Sacramento family shares story of hiking Tahoe Rim Trail together for 11 days
For many young families, outings include a day at the park or an occasional camping trip.
Matthew and Kimberly Kinney, regular visitors to South Lake Tahoe, took it one step further; they recently tackled the Tahoe Rim Trail with Thomas, their 1-year-old son. They began their hike July 18 in Tahoe City and finished 11 days, 11 hours later in the same location.
“It was bitchin’,” Matthew said of the hike.
The Kinneys live in Sacramento — Matthew is a geologist and Kimberly is a speech therapist. On the trail, they are known by nicknames: Tom’s Trucker, Scarlett Begonia, and Don’t Stop; names they said they received from a fellow through-hiker.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is a massive trail network looping the basin. It runs through the Sierra Nevada and Carson mountain ranges. Parts of it intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail and go through Desolation Wilderness in El Dorado County. It ranges in elevation from 6,240 feet at the Truckee River to 10,338 feet at Relay Peak in Nevada. Most hikers use it only for day hikes. The trail was conceived in 1978, and it was eventually completed in 2001 largely by volunteers.
Hiking the complete 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail is no simple feat.
“I’ve never had to push my body so hard,” Kimberly said. “But we were hauling ass and putting the miles down.”
The couple averaged 12-14 miles per day and on Day 12 they pushed through to the end at 24.3 miles. Some days provided challenges.
“Day four was awesome,” Matthew said. “We saw rain, hail and, when we were setting up camp at the Marlette Peak, we saw snow flurries.”
Matthew said they made stops in locations like Spooner Summit during the trek, spending all 11 days on the trail and camping where needed.
“Our family and some of our friends would meet us on the trail and bring supplies,” Matthew said. “ … I carried our son and about 50 pounds of gear and my wife carried the rest of the gear.”
According to Kimberly, she and Matthew initially considered a through-hike of the John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada, but after she became pregnant with Thomas they nixed the idea. After delivery, Tahoe Rim Trail became their compromise.
The Kinneys did a few training hikes with Thomas to test how much weight could be carried. A lot of research went into lightweight gear as well.
“We were down to grams when considering gear,” Matthew said.
Mary Bennington, Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s executive director, said Thomas is the youngest person to circumnavigate the trail, though he didn’t actually hike it himself.
The youngest children previously to complete the hike were 7-year-old Mary Chambers and 8-year-old Brandon McCulloch.
“He’ll have his own record,” Bennington said of Thomas.
Bennington said she encountered the Kinney clan during a hike on a portion of the trail.
“I saw them and got to talk them,” Bennington said. “Matthew and Kimberly are pretty brave parents and the little guy was a absolute trooper.”
Kimberly said the trio never set out to break records, however.
“It was something we love to do and an epic feat,” she said.