A few years ago, Martha and I went to Lake Tahoe with her parents, uncle, grandmother and great aunt. We wrote about the trip but never published it, here is a post about that trip:
Our Lake Tahoe trip started with a ridiculously early departure from Baltimore Washington International Airport at around 7am, which meant we woke up at 4:30ish so we could grab some breakfast, leave at around 5:15, and get ourselves to the airport around 5:45. We had a layover in Las Vegas and both legs of the flight were packed and uneventful. The only thing of interest was that Southwest managed to send one of our bags, of five, to Orlando, then to Oakland, and then to Reno. Luckily it was only a hiking backpack with our camping gear that we’d only use on our overnight hike five days later.
The drive from Reno to Lake Tahoe, all of two hours, was through mostly desert, flat, and entirely unthrilling whatsoever. We did pass through Carson City, the stuff of westerns, and it was funny to see slot machines in laundromats and dumpy motels. To get up to the cabin itself, we had to take one lane roads on the side of a mountain abutting Lake Tahoe. During the day it gets a little tight getting by SUVs and Hummers towing boats but otherwise it’s a pretty scenic drive and I’m glad to take it slow through the area. The cabin itself is a little four room spot that has a very rustic feel to it. It has a great view, though somewhat obstructed by some Jeffrey pine trees, of Fallen Leaf Lake. It’s amazing out here, the air is so clear you can see for miles and the water is so clean you almost want to drink from it (but don’t, it’s got little buggies in it).
We’re close to seven thousand feet or so from sea level, the air is somewhat thinner but you wouldn’t be able to tell outside of being somewhat lethargic. They say that it takes a few days to acclimate yourself to the altitude but you don’t feel it unless you’re hiking. If you ever have the opportunity to come out here, take it, take it quick.
The first night, despite being somewhat tired, tried to make a hike to Lily Lake though Martha’s memory betrayed her and we got ourselves lost. We did see some wonderful waterfalls and their white cascades, the same waterfalls we could hear as we slept. After that detour, we ventured down through the one-lane wilderness and drove about half an hour to the casinos in Nevada. The drive down at night is much easier since the headlights of cars slice through the darkness giving fair warning about any oncoming cars, a pleasant change from turning blind corners hoping there wasn’t a biker or car riding faster than reasonable. On the way to the casinos, we pass through the shops of Heavenly Ski resort (it’s interesting seeing the brown bare ski lanes on the mountain) chock full of folks despite it being the end of July. Harrahs was filled with the usual suspects of scantily clad cocktail waitresses, dealers, and girls looking to pick up some sad rich fool.
The second day saw the first real hike of the trip as we drove to Lily Lake and hiked our way to Grass Lake, which was about two miles away. The scenery of the hike was stunning, we could see mountains for miles through crystal clear air, and everytime we passed by any sort of stream it was a wonder how it managed to remain so clean. In such an arid climate, there is hardly any grass on the ground, it’s mostly hard rock and some dry dead grasses. The trees are mostly hardy pines with enormous pinecones.. We’re talking pinecones that are larger than my hand and the sweet smelling sap permeates the air at almost every step. On our hike we saw a Soda Spring, which apparently was all the rage back in the horse and buggy era, but I took a sip and it tasted awful. It was supposedly full of minerals and all sorts of good stuff but I could live quite happily not taking another sip of that stuff.
The hike itself tiring in part because we only brought one Nalgene bottle of water, a mistake, and we weren’t used to the altitude (the hike itself took us up another 700 feet). We had to cross some fast moving creeks and even cross over a log or two before we made it to Grass Lake. Again, like everything else out here, the work was well worth it. The water itself was quite cold, especially after hiking in the sun, and it took a little while before we were brave enough to dive right in. Once in though, it felt great to float around in such a beautiful body of water. We looked towards the mountains and even saw another waterfall in the distance. After floating around for maybe fifteen minutes, we began our trek back. The hike back, which was mostly downhill, felt ten times easier than the hike up – the fact that the sun was setting likely helped as well.
Back at Lily Lake, we missed our ride back to the cabin so we took some back trails through other people’s property (happens all the time, no one cares if you trample down their rocks) which we wanted to take the first night (when we found ourselves lost near sunset). We took a few wrong turns but managed to find our way back in about ten minutes, much faster than I expected. After hiking all day were starving and devoured the spaghetti dinner that Martha’s family had prepared for everyone. Then we devoured some ice cream afterwards, our just reward for a roughly 4 hour round trip hike through Desolation Wilderness.
Day two was a relaxing day, we drove down to Zephyr Bay where we took the MS Dixie II to Emerald Bay. The two and a half hour round trip cruise featured a buffet lunch that was mostly cold cuts, some chowder, and cheesecake dessert. The cruise traversed part of Lake Tahoe and took us to Emerald Bay, home of a Viking castle/ville and a little lightly fortified “tower.” Cruising the lake was incredible because the water was so blue, the mountains so high, and the air so crisp and clear. The one thing that amazes me is the clarity of the water, the regulations here are quite strict but definitely worth it.