Just Another Tourist at a Roadside Attraction Can Make for a Great Adventure

Guest Blogger: David Banks

There’s something to be said about the road less traveled. And that something has been said time and time again. The road most traveled on the other hand, that one we share with others, doesn’t get much love. It’s deemed banal, simple, undistinguished. However, sometimes the road most traveled is the precise one we need to take, even if just to say we did, even if just to be part of some undefined group.

It’s not where you go but how you go there. That’s what I learned on one of the most travelled hikes at one of the most popular lakes on the west coast.

Mount Tallac Trail is a nine-mile hike that takes you to the highest peak above Lake Tahoe in Northern California. It gives you the best vantage point of the surrounding area as well as the sense of being at one there alone with nature. It’s rated as “difficult” on all trail guides and really makes you feel like you have accomplished something when you’re done. It’s a great hike.

We didn’t do it.

We opted to hike Eagle Lake. To put this hike into context, the first vista of the Eagle Lake Trail can be seen from the parking lot. We made the additional effort of course  of stepping out of the car and skipping up the rock shoulder alongside dozens of people, families, small children and numerous infant-strapped bjorns. It was a tourist stop and we chose to be tourists of the most stereotypical sort. We took photos, posed by cool looking trees and of course asked one of the numerous passersby to take a photo of us to have at least one non-selfie for the books.

Against our better tourist judgment, we decided to actually venture up the one-mile out-and-back trail instead of immediately calling the day a success and retreating back to the hotel pool.

A short family-friendly hike on a sunny Saturday makes for a busy trail –one that requires you to change your pace to be polite to those taking it a little bit slower in front of you. It requires conscious tact when picking up the pace to kindly pass the slow trotters without making them feel like they were inconveniencing you in the first place. And then there is always the gentle flow of discourse between those coming and those going giving personalized versions of, “How much further?” or “hi, hey, hello.”

After navigating our way easily up the trail and a little less easily through the sea of fanny pack strutting 5-year-olds, we made it to a flat-faced rock summit. The flow of people seemed to have trailed of on either end of this stone meadow and we were left with an expansive view of the entire lake and all the untouched forest and mountainside that surround it.

Standing there I realized that I would have hiked eight miles to see a vista like this. I would have backpacked in, stayed the night and hiked a little more to get a chance at the views we got that day. Just because something has been done before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done again. And just because someone else has experience something doesn’t mean we all won’t get value out of experiencing the same exact thing in our own way.

Adventure is not always about getting away from the public –away from the “real world.” It’s not always about going to some remote parcel of untouched earth or finding yourself in isolation. Many times, if not most times, adventure is about improving our real world, and that’s done by connecting with others through shared experiences. And that means we have to go to the same places others have gone; see the same things they have seen from the same perspective; scream the same nonsensical shouts in the same echo chamber as everyone else on the mountain.

Sometimes adventure is about how many times you step to the side of the well-worn trail and say “mornin’” to a new face.

So again, it’s now where you go, but how you go there that turns an experience into an adventure.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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