices, daily movement, excessive gratitude and the power of laughter. Find her on Instagram at @tijsselingcaryn.
I am blessed to live near one of the most beautiful Lakes in the world.
My house is a 30-minute drive, depending on traffic, to Lake Tahoe. That means I can be on some of the world’s most beautiful hiking trails in about 20 minutes. Many of those trails are designated as part of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT).
This year is the TRT's 40th Anniversary, and its story is just too good not to share with the world.
I had the opportunity to learn all about the history of the TRT when I was completing a master’s degree in American History. I went back to get my master’s at age 45. Call it a unique type of mid-life crisis, (but that is a subject for another blog). That program led me into an Environmental History Class, which led me to write a research paper on the TRT in the Spring of 2018.
While I have hiked portions of the trail, I had no idea the unique and heartwarming history of how the TRT came to be. I spent hours in the files of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s offices at Stateline, Nevada. What I pieced together is not only a charming history, but a model for modern outdoor trail management. At least that was what I wrote in my paper.
In the early 1980s a Forest Service Officer named Glenn Hampton had an “impossible dream”. His words, not mine. He imagined a challenging through-trail around the rim of the Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. The TRT would range in elevation from 6,300 to 10,300 feet. The TRT weaves through six counties, three national forests, and two states. It also intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail.
As a forest service insider, Hampton was uniquely situated to make his impossible dream a reality. He was a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Forest Service and staff officer with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit In 1980, Hampton was selected to attend a recreational planning program at Utah State University. As one of his projects in the program, Hampton had to develop a major recreational project proposal. His project, “The Rim Trail: A Hiking Adventure, A Conceptual Planning Report Which Examines a proposed 150 Mile Trail Around Lake Tahoe” dated January 20, 1981, lives in file cabinet 1 of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association (TRTA) in Stateline, Nevada.
Hampton’s plan was that the TRT would be built and managed by volunteers thereby placing little strain on the Forest Service. It is clear from Hampton’s writings that he was aware of the political climate surrounding federal funding for recreational land use programs at the time. You see, in the early 1980s, President Regan placed a moratorium on federal land acquisition of recreational purposes. The political climate was pushing a shift from government management of American trails to public-private partnerships. This was known as “conservative conservation”. Hampton’s vision was an entirely private endeavor and required little federal, state, or local involvement.
While resources of the Forest Service were limited, it was concerned with the overuse of Tahoe area trails, especially those heavily trafficked areas intersecting the Pacific Crest Trail. The Lake Tahoe area had potential for bank country recreation all the way around the Lake. The TRT would open the entire area and spread out the use of the trails alleviating the overcrowding concerns. In fact, Hampton’s proposal would spread trail use out over an additional hundred miles. There was little to no downside for the Forest Service. Funding was to be private and construction was to be completed by volunteers.
Construction officially began on July 14, 1983. The TRT attracted over 10,000 volunteers over the 20 years it was constructed. The TRT consistently enlisted the assistance of volunteers from advertisements in national publications, promotion of tax-deductible vacations in Lake Tahoe, and enlisting local service groups to work on the trial. Everyone from the Boy Scouts to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the construction of the TRT.
The TRT was finally completed in September of 2001.
Since that time, the TRT has created a unique trail community and continues to work to maintain, and now preserve, the TRT. The “165-mile Club” rewards and recognizes those hikers competing through-hikes of the 165-mile TRT. The trail also offers the Tahoe Rim Trail Challenge which encourages hikers of all ability to compete the entirety of the TRT in a series of day hikes and recognizes that accomplishment.
As the TRT celebrates its 40th Anniversary, it is facing the challenge of how to preserve and maintain the TRT. You see, its popularity has now placed it in a position of potentially being “loved to death”. This is a problem common in recreational trail management. I have a feeling the TRTA and the people who love the Lake Tahoe area as much as I do will come up with a solution to keep the TRT usable and the views breathtaking for at least another 40 years.