We set off from the trailhead a little after 2:00am. Finding the trailhead itself was pretty obvious with all the roadsigns leading you straight to the main trailhead sign. Hiking into Desolation Wilderness requires permits which are conveniently provided at the parking lot and doesn't cost a cent. Do yourself a favor and fill one out. Although we didn't run into any Tahoe rangers, I'm sure karma will run you straight into one of them if you don't take the time to write your fucking name down.
The trail itself is pretty well marked, and if you think you might be lost, the footprints, rocksteps, chopped trees, and flattened bushes will tell you otherwise. With the full moon out that night, parts of the trail were also easily discernible by the lunar light. Our goal to beat the sunrise kept my legs moving despite the heavy load on my back. I had decided to bring my heavy tripod and equally heavy if not heavier camera in an effort to capture a time-lapse sequence of the sun rising over the Lake Tahoe mountains. It would be my first to see a sunrise while sitting on one of Tahoe's summits, and I was dying to make an artsy video about it. Two big bottles of water also accompanied the stash, along with food and my water boiler. Experienced hikers carry a whole lot more than this. I hadn't carried a heavy pack for two years. Thank you, Advil.
Mount Tallac tops out at 9,739 ft. Although it's not considered one of the highest peaks in Lake Tahoe, the 3,250 ft elevation gain makes you feel like it is. In the dark, the hike seems never-ending with no sign of the summit in your sight until the very end when the morning light makes its first appearance. Even when illuminated by the moonlight, the summit silhouette appears miles away, its effect playing mind games as you make your crawl up the dim path. I must have uttered my favorite curse words a record amount on this hike as my pack felt like it was pulling off my back muscles one strand at a time.
Upon arrival at the top, we were greeted with the sun rays beginning to hint at the start of our sunrise show. The summit itself almost resembled a stadium grandstand, and groups of hikers were already situated throughout the granite bleachers, with hiking popcorn on their laps, waiting for the first September light to flood the gorgeous lands of South Lake. As the sun's rays shot beams around Tahoe's peaks, the sun finally rose appropriately above Freel Peak, Tahoe's highest summit, and the grandstand quietly erupted into applause. The chill and bite from the relentless breeze was temporary forgotten as I remained lost and jealous in nature's ability to create such art.