It’s 6:45AM and 31 degrees at the TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail) Mount Rose to Spooner Summit Trailhead. I’m in running shoes and what amounts to a spandex male leotard, pounding out the final head-lamp illuminated miles of an odyssey that started in May.

Admittedly, it was a bit ambitious, but we felt like we could pull it off: running every section of the TRT in one season, the full circumnavigation. Such thoughts are seductive in their simplicity after a low snow winter with clear trails and a full summer ahead. We started pretty good too, one section each month and figured, “Hey, 178 Miles can’t be that long when you break it up, right?”

It’s hard to take time away from family and work for something as indulgent as a full half-day in the wilderness. I recently lost my last running partner, another dad with young kids who ultimately needed to take more time for family and work on a new camper van project. As I round the bend and stare toward the next uphill, I have to admit that I’m a bit jealous.

“Dad, are you going running again?” Our 5-year-old, Michael asks.

“Yeah, buddy. I just have a couple more sections to do.”

“Isn’t it cold?”

“You’re right, Michael, it is pretty cold out; I have some warm clothes though.”

“Don’t freeze your butt.”

“Hey, what did Mommy and I say about that word?”

“Don’t freeze your bitty boo bottom bu….”

I raise my eyebrows and he finishes the commentary under his breath.

My son’s newfound snarkiness begs the question: would he be back-talking and challenging Wifey and me as much if I was around more and not taking as much time for my personal athletic pursuits and projects?

I’m determined to see it through though. As of this printing I only have the excruciatingly long, Kingsbury South to Big Meadow section left. Maybe it’s part of my pre-40 mid-life crisis checklist: the feeling that going on these adventures will be more difficult once I round the 40-year bend in the road. Maybe it’s just stubbornness; the same genetic footprint that my son has been exercising in his persistent transformation of every topic of conversation into some kind of rhyming joke, preferably involving bodily functions of the outgoing variety.

“Do you go poo poo when you run?” Michael’s dogged fixation on rear ends continues. “You’re so fun, and a bun, and you’re a crumb.”

“Are you done? I ask. “To answer your question, I have toilet paper in my pack.”

“That’s good, Dad. I’m glad you don’t go in your shorts.”

“Me too.”

Up ahead the trail threads a wild confluence of dawn light and clouds. Carried upward by the wind, Tahoe’s inversion layer of moisture vapor gushed over a notch in the mountains above Sand Harbor. As this ethereal layer of mist reached the mountain crest and consolidated through a narrow pass, rays of sunlight sliced with architectural precision through the rushing clouds and I got to jog right into the center of it.

“Ahhhhh.”

Finding balance should be easy when you live in Lake Tahoe. All that is required is to open your eyes and let the beauty of this place wash over you. I definitely feel like I can be a better parent after taking time out in nature breathing hard and having fun. I can draw upon this reservoir to remain calm when my 4-year-old daughter spits water in my face or spills soup all over her, the table, and the restaurant booster seat.

“My turn to find some Zen,” Wifey smiles and gives me a kiss on the cheek.

“Oh, I thought it was carousing and gossiping under the guise of ‘book club,’” I retort.

“Exactly,” Wifey winks as she heads for the door. “Zen.”

And the juggling act continues.

“What’s for dinner, Daddy?” Jane asks and then issues the ultimatum: “I don’t want soup.”

I shake my head and engage her brinksmanship, “Would you like more of your Halloween candy?”

“Yes.”

“Then I think there might be more vegetable soup in your future.”

Jane erupts into high-pitched hysterics and I try to draw on my little reservoir of Zen to talk her though this calamitous event in her life.

Yeah, even though we’re due for some snowfall, I think that I can make the last 23.2 miles. There might be some trail finding, but that’s part of the fun.

Don’t wish me luck. Just wish me balance.

 

 

The Rim Trail, Do

  • Get out on the TRT.
  • Bring toilet paper.
  • Find your Tahoe Zen.

 

The Rim Trail, Don’t

  • Be daunted by 178 miles.
  • Go poo poo in your shorts.
  • Forget to laugh at potty talk.